The Woods-Haney Divorce: Why Hank Had to Walk Away

The latest departure from Team Woods — aka Team Enablement — should be far from the last.

Thrash TalkSo much has been made of Hank Haney’s split from Tiger Woods this week, it brought more attention to the role of golf coach than we’ve seen in many years.

It comes at a turbulent time, with Woods reeling, with the media calling for Haney’s dismissal, and with Tiger suffering through the pain in the neck heard ’round the world.

I’ll always believe that Haney finally had enough of the luke-warm support he was getting out of his primetime pupil. However, the fallout raises an interesting point about golf coaches.

As opposed to other sports, where the athletes are essentially assigned a coach, and hold an authoritative position (in theory, but that’s another column about prima donna athletes), golf’s all about personal responsibility and entrepreneurship. The player picks his coach, and decides when to make a change.

Yet through time, our golf teachers have been as linked to their great players as Lombardi is to the Packers, or Riley is to the Lakers. Names like Grout, Penick, Merrins, and Leadbetter evoke an aura, a mysticism. Like so many aspects of our beloved game, the coach-pupil relationship has been typically been immune from the tabloid spotlight that surrounds a Notre Dame coaching search. But my have things changed.

Unfortunately, like so much that’s transpired since Thanksgiving, the ugliness is there for all to see. We’ve watched as the relationship between Woods and Haney has spiraled downward in the media, as if it were Charlie Weis guiding the vaunted Notre Dame football program down the tubes. We’ve seen this so many times before. The star athlete’s not getting it done. Blame the coach. Nitpick away. Was it the coach throwing interceptions and dropping passes? Of course not, but that’s beside the point.

Tiger and Hank Haney

Following Woods’ missed cut, it was like an elite NFL team being blown out at home, by the lowliest squad in the league. The media wanted answers and wanted to point fingers. Had there been a GM, an athletic director, an owner, it would have been the perfect time for a vote of confidence. Someone to say, “Hank wasn’t the one off screwing around for the past few years. Hank’s not the one who got caught, who spent more of the past six months in rehab than on the driving range.”

But this is golf, and the player is the GM, the owner of the brand. And did that vote of confidence ever come? Absolutely not. Haney was left to twist in the wind, watching his own brand devalued by the day. Each time Johnny Miller talked about how bad the Haney swing has been for Tiger, Hank’s stock would drop. Nevermind that Haney’s swing racked up all those major titles as well as that stretch of seven straight wins. It was time for action, and do it NOW!

Plenty of people will believe that as a friend, Tiger let Hank pull the trigger, announce the separation. I just don’t buy it. The morning of the announcement, Tiger was talking about how they had work to do. And if Tiger did Hank the favor, then there’s no way you’d see such an emphatic statement by Haney, who went out of his way to say it was his call.

“Just so there is no confusion I would like to make it clear that this is my decision,” Haney said. That would be incredibly bad form had Tiger offered him an easy exit, and you would have seen swift verbal retaliation when Tiger addressed the situation.

The truth is, it doesn’t really matter which of the guys was the dumper and which of the guys was the dumpee.

The more fresh faces Tigers surrounds himself with, the better. While talking to Golf Channel, Haney said he’s been spending up to a third of his life annually alongside Woods. He accompanied him to see that controversial doctor. And if you read between the lines on his own golf show with Ray Romano, Haney isn’t a stranger to the Vegas scene.

Haney Watches Tiger

At this point, if Woods wants a fresh start, he needs to clean house, he can’t have reminders of his old life. No one is to blame for the family life mess but Tiger. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t surrounded by a whole lot of people who enabled his behavior, whether by actively participating in the party lifestyle or by passively looking the other way. It’s hard not to include Haney in this group, and that – as much as than any golf mechanics – is why he should be gone.

A PGA Injury Report?
So many pundits were up in arms over Tiger’s injury withdrawal, especially his lack of disclosure. When it comes to reporting injuries, does Tiger Woods owe us the truth? This is the same guy who spent years secretly living the life of a sex fiend. And we’re up in arms because he didn’t mention a sore neck?

