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Thursday, December 6, 2012
"It's not easy being Tiger"

By Scott T. Miller
ESPN The Magazine

Hank Haney
Tiger Woods won six majors with Haney as his coach.

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Dec. 10 Interview issue. Subscribe today!

Hank Haney is Tiger Woods' former coach and author of The Big Miss. Woods won 31 PGA Tour events under Haney's direction from 2004 to 2010.


SCOTT MILLER: Did Tiger know you were writing the book? Did you seek his blessing?
HANK HANEY: I didn't reach out to him. They were my memories. I didn't see any reason to seek his blessing.

MILLER: Did you hear from Tiger after the book was published?
HANEY: No, the last time I talked to Tiger was the day after I resigned. He said "Hank, the most important thing is that we've been great friends. And we just need to make sure we stay like that." And I never heard from him again.

MILLER: Looking back on that conversation now, what do you think?
HANEY: We were friends. To the extent that Tiger was a friend to me, I don't know. I think he was. I know I was a great friend to Tiger Woods. But when you have a relationship that's involves business and friendship -- and the business part comes to an end -- things always get a little blurry. With Tiger, they probably get really blurry.

MILLER: You guys were together for a really long time. What was your away-from-golf relationship like?
HANEY: Well, I just did a lot of things that great friends would do. I was always supportive of him. I think I offered some great advice that would be, in many cases, considered big-brotherly advice or fatherly advice. As I said in the book, I never knew of anything that was going with all of these women. Clearly, he kept it from me because he knew that I was the kind of person who would definitely say something. And the same thing goes for Steve Williams. He kept those things from Steve Williams, too. I think that pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

MILLER: From the book, it seemed like there were times when you thought you were one of Tiger's only friends. Did you feel that off of the course it was a lonely existence being Tiger Woods?
HANEY: Well it's not easy being Tiger Woods on the course. It's not easy being Tiger Woods off the course. In his defense, it's not easy being Tiger Woods.

MILLER: Charles Barkley and a few other people who, on the surface, seemed to be close with Tiger said that they never heard back. Do you have any idea why?
HANEY: The key word there is "surface." I don't know. I never heard anything from Tiger for quite awhile. Steve Williams didn't hear, Mark O'Meara, nobody heard. Everybody that people considered his friends, nobody heard from him.

But Tiger's different. Like I said in the book, I always thought everything that made Tiger different was what contributed to him being so great. I never judged him for any of those things. I never said "Well, I wish he would change this; I wish he would do this." I knew that the whole package that made up Tiger Woods was an incredible athlete and an incredible competitor, and I didn't think it was really possible to just pick and choose certain things and say "Oh, he should do this different" because I always thought that if you change one thing, it might be like a Rubix cube, and you might just change the whole thing.

I think that, to some extent, is what you've seen since the accident, since the scandal. I think things have changed, and he's clearly not the golfer that he was. And I know the way this whole thing works, so that quote right there is going to be an exclamation point, in a box, right at the middle of the page. And that's unfortunate. It's my slip-up, and that's why I didn't want to do this interview, but I'll just have to live with that. But I still think Tiger's the best player that there is. Now, he's not No. 1 right now, but I still think he's the best player. But having said that, he's not the player that he was when he was winning 45 percent of his tournaments with me the last three years I helped him. That's just the way it is. People are always like "You're taking a shot at him." I'm not taking a shot at him. But it's just the way it is. Everybody can see it. But you know what? You don't even have to see it. It's like what Bill Parcells always said: "You are what your record says you are."

MILLER: What are those things that made him different, but also made him great?
HANEY: It was just a total single-minded focus. One of my points in the book was that it always bothered me when he'd just breeze right by little kids who wanted his autograph. Still, I knew that he was always after something much more than being adored. He wanted to be the best golfer he could possibly be. And if your goal is to be the best golfer you can be, what does standing there signing autographs have to do with that goal? It doesn't.

MILLER: When you started coaching Tiger, it's like you inherited an enigma: If he kept winning, it was because he was the greatest golfer ever, and if he stopped winning, it was because you ruined him. Did you feel like you couldn't win?
HANEY: Absolutely. I felt like I couldn't win pretty much the whole time I was with Tiger. Because it's not a game you can win. First off, you're following a legendary coach. Arguably the greatest coach ever in the game of golf -- Butch Harmon. That's not easy to do in any sport. And where we started -- whether people want to admit it, and they never did because they always wanted to compare everything to 2000, but I didn't start in 2001. I started in 2004, so realistically, we should've compared it to 2003 and early 2004. And everyone's like "Well, in 2000 ... " That was four years ago! But I was confident, and I really took Tiger's approach; I just tried to get better everyday. I never knew what his record with me was until I got done and added it up. Even after I got done, I didn't know how many majors he had won, how many tournaments he had won until I was all done and added it up. And then I thought "Wow. He did really good." I knew he was doing good, but I also knew that nothing was ever really good enough.

