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One of Tiger Woods' former coaches is unsure who might get the job in the future, but Hank Haney believes it doesn't much matter unless the golfer can get healthy enough to put in the time to work on his game.
"The biggest thing I see is that you have a cumulative effect of lack of practice," Haney said in a phone interview. "This is the biggest issue as opposed to who is going to coach him next."
Sean Foley, who succeeded Haney as Woods' coach, saw his four-year tenure end Monday with an amicable announcement posted on Woods' website.
Haney, who guided Woods for six years, is well aware of the hot seat Foley endured. Woods won 31 PGA Tour titles and six major championships in the time he spent with Haney from 2004 to 2010, but his methods were constantly critiqued. That has been the same for Foley, and while Haney disagreed with many of the technical aspects he saw Woods employ under his successor, he acknowledged there are so many unknowns when it comes to Woods, his health, his practice time and how much information he used.
"Either Sean hasn't told him the right things, he hasn't been able to commit to it, or Tiger hasn't tried it," Haney said. "In all honesty, all three of those things fall on the coach. It's part of coaching. At some point, you have to take responsibility.
"But then again, has he had a fair chance? If Tiger hasn't listened, that's on the coach. If he hasn't practiced, that is on the player. If he can't practice, there is nothing you can do about it. But that has been my theme for you know how long. What is his commitment level like? Is he capable of practicing?"
Woods is in the midst of another break from golf after an aborted restart to his 2014 season following March 31 back surgery. He played just eight tournaments this year, withdrawing from two with injuries, missing the cut in two others and posting his best finish at Doral, a tie for 25th, in March. He played in just two major championships, posting his worst 72-hole finish at the Open Championship (69th) and missing just his fourth cut as a pro in a major at the PGA Championship.
Last week, Woods said he would not be hitting balls "for at least a month" and is not going to return to competitive golf until the World Challenge in December.
Since Woods won the U.S. Open in 2008 for his 14th major championship, Haney estimated that the golfer has missed close to three years of time recovering from injuries and surgery. He was out into the 2009 season due to knee surgery, missed several months in 2010 while dealing with personal issues, had nearly four months missed in 2011 due to knee and Achilles problems and then had his back problems this year.
"In the last six years, he's only played golf three years," Haney said. "Who else could take three years off and do any good? Really, you're going to take three years off? I know he's great, but that's a lot to ask. And even this year, how much did he practice? He's gone this whole year with next to no practice time.
"Ben Hogan used to say the first 500 balls he hit during the day got him back to where he was yesterday. Now that might be a stretch, but even if it's the first 150 balls you hit to get you back to yesterday, how far has Tiger fallen behind in the last six years?"
Like others who have analyzed Woods' swing, Haney questioned the forward shaft lean and wondered if that has had an impact on his back problems.
|Hank Haney, left, thinks Tiger Woods needs a coach because he has difficulty sticking to a plan and likes to experiment.|
As for a new teacher, Haney said Woods needs one because he has difficulty sticking to a plan and likes to experiment.
"But the only person he is only going to truly listen to is himself," Haney said. "That is where taking ownership of his game works. He has plenty of knowledge. He's worked with different teachers. He knows a lot about what he is doing. I think taking ownership for now would be the best approach."
Butch Harmon, who coached Woods from 1993 to 2002, believes the player's best coach is himself.
"I don't think he needs a swing coach," Harmon told Golfchannel.com. "If I were advising Tiger, I'd tell him, 'You're the greatest player that ever lived. Just go to the range and hit shots.'"
Harmon also was asked if he would ever coach Woods again, and he reiterated: "No, I would not, and he's not going to call and ask."
For Haney, it all goes back to how Woods is feeling.
"He's got to get healthy," he said. "He's got to get his technique better, and he has got to practice. And if he doesn't do those things, it's going to be hard to see how he can get back to where he's Tiger Woods. Every time I watch a tournament, I'm still shocked when he doesn't win."