Tiger Woods questioned about Haney book, putting stroke
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Just about the last thing Tiger Woods wants to talk about these days is his strikingly poignant problems with his putting stroke. But he grudgingly acceded Wednesday at PGA National Resort because he maintained a steadfast intransigence on the subject of the upcoming book written by former swing instructor Hank Haney.
Excerpts of Haney's book, "The Big Miss," written with Golf Digest senior writer Jaime Diaz, were published on GolfDigest.com Tuesday, but during a press conference on the eve of the Honda Classic, Woods declined to say anything about it, except to say he had nothing to say. He elaborated with laboriously terse deflections.
The first question for Woods, even though in reference to the book, was a softball that he simply chose not to swing at.
Q. Obviously several weeks ago, you expressed your disappointment about Hank's book. Now there's some stuff that's come out since. Where would you say your disappointment level is based on any of what's come out and to this point?
WOODS: Bob, It's still the same. Nothing has changed in that regard at all.
Then a few questions later:
Q. To follow up on Bob, I know Mark (Steinberg, Woods's agent) responded to the fact that the excerpts are out from Hank's book, but I'm wondering, what's your reaction?
WOODS: Well, I've already talked about it. So... sorry, Tommy.
Then there was a specific inquiry as to the accuracy of Haney's contention that Woods, whose late father Earl, was a Green Beret in the Army, was prepared to walk away from golf to pursue a career as a Navy SEAL.
__ Q.__ I'm sorry, the book thing is out there and you guys have commented about it; specifically in regards to being a Navy SEAL and considering being a Navy SEAL during the height of your career, was that something you were considering?
WOODS: I've already talked about everything -- in the book, yes, I've already commented on everything, Alex.
Q. Then I must have missed you answering that question.
TIGER WOODS: Well, I've already commented on the book. Is that in the book? Is it in the book?
Q. That's a fair question, right, you guys are suggesting that there's something wrong with the excerpts in the book. I'm just trying to find out if that's true or not.
TIGER WOODS: I don't know. Have a good day.
Steinberg, Woods's agent at Excel Sports Management, sent a statement via e-mail late Tuesday afternoon to the Associated Press criticizing the content in the excerpts.
"His armchair psychology about Tiger, on matters he admits they didn't even discuss, is ridiculous," Steinberg wrote. "Because of his father, it's no secret that Tiger has always had high respect for the military, so for Haney to twist that admiration into something negative is disrespectful."
The offending excerpt quoted Haney as writing: "Tiger was seriously considering becoming a Navy SEAL. I didn't know how he'd go about it, but when he talked about it, it was clear he had a plan....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."
Having recently relocated from Orlando to nearby Jupiter, Fla., Woods, as part of turning a page on a chapter in his life, is competing in the Honda Classic for the first time in his career. The former No. 1 player in the world still seeks to halt a winless stretch dating to 2009, and he is coming off a second-round loss to Nick Watney in last week's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Woods last competed on the Champion Course 22 years ago, in the 1990 Junior PGA Championship, and but for a blistering final-round 63 by Chris Couch Woods would have become, at 14, the youngest player to win. Jack Nicklaus has since redesigned the layout, which might bode well for Woods, considering his success on courses with a Golden Bear paw print, including Muirfield Village GC, Firestone's South Course, Pebble Beach GL and Valhalla.
But the, um, book on Woods's current form is all about his putting, which has largely held him back in his three tournament starts this year. His struggles on the greens were most visible during the final round at Pebble Beach, when he missed five putts inside three feet, and in his loss to Watney at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz., where on the final hole, with a chance to extend the match, Woods missed the hole entirely from just five feet.
Installing his old PING grip on his Nike putter because, "it allows more swing" might be a Band-Aid to the psyche more than the putting touch, which he maintains is getting more attention now that his full swing mechanics under Sean Foley are starting to congeal sufficiently. Since Australia, in fact, Woods said he has steadily increased his time on the greens.
"I had to go back to putting in the reps, and I did," he said. "I spent about almost four hours the other day putting, which was good; two different sessions, two and two with a meal in between. I just worked on just going back to my old basic with my dad, and some of the things that he taught me. When I looked at the tape, I got away from some of those things. My posture was off; the way the club was releasing was off. A lot of things were off. And just had to start from the getâ¿¿go, just log in the reps, do my little tee drill that you see me do all the time, and I built it from there."
Woods, ranked 21st in the world, said his posture is one key to greater putting consistency. But it's his stature as still the primary draw in golf that continues to invite relentless scrutiny, whether it's inside or outside the ropes. And whereas he seemed impervious to the various analyses before, Woods clearly evinces a measure of exasperation that undoubtedly has been exacerbated by an inability to win (though he did capture the unofficial, 18-man Chevron World Challenge in December) or to prevent Haney from publishing a book sure to peel back the veneer on parts of Woods's carefully guarded life.
"It's part of, now, I guess who I am and what I've accomplished," Woods said of the constant attention he receives. "I think it would have been probably similar if Jack was probably in my generation. Didn't quite have the media scrutiny that they do now. It's just a different deal, and I know that a lot of players don't get the same analysis with their games that I do. But it's been like that since I turned pro."
Greg Norman, who has held the No. 1 ranking longer than any player except Woods, was also previously the most-scrutinized player in golf. He understands the territory where Woods is treading, even if he can't gauge the depth.
"We all have our own ways of handling it," said Norman, who frequently sees Woods practicing at the Shark's Medalist Club. "I don't know how Tiger handled it, but he knows he's been there before, he understands it's part of the position you put yourself in. When you are sitting up at the top of the pedestal, everyone else is throwing rocks at you. Some are softballs and some are hardballs. It's just how you react to them.
"I think it's a great place to be," he added.
Tiger Woods might agree, if that pedestal came in a soundproof glass case.
-- Dave Shedloski
(Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)