PRO­FILE

Tiger Woods’ for­mer coach talks can­didly about his time with the 14-time ma­jor cham­pion, why the game is tougher for to­day’s club golfers, re­veals the player he ad­mires most to­day, and why he owes his ca­reer suc­cess to Mark O’Meara.

Golf Asia (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS -

• The Hug­gan In­ter­view: Hank Haney

His ad­vice guided Tiger Woods to all four ma­jor ti­tles dur­ing the for­mer world No.1’s most pro­lific pe­riod. But then came the split, af­ter six years of al­most con­tin­ual suc­cess. And then came the book, de­tail­ing his time work­ing with ar­guably the most tal­ented player in the game’s his­tory. Hank Haney was inside the ropes when Woods took golf to a new level, and also took Mark O’Meara from jour­ney­man to two-time ma­jor cham­pion. Now he shaves shots off the hand­i­caps of club golfers, and that’s where we started our chat...

Now that you are not teach­ing full time, what are you up to these days?

I’m do­ing a lot of ra­dio shows. I did 275 shows for Sir­ius XM PGA Tour ra­dio last year. I en­joy that a lot. My ca­reer has re­ally gone full-cir­cle. First I helped av­er­age play­ers. Then I helped tour pros. Then I worked with Tiger. Now I’m back help­ing the av­er­age player. Last year I also did clinics for over 15,000 peo­ple. But I don’t touch pri­vate lessons. My last one-on-one les­son was with Tiger at the 2010 Mas­ters.

Do you miss any­thing about your for­mer life?

I re­ally don’t. I’d al­ways said Tiger would be my last stu­dent. I mean, where do you go af­ter Tiger Woods? I coached ar­guably the great­est player in his­tory dur­ing the most pro­lific time of his ca­reer. Noth­ing can beat that. Any­thing else would pale in com­par­i­son to that.

Throw in all the years I had with Mark O’Meara and I had a pretty good run. When I teach clinics I’m with big groups so I reach a lot of peo­ple. I’m on Twit­ter, where I have al­most 150,000 fol­low­ers. I have 250,000 peo­ple lis­ten­ing to me on the ra­dio ev­ery day. So I feel I am reach­ing the masses at this point in my ca­reer.

Are golfers get­ting bet­ter with all the sci­ence that is out there these days?

I think peo­ple are get­ting a lot bet­ter. The scores may not be chang­ing much, but the cour­ses to­day are so much harder than they were in the past. If you do noth­ing other than speed up the greens, you make the game much more dif­fi­cult.

And there’s more than that go­ing on now. The greens are ef­fec­tively smaller. Chip­ping is harder. Pitch­ing is harder. Putting is way harder. That’s a big fac­tor. Yes, I know the ball goes far­ther. But if you speed up the greens in your club cham­pi­onship, no one is play­ing to their hand­i­cap.

It’s not an even fight. Let’s say a course is 10 per cent longer than it was. That’s go­ing to make it harder even with all the mod­ern equip­ment. Ev­ery­one gets older. Ev­ery­one gets slower. So in the­ory you are not sup­posed to get bet­ter. If you stay the same you are im­prov­ing.

The big thing is the short game though. Greens now are mowed much closer than be­fore. And look at the sur­rounds. I get that it has al­ways been that way in Scot­land – which is why peo­ple putt so much from off the greens – but chip­ping is so much more dif­fi­cult to­day with the lies so tight.

Why are we try­ing to make the game more dif­fi­cult?

Ev­ery­thing fol­lows what the pros do. They have shaved fair­ways and, as a re­sult, ev­ery club fol­lows suit. Su­per­in­ten­dents [green­keep­ers] seem to think that is the way it’s sup­posed to be. One good thing is that I see more Amer­i­can am­a­teurs putting from off the green and that’s car­ried into the PGA Tour – I see more of that on the cir­cuit too. More than I have ever seen be­fore.

There are more cases of chip­ping yips than ever be­fore, too.

No doubt about that. It’s hard to ig­nore that fact. The bad news is that the turf con­di­tions and the close-mix­ing have got peo­ple yip­ping more. But the good news is they can ad­just to putting more. I just wish more peo­ple in the States would fig­ure that out. There’s noth­ing wrong with putting from off the green. You Scots fig­ured that out a long time ago. Over here they are still try­ing to chip, even when they can’t.

That’s a prob­lem in golf. They took the long put­ter away from the guy who yips. Now they mow the grass closer for the guy who yips around the greens. It’s not good.

What I can’t get my head round is why ‘non-tour’ cour­ses do all that. Why aren’t they mak­ing their greens a bit slower and their sur­rounds a bit grassier? That would let peo­ple chip more eas­ily and have more fun.

I don’t get it ei­ther. Maybe they don’t think like that be­cause they are not golfers and don’t think like golfers. Maybe those run­ning things are bet­ter play­ers. I cringe when I hear peo­ple say­ing how great it is that the grass is cut down around the greens. Be­cause it gives play­ers “all kinds of op­tions”. It doesn’t. It gives them one op­tion: putting. The idea that you have all these op­tions is lu­di­crous.

Let’s talk about your book, The Big Miss in which you talked a lot about your time with Tiger. Did you lose any

“I got let­ters say­ing they were big­ger Tiger fans af­ter read­ing the book on him”

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