Review: The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods by Hank Haney
What is it like to spend more than 6 years coaching the world’s greatest golfer? Hank Haney, the man who helped guide Tiger Woods during the second phase of his golf career when he won 6 majors, tells his story in “The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods.”
So, why “The Big Miss?” While the title was no doubt intended to illicit thoughts of Tiger’s recent fall from grace, it’s really a term used by Haney to refer to the bad shot that can cost a golfer a big score. One of Haney core philosophies is avoiding “The Big Miss.“ It’s a phrase frequently repeated throughout the book.
“The Big Miss” begins with a scene on the practice practice tee at Augusta National before the final round of the 2010 Masters. Haney senses that Tiger is unhappy with the game plan that he had laid down for him during the week. This would be the last time he coached Tiger Woods.
While Tiger Woods is the the main topic of the book, Haney does spend some time delving into his life in golf before Woods, including his path to becoming a golf instructor, influential instructors, his substantial work with Mark O’Meara, and even a bout with alcoholism.
Haney comes across as honest and open and even admits to being in awe of Tiger when they first began working together. While he does offer some criticism and his thoughts on the mind of Woods, his commentary is overwhelmingly positive. Even the criticisms of Tiger’s personality are often tempered with reminders of the pressures of living your life with such lofty expectations.
For the most part, “The Big Miss” is a real page turner. The subject matter alone would be interesting, and Haney had access to the Tiger Woods inner circle like few others. Haney’s analysis of Woods both as a player and a person is fascinating to no end.
Unless you’re are really into the intricacies of the golf swing, however, you might find your eyes glazing over at some of Haney’s detailed explanations of swing planes and “crossing the line” on the backswings. This kind of talk might be more interesting with accompanying video, but as it is, it’s the one part of the book that leans toward the boring.
Throughout the “The Big Miss,” it seems apparent that Haney is very sensitive to how both he and his teachings with Tiger will be viewed and judged by the golfing community. This is somewhat understandable when you consider the microscope under which everything to do with Tiger Woods is analyzed. At times he seems to give himself credit when Tiger succeeds and when Tiger is less successful, blaming other factors like Tiger’s attitude. Although Woods was coached by Butch Harmon at the time, Haney points out that Tiger’s incredible run in 1999-2000 happened after some brief advice he imparted to Tiger at the urging of mutual friend Mark O’Meara.
Perhaps the most riveting portion of “The Big Miss” is Haney’s recount of Tiger’s 2008 US Open victory at Torrey Pines. Unknown to the public, Tiger discovered weeks earlier that he had a torn ACL and two stress fracture in his left leg. Despite the injuries, Woods was determined not only to compete in the US Open, but win it. Haney gives Tiger’s long time trainer Keith Kleven tremendous credit for working tirelessly each night of the tournament to get Tiger in shape to go out and play on the severely injured leg.
One of the more intriguing revelations in the book is Woods’ “obsession” with the military and particularly the Navy Seals. Kept quiet by the military, Woods would participate in serious military training exercises. Haney claims Wood’s interest in becoming a SEAL went so far, he believe Woods may have seriously considered giving up golf to become a Navy Seal.
In the final chapter, Haney breaks down Tiger’s statistics in an attempt to compare his time with Tiger Woods to the time he spent with Butch Harmon. The book finishes with Haney’s thoughts on Tiger’s future golf career and the pursuit of Nicklaus’ mark of 18 major championship victories.
Sadly, public opinion of this book has been sullied by the release of some less than flattering tidbits that make “The Big Miss” seem more like a gossip rag publication than the insightful and fascinating read that it truly is. Once I began reading “The Big Miss,” it was hard to put down. I have little doubt that those that read the book will come away not only enjoying it, but gaining a better understanding, and perhaps even a greater appreciation for Tiger Woods.
Where to Get the Book
iBooks: The Big Miss – Hank Haneyby