The so-called revelation from Hank Haney that Tiger considered swapping golf for the military intrudes for commercial gain on the private relationship between Woods and his father
Another visitor has taken a seat in the confessional reserved for those who claim to know what goes on in the life and mind of Tiger Woods. Where once cocktails waitresses and porn stars lined up to claim their 15 minutes of fame-by-association it is now the turn of Hank Haney, the golfer’s former swing coach and the “author” – though not the actual writer – of a memoir covering the six years they spent together.
The book is called The Big Miss. It will be published at the end of the month but already the hype has started, with selected “revelations” being published this week by Golf Digest magazine, the most newsworthy of which is Haney’s claims that in the prime of his career Woods considered giving up professional golf to become a US Navy Seal.
“I thought, wow, here is Tiger Woods, greatest athlete on the planet, maybe the greatest athlete ever, right in the middle of his prime, basically ready to leave it all behind for a military life,” writes Haney.
No review copies have been sent out so we will have to wait until publication day to read what more Haney has to say on the subject, although he gave this explanation in a brief interview with the US-based Golf Channel: “His [Woods's] focus became a little less on the golf and a little more on some of the military stuff he was doing. I started to the sense that he wanted to win the majors but he wanted to win them like real fast. I got the sense that he wanted to try to get to Nicklaus’s record as fast as he could because he maybe had something else in mind. It was an interesting time for sure.”
Presumably Haney and his Boswell, the respected Golf Digest writer Jaime Diaz, have dug up a lot more evidence to support this claim, otherwise we are left with a rather rickety triangulation; from a fascination with the military (why not – after all, Woods’s father Earl was a military man?) to a desire to beat Nicklaus’s record as quickly as possible (as opposed to doing it as slowly as possible, or perhaps never at all?) to a “maybe he had something else on his mind” and that something else was giving it all up for a military career. Really?
In the absence of anything more substantial we are left to conclude that what we may have here is a nugget of uncertain providence – given prominence by the publisher – aimed at drawing attention to the book. Such practices are standard when it comes to celebrity memoirs and to complain about it would be like complaining about the sun rising in the east. It is the way the world works.
Yet the problem for Haney in this case is that it runs the risk of steering the entire production parlously close to that netherworld populated by the fame-hunters and money-grubbers who emerged from the woodwork in the aftermath of Woods’s personal scandal.
Haney would no doubt be appalled to find himself grouped alongside such flotsam and jetsam. He is a serious man and with serious professional intent as a swing coach. He is also a wealthy man, with a string of coaching schools and a successful television show. No doubt the money from the book is nice, but he certainly doesn’t need it. Which leaves us wondering about his motivations for writing it in the first place. Is it to cement his place in the history of a remarkable golfing career? Is it to restore his reputation as swing coach (which has been brutally dismantled by many so-called experts in the 20 months since he and Woods parted company)? Or is it simply spite? No doubt Haney will provide the answer in an extensive publicity tour surrounding the book’s publication.
For his reputation’s sake the explanation had better be convincing, although we can be certain there is at least one man who will not bear it either way.
Woods had already made clear his anger when it was announced in January the book would be appearing in the runup to the Masters – a displeasure reiterated in a statement issued this week by his agent Mark Steinberg. But it is one thing to read about Woods’s anger and quite another to see it acted out in public.
On Wednesday the golfer had an exchange with Alex Miceli, a Golf Channel reporter, the rawness of which took even seasoned Woods watchers by surprise. Miceli pressed Woods for a comment on Haney’s Navy Seal claim, Woods declined, Miceli pressed again, at which point Woods responded with “Have a nice day” in a manner that made clear the last thing he hoped Miceli would have was a nice day.
Woods has very little time for the British press for the simple reason that he is treated with very little reverence when he comes to this country. But in the States he is very seldom challenged. Miceli went where very few of his countrymen have gone before, for which he deserves some credit.
That Woods chose not to answer the question was his right, although given that he was in front of a microphone on the day that Haney’s revelation was made public he must surely have expected to be asked about it. In the circumstances he should have been able to maintain his composure. That he could not suggests that perhaps he felt an unacceptable line, certainly by Haney, had been crossed. In this instance it is hard to disagree.
The bond between a father and son is a special one and from all we know about Tiger and Earl Woods it can be said their relationship was especially strong. Haney’s claim that Woods Jr was interested in following in Earl’s footsteps goes straight to the heart of that relationship the golfer had with his father, opening up memories and emotions that any reasonable person would say are the private property of those concerned.
If Tiger wants to talk about the relationship he had with his father and how it affected his ambitions and outlook on life, then fine. If Haney wants to write a book about Woods that touches on the golfer’s rawest emotions then that is fine too. It’s a free country and people can write the book they want to write. But let’s not see The Big Miss for anything other than it is: a cold-hearted commercial enterprise.
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