When it Comes to Islands, I’ll Take Lost Instead
After a week of hype about the 17th at Sawgrass, I’ve decided it swings way further toward gimmick than excitement on the golf design spectrum.

It all depends on your perspective. If you’re a fan, you love that it puts a player through the ringer, it tests his mental fortitude and it demands precision. If you’re not, you see it as an overly penal golf hole that focuses way too much on the penalty of a miss, rather than the reward for hitting a good shot.

Give me a drivable par four, or an incredibly risky two-shot par five before this all-or-nothing par three. Part of golf is recovering from your mistakes. On the island green, there are no chip-ins, there are no recovery shots. I’d rather hold my breath as a guy stands over a 248-yard, side-hill second shot into a tough par five, with a brutally difficult up-and-down awaiting anything off line. It will reward the bold, the sensational. I want to see guys rise to the occasion, rather than simply hang on for dear life.

Photo Credits: © Erik J. Barzeski and The Sand Trap .com. All rights reserved.

17 thoughts on “The Woods-Haney Divorce: Why Hank Had to Walk Away”

  1. Johnny Miller is a know-it-all has been that would be better off keeping his mouth shut. I agree with you Ron, Tiger is to blame here, not Haney. However, I dont think “Haney finally had enough of the luke-warm support he was getting out of his primetime pupil,” as you say. I think Haney made the decision to leave based on the fact that (1)Tiger is a big enough boy to take whats coming to him on his own & (2) I think Haney knows this whole rucus may break Tiger down to the point of complete humiliation, and Haney doesn’t want to be anywhere around when it does. Haney was gone the minute Tiger’s game left him… most likely at the 2009 PGA Championship when Woods handed one to Yang.

    This whole coaching thing really erks me anyway. Mickelson basically has an enterouge that waits on his beck and call. Butch Harmon has to fly in when Phil can’t figure his ball stricking out, or Stockton has to tuck him into bed at night when his putter doesn’t behave that day… its stupid really. What do those guys know that Phil doesn’t? Hell, Phil doesn’t even give himself credit anymore. Its all Butch and Dave now… as if they are using Phil’s body as an Avatar for the two of them to win majors.

  2. Since Haney Tiger’s swing has seemed and “all or nothing” kind of swing. Most times it looks violent, rather than fluid like Els or Flesh. I think as you age, and go through major changes, the ability to play that way goes away. I never met either Tiger or Phil, but appears that Tiger wants minor corrections, a second set of eyes to point out the flaws so that his form of perfection can be had, or maintained. Phil needs reassurance, endless reassurance – the banter between him and his caddie is nothing more than him needing to be secured in his decision making process.

    My guess is Tiger will go through a period with no coach, allowing himself to find himself through his swing and his game. Oddly enough, Tiger needs the most help off the tee, always has – none has ever come. Anyone who would monkey with is 100yds and in work would be subject to death by firing squad.

  3. To me it seems as if Tiger doesn’t concentrate as consistently as he once did. He executes lots of incredible shots, but he seems to fail on many of the more routine chips puts, short irons etc. Perhaps golf is not as all consuming to him as it once was. His ability to grind over almost every shot is what has made Tiger special, yes he has lots of physical talent, but I believe his mental side is what has made him different, allowed him to get the most out of his talent.

  4. I can’tn believe noone has mentioned the fact that Tiger was constantly messin’ with his neck at Quail Hollow…. the commentators mentioned it more than a few times and now they’re trying to make out like he faked it to get out of a bad round.
    I’ve just finished reading Nick Faldo’s autobiography and it offered an amazing insight into the life of a pro and the effect this divorce and the likely seperation from the kids Tiger will likely endure.
    He’s good enough to win this year anyway but I don’t think we’ll see him at his best until divorce proceedings and child custody has been settled.

  5. I agree wholly with Joe Dean… aren’t these guys good enough to be able to work on their game by themselves anymore… is it REALLY possible that TIGER WOODS (possibly the greatest player ever) cannot go to the range and work out how to hit a straight drive?

