Commentary

Tiger Woods questions ex-coach's book

Updated: January 20, 2012, 12:08 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

Nobody is going to feel sorry for Tiger Woods. He is a high-profile golfer who has gone through a bunch of personal turmoil and now his former coach has written a book. As Tiger himself would typically say, "It is what it is."

Although in this case, not exactly. Woods is none too pleased that Hank Haney has written a book about their six years together called "The Big Miss" that is due out just in time for the Masters.

Woods told ESPN.com in a telephone interview Thursday that he thought it was "unprofessional" of Haney to violate their working relationship, their friendship. He said the book was all about making money and self-serving.

Of course, few are the folks who write books for the fun of it. Certainly as a golf instructor, Haney understands the value of marketing himself.

Woods was matter-of-fact in discussing the situation, sounding more disappointed than angry, more hurt than mad.

So while Woods is unlikely to get sympathy, you can understand his frustration as he is about to begin the 2012 season next week in Abu Dhabi.

He would very much like to get the conversation back to golf, and it typically turns into something else.

Last year it was former caddie Steve Williams making the headlines and now it's Haney. Both, as Woods has acknowledged, played instrumental roles in his success, Williams on the bag for 12 years and 13 majors titles, and Haney coaching him through a six-year run of excellence that all but the game's best will never touch in their careers.

Neither had anything to do with the off-course scandal from which Woods, two years later, is still trying to recover. Woods brought that on himself, but did he invite the drama brought on by Williams not once, but twice, in the aftermath of his firing? Or a book that may or may not be flattering that will be unveiled a week prior to the Masters?

Woods sounded upbeat Thursday as he prepares for his 16th full season as a professional. He took a full two weeks off after his victory last month at the Chevron World Challenge, his first win anywhere since 2009. He has been building up slowly, progressing from the green back to full clubs with one eye already on the Masters.

"I think the prep for Augusta started on the Monday after the World Challenge," he said. "The mind kind of switched to that. It's always been that way. Once a major is over, you focus on the next one. It's such a big delay between the PGA and the Masters. Ultimately, I want to have my game peak four times a year."

To that end, he is making his first trip to next week's Abu Dhabi tournament on the European Tour, skipping the Torrey Pines PGA Tour event, where he has won seven times total, including his last major at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Two weeks later, he will make his PGA Tour debut at the Pebble Beach AT&T National Pro-Am, where Woods -- who is playing in the tournament for the first time in 10 years -- confirmed he will be paired with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo for the first three rounds.

Asked how the pairing came together, Woods said it's been in the works for months.

"He called me when I was in Australia [in November] and asked me if I was playing Pebble," Woods said. "And I said yes. He said, 'I'd like to throw my name in the hat as a possible pairing.' I thought about it and then I called him a day later and said, 'All right, you're in if you want to be in.'"

So much for the Tim Tebow rumors. Much like last year, Woods has had a relatively stress-free offseason. He rested, then got back to working on his game, gearing up for his season debut. Thursday was a corporate day for Nike. On Friday, he's doing a noon chat via his Twitter feed (@TigerWoods). Saturday it is one last practice session with coach Sean Foley.

Then it's off to the Middle East for the first of what will likely be five or six tournaments prior to the Masters.

"Last year at this time I didn't truly understand what Sean was trying to teach me," Woods said. "I was very one-dimensional in my ball striking. I had this baby draw, didn't have a fade, and when I got to Dubai, my second tournament, the wind was howling and I couldn't hold the ball up against the wind with a fade.

"One of the things we had to work on through the year was hitting all the shots. It didn't really start happening until the fall. I started picking up some good, positive momentum with the exhibitions I did in Asia, Australia and then winning [the Chevron World Challenge]."

Woods will not admit to anything less than trying to win all of the tournaments he enters before the Masters. But is it imperative that he win prior to the year's first major?

Each time he won the green jacket, Woods had at least one victory prior to the Masters. In 2005, the year of his last Masters win, he had two. So, if Woods' 15th major title is to come at Augusta, history suggests a victory en route would be a good idea.

Then again, history has been altered. Woods is starting the season 12 time zones away from Torrey Pines. He is playing Pebble Beach for the first time in 10 years. There are rumblings that he'll tee it up at the Honda Classic for the first time as a pro.

But he hasn't won officially in more than two years, something that the Chevron victory helps soften.

"It's hard to believe it's been as long as it has," said Woods, whose last official victory came at the 2009 Australian Masters and last PGA Tour win was earlier that year at the BMW Championship. "But for me winning at the World Challenge like that, it's a win. I don't have to answer more questions about when my next win is going to come."

And yet, with Haney's book due out in late March, he might welcome those kinds of golf questions.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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