MILLER: Did that get to you after awhile?
HANEY: It gets to you a little bit. You'd like to think it doesn't get to you, but when it's all over you realize "Wow, that kind of did get to me." Having said all of that, it was the greatest opportunity I've ever had in my career. It was just unbelievable. To have the opportunity to work with Tiger Woods was just so awesome. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the challenge. I enjoyed the good parts where he was winning. And I enjoyed the challenge to help him get better. But six years was enough. It was just enough. That was enough for me.

MILLER: Do you ever regret leaving him? Do you ever wake up and miss being his coach?
HANEY: No, absolutely not because there's a time and a place for everything. And coaching relationships don't last forever, no matter who you are. Listen, I spent 110 days a year with Tiger. And I don't think his coach does that now, but I just did what I was told, or what I was asked to do. He wanted me there the week before the majors, and I'm there the whole week of a major. There's eight weeks right there. There's 56 days right there. And we haven't even started on the rest of the year. It was a grind.

MILLER: In the book, Tiger comes across as more fragile or emotionally complex than many of us knew. But it seemed like you figured out how to get to him at least in regards to winning tournaments. What was your secret? What did you figure out about him?
HANEY: I think that's an astute observation. I remember when I started, Butch Harmon told me "Hank, it's harder than it looks. It's a tough team to be on." Those were the two things he told me. When Sean Foley started and he was so brash and said everything Tiger was doing was wrong and dadadadada, I thought to myself Wow. It's harder than it looks. And he's going to find that out. There's a reason why Tiger Woods is so great. It's because he's different, and he's different in many ways. Because of that, it's not like coaching anyone you've ever coached before. But I felt like I understood Tiger as well as probably anybody could. I also felt like I could get through to him. The challenge is how do you find the way to get through to greatness. Greatness is often not easy to get through to. It's hard to understand, it's hard to communicate with, and it's hard to achieve. I did my best. That's all I can say. When it's all said and done, your record is what it is. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. Sean Foley is entitled to his opinion. But no one's entitled to their own facts.

MILLER: It almost seemed like you jived with Tiger, like you figured out to get down where it really mattered. Is that fair to say?
HANEY: Well, I think the record shows that, doesn't it? I felt like I did that to an extent that enabled Tiger to get some good results. One of the things you realize with a lot of high achievers: You have to figure out a way to make things their idea. And I never saw that as a negative. I always thought that if it was Tiger's idea, he'd buy into it more, he'd own it more, it'd really be his. You need to get to that point. Because it's his game; it's not my game. I never hit a shot. I never made a putt. I never did anything. I just offered some advice, and in a lot of instances, I just tried to point Tiger in a certain direction and let him find his own way. That's the thing that takes time. It takes a lot of experience in coaching. It takes experience with your student. I don't think it's something you can walk in there and do tomorrow. Sure, you can look at someone's golf swing and tell them what to change. But that's the easy part because everybody has a video camera that goes 4,000 frames per second. It's not that hard. Sure, there are different theories, but it's not that hard to figure out where the person is off. That's the easy thing to do.

MILLER: And trying figure out how to get someone like Tiger to be willing to change is the much harder thing.
HANEY: Much harder. And be committed and then deal with whatever issues there might be.

MILLER: In the last few months you were his coach, after everything had collapsed in on itself, did you feel sorry for Tiger? Did you feel betrayed?
HANEY: No. Like I said, the most important thing for me was to be, in my mind, a great friend to Tiger. I didn't judge him. Hey, that's just the way he is. He's different. Tiger maybe has a little difficulty communicating some things, but there's no doubt that he appreciates the things that people do for him and friendship and support. I didn't feel like he owed me anything -- he didn't owe me a phone call, he didn't owe me an explanation. He didn't owe me anything. I think other people maybe felt a little different, but that's not how I felt.

MILLER: How much of choosing to leave him was "I can't teach this guy anymore."
HANEY: Not really. Arguably his best year was 2009. He was top-10 17 out of 19 times, and he won like seven times or something. You just have a sense that sometimes it's time to go. I don't know how to explain it other than that. I was just time for me to go.

MILLER: When you were with him, he did win at a higher rate than any other point in his career, but he also very rarely blew a 54-hole lead. It seemed like you had this horse-whisperer quality with him where you knew what to say to him before those Sunday rounds ...
HANEY: I don't know about that. I don't want to overstate my role in his winning. I never hit any shots. It was Tiger playing. Steve Williams was a great, great caddie. Mark Steinberg was a great supporter of Tiger's. Tiger had a great team, but the only person that really mattered on that team was Tiger. He was the one who did everything. As a coach, sometimes the right thing to say is not much at all. And other times, you think you have something that might make a difference, and who knows whether it did or it didn't? It's never really anything you can put your finger on. At the end of the day, you just have to go by, "OK, what was the record like?" I don't want to sound like the disgruntled ex-coach. "Oh I didn't get enough credit." Because I don't think that. Some people have that perception just because you wrote a book, that's what it is. I'm just very thankful for the opportunity, and it was just time to go. And hey, my record as a coach, it is what it is.

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