Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why Hank Left Tiger...

I had plenty of time to observe the Tiger/Haney relationship in 2008, and at the end of 2008, I had the opportunity to sit down with Hank for a Men's Journal assignment and talk a bit about what it's like to be the swing coach to the greatest golfer of our generation.  It was obvious that Hank was not so much a coach in the classic hands-on sense of the word, but really a set of highly-trained eyes for Tiger. 
Hank wasn't hired to tell Tiger what to change in his golf swing.  By the time he hired Hank in 2004, Tiger knew what he wanted to change in his golf swing, and Hank's job was to help achieve that technical goal.  It was something that a number of swing coaches could theoretically do, but Hank's persona fit the mold Tiger was looking for -- quiet, focused, disciplined and loyal.  And despite the title of "coach," it was clear that Tiger would always be the master, even while being the student.  Or as Hank explained it to me at the time, "Tiger steers this ship.  I'm just lucky enough to ride on it." 

Of course that was before the S.S. Woods ran aground and knocked over a fire hydrant.

And in an instant, Tiger had a whole set of issues affecting his game that he never had before.  With Tiger facing personal distractions, a detioriorating body and maybe even some self-doubt, I've got to believe that Hank has realized that Tiger is facing a set of problems that no longer line up with his skill set.  Hank is very technical in his approach ("drill drill drill"... swing plane... mechanics over feel) but struggles mightily to coach when mental hurdles are in a player's way -- Season 1 of the Haney Project should be all the evidence one needs to support that theory.  Why stay with Tiger if he no longer believes he can help him? 

And yet even if Hank felt he could help Tiger, he has very little to gain by staying.  Hank's six-year tenure (and six major titles won) with Tiger is a calling card for the rest of his life.  He has golf schools, books, a deal with Golf Digest, a TV show...  Cutting ties now means less travel, less discussions with his new wife about what he and Tiger are doing away from the course when he's gone, and, if you want to be cynical, less responsibility for whatever Tiger does in his golf career going forward. 

Any regrets?  You bet.  I'm sure Hank just wishes he'd made this decision last September.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

One Reason to Appreciate Phil...

For having the guts to say things on record that few other players would, like this one regarding Quail Hollow:

"For as beautifully designed as this golf course is tee to green, the greens are by far the worst designed greens we play on TOUR. Even though they're in immaculate shape, I would say that 18 would be the worst green that we have on TOUR, except that it's not even the worst on this golf course. 12 is."