A recent business trip gave me a reason to crack into my off-season reading a little early. I acknowledge I am late to the party here, as Hank Haney’s book about his six year instructional relationship with Tiger Woods was published back in 2012. But Tiger’s recent resurgence brought this book back as a must read for me. The soft cover version is only 258 pages so it is not too long and the narrative style makes it an easy and compelling read.
There’s no denying the unique insight Haney had as Tiger’s coach. The back of the book provides a detailed event by event account of Tiger’s performance with Haney. I was driven to purchase and read this book to gain insight on the greatness of Tiger Woods, and from that perspective this book delivers. A stark, honest look at the philosophy, training, course management and challenges of Tiger, specific to his game, is on full display. Tournament preparation, extended practice sessions, and Tiger’s own reflections are all shared here. Also, health challenges, Tiger’s obsession with military training and his reclusive nature also provide greater insight to the man and the golfer. The chapter called ‘Greatness’ was my favourite, and here Haney delivers powerful insight on the drive that Tiger Woods had. Even after defeat, like the 2005 US Open at Pinehurst, Haney shared his reflections – balancing improvements in his swing with his own thoughts on over aggressive putting and how, he feels, this cost Tiger the US Open. I could have read 258 pages of stories and insight like this.
Yet, with all the positives (and there are many) I finished the book feeling disappointed. On many occasions Haney strays from golf and brings in petty reflections and what I feel are too many perceptions of Woods and himself. For anyone in a teaching or mentoring relationship this could be valuable but for me this was a distraction and simply not as enjoyable to read.
Perhaps more importantly, and this was pronounced when the deep sense of betrayal. I felt I was privy to conversations and events which I had no part of. I don’t want to be hypocritical here; if Haney was able to keep this as exclusive insight around golf then I would have embraced the book much more. Yet with Tiger’s challenges off course, in his personal life, the book had a few moments where I simply was not comfortable with what Haney was sharing with me. I have no doubt the issues with Tiger’s life outside of the game had a direct and negative effect on his performance. Add to it some significant health issues and the decline makes sense. This was all around the time when Haney quit as Tiger’s coach so it is a delicate balance, but even the idea of writing a book like this broaches some ethical concerns so once it deviated, even slightly, off of golf then I was not comfortable.
Overall, there are stories and parts of this book I truly appreciated. There are other parts I did not appreciate. The book, to me, betrays the instructor-player relationship. I wish it focused more exclusively about Tiger and the game and less about Tiger and Hank’s relationship. I don’t recommend the book but invite golfers to make their own informed opinion on this. If you have read it already, I welcome your thoughts. Given Tiger’s resurgence I am sure I am not the only one reading (or in many cases, re-reading) this book now.