  6. personally, I think hanks’ bailing out on Tiger, because Tigers’ on his way DOWN the ranks. I think he knew that Tigers’ life off-course will only affect his game in a negative manner. What Tiger needs now, more than ever, is sincerity… from his coach, from his friends, and from his fans. there’s no a person alive today that hasn’t made bad choices, regardless of outcome, and we’d be better served as a part of golf community in particular, and society in general, to remember that. All this hoopla reminds me of a song a few years back ..” dirty laundry”… there’s too much love for it today in my opinion.

  7. All this hoopla reminds me of a song a few years back ..” dirty laundry”… there’s too much love for it today in my opinion.

    Amen! I miss the old days where you just pulled for your favorite player every week… because players played every week back then! And you didn’t really care if he was a gambling, drinkin, smokin, cursing, cheatin scum-bag because the press didn’t cover that stuff.

    Dont take this the wrong way, but if I hear about Phil’s cancer stricken wife and mother-in-law, Tiger’s cheating escapades, or Daly’s IRS/drinkin/gambling problems one more time I may just give the game up entirely. I DON’T CARE! Everybody has problems and thats life. Suck it up and go to work at your “lap-of-luxury” job. I have no love for the dirty laundry, or the press that airs it.

  8. No comment on TW but a big “Amen!” (and that from an atheist!) on the 17th at TPC. Pathetic hole. With you 100% on the risk/reward of a tough two-shot par-5 or risky, but drivable short par-4 with appropriate (tough) recovery options.

  9. I have the answer for Tiger. It’s called the STACK and TILT GOLF SWING….I’ll betcha his tee shots are just as long but straight! Unfortunately, he won’t listen to me.

  10. I agree with most of what you said. You should watch the haney interview on the golf channel today and see what he has to say. I agree I think Haney left because he didnt want to be blamed for his swing flaws now. Its just as drastic of a hit on Haney for Tigers swing flaws as it is good for Haney when Tiger is doing good when working with him.

  11. Golf needs Johnny Miller like the NY Philharmonic needs Lady GaGa. Miller is egotistical, pedantic, and often wrong. If there’s a reason I’d rather go play on Sunday afternoons, rather than watching a great tournament on television, it would be Johnny Miller.

  12. Agree with Thrash that it was Haney’s idea. When a coach is too closely associated with one player, then the coach’s fortunes rise and fall with that player. And it is no kind of life for a top coach to become part of a star player’s entourage–which Haney did if he went to the treatment facility with Tiger. Don’t know how much Haney was paid, but you have to balance that against the abnormal relationship. Being Tiger’s golf coach is like being Michael Jackson’s pet doctor; not a safe or savory thing to be.

  13. Im not of the belief Haney left on his own. Why would you leave the #1 golfer in the world? Sure, he didn’t perform so well the two tournaments after he took 4th, I repeat, 4th at the MASTERS. Phil Michelson didn’t even make the cut this weekend at Colonial. I think Tiger let Haney go and out of respect, Tiger let Hank make it seem like he walked away. Plus, it doesn’t look like Tiger is blaming Haney for his woes as of late. Like other people on here, why does tiger need a swing coach anyway? He’s been playing golf since he was kid, Im sure he can fix his game on his own.

  14. First of all I agree with most of the comments. The world have more serious problems, but the media is more concern with individuals personal lifes. If they put that much coverage on Godly things just maybe the world would be a better place. We are to concern with unpleasant new. He made a dumb mistake, but there are two sides to everything. He got exposed, but I believe Erin had a big part to play concerning this mess. She lived with Tiger for two to three years before they got married. These women can put up with the practices and other things when they are dating, when they get married the practices and long stay away from home becomes a problem. It’s all about money. If she truly loved him and he still love her, forget about the media and nay sayer. Famous people and there spouses listen to many outside individuals. I can understand the hurt and disappointment, but pride will kill you and make you make a bad decision. If Tiger and Erin love each other and want to be together, work it out and forget what is being said and written.

    He should have came to Haney’s defense and not let the media cut down Haney the way they did. Bad move on Tiger part.

  15. Golf needs Johnny Miller like the NY Philharmonic needs Lady GaGa. Miller is egotistical, pedantic, and often wrong. If there’s a reason I’d rather go play on Sunday afternoons, rather than watching a great tournament on television, it would be Johnny Miller.


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