1-Page Cheatsheet: The Big Miss by Hank Haney

The Big Miss by Hank HaneySome athletes are SO GOOD that they suck you in. Any article, forum thread, tweet…you want to know anyone and everyone’s opinion. And of course you have your own.

My SO GOOD list includes Michael Jordan, Roger Federer, and of course Tiger Woods. When I heard the premise for this book – a behind-the-scenes-tell-all from his former swing coach – a book so explosive that a fairly reticent Tiger even complained publicly, I was sold.

Unfortunately, I’m missing 1/3rd of my highlights. After a long flight engrossed in the book on my iPad Kindle app, I absentmindedly left that iPad in my seatback pocket. Those highlights are lost unless a kind stranger returns it, which probably won’t happen because it’s a new iPad mini and those things are pretty sexy.

From the remaining 2/3rds, here’s my 1-page cheatsheet to The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods by Hank Haney [Amazon Kindle].

From Hank’s Wikipedia:

Hank Haney (born August 24, 1955) is an American professional golf instructor best known for coaching Tiger Woods[1] and two-time major championship winner Mark O’Meara. A graduate of the University of Tulsa, Haney owns and operates four teaching facilities in the Dallas, Texas area.

Insights and Highlights

Tiger plays to avoid “the big miss”

Although it’s commonly thought that Tiger plays go-for-broke golf and tries the most difficult shots with no fear, it’s a false image. Tiger is, above all, a calculating golfer who plays percentages and makes sure to err on the safe side.

Avoiding the big miss was a big part of what made Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus so great, and it’s a style that Tiger has emulated.

Tiger and Phil have a chilly relationship

Tiger has always had a chilly relationship with Phil. Some of it is personality, but most of it is that Mickelson possesses the kind of talent that has made him a legitimate threat to Tiger’s supremacy. Phil’s popularity with the fans and gentle treatment from the media add to Tiger’s annoyance.

Full-time, traveling coaches are a relatively new thing

But the publicity given to overhauls of pro players’ swings, especially the attention paid to the success David had with Nick, changed the model. Not only did it drive more tour players to seek full-time teachers; it led more instructors to travel the tour looking for business and developing stables. Whereas previously the only “lessons” on tour practice ranges had been one pro passing a quick tip along to another, soon there were so-called swing gurus walking the practice tee with video cameras, often serving multiple players at once.

No surprise – Tiger is GOOD

I was focused on Tiger’s progress, but I also had moments—especially when we first started working together—in which I’d just admire how good he was. Beyond his technique, his swing was mesmerizing for displaying the sheer grace that only the most special athletes possess. But besides exhibiting impressive coordination and explosiveness, even in practice Tiger had a focus and intensity that were beyond anything I’d ever witnessed. I could feel his love for what he was doing: his thrill at controlling the ball, his enthusiasm for learning how to do it better.

Even the people around him weren’t close

But as I was beginning to figure out, Tiger really didn’t let anyone in. It was interesting that Mark also advised that when it came to Tiger, the best policy was “Don’t get too close.”

*Mark Steinberg, Tiger’s agent

Tiger had a close relationship with his caddy Steve Williams…before the fallout

After Mark Steinberg, the next-closest person to Tiger was Steve Williams. Without a doubt, Steve is the best caddie I’ve ever seen. His greatest gift is that he stays completely calm and retains a commanding presence under the greatest tournament pressure. His former boss Raymond Floyd once said that Steve is the only caddie he ever had who didn’t choke. He proved it many times with Tiger, either by saying the right thing at a nervous moment, staying solidly silent in a moment of crisis, or calling Tiger off a shot if he believed it was the wrong one. Steve prided himself on being able to read Tiger’s mind, and Tiger respected Steve’s guts, judgment, and instinct. He also relied on Steve’s ability to be gruff and intimidating so that fans and media would give him a wider berth.

His weakness was the driver

Simply put, Tiger played the driver with a lot of fear.

Sometimes, to make it less of a big deal, he’d remind me that he had never considered himself a particularly good driver, at least in comparison with the rest of his game. “That’s why my name is Woods,” he’d joke. “Maybe it would have been different if I’d been named Fairway.”

He was reserved and could be moody

I saw Tiger in many modes. He could be very gracious in public when he chose. But when the mood struck him, he could be coldly aloof with media, autograph seekers, or even officials. In private, I found that he could either be good company—conversational and intelligent in a way that made you wish he’d allow that side of himself to come out all the time—or completely distant.

He enjoyed breaking small rules

Mostly he just drove his Escalade, but in a way that reflected an impatient guy who wasn’t going to follow the silly rules of regular schlubs. He’d go over the speed limit, but not by a lot. Mostly it was rolling stops, turns over double lines, parking in a restricted spot—time-saving stuff he thought was worth the risk. When I was in the passenger seat, sometimes I’d say “Nice” after one of his illegal moves. That would draw a smile from Tiger as he enjoyed the rare feeling of breaking rules.

He likes popsicles

I always remember a quirky aspect of Tiger’s behavior that in retrospect says a lot about how it was with him. When we were watching television after dinner, he’d sometimes go to the refrigerator to get a sugar-free popsicle. But he never offered me one or ever came back with one, and one night I really wanted one of those popsicles. But I found myself sitting kind of frozen, not knowing what to do next. I didn’t feel right just going to the refrigerator and taking one, and I kind of started laughing to myself at how hesitant I was to ask Tiger for one. It actually took me a while to summon the courage to blurt out, “Hey, bud, do you think I could have one of those popsicles?” He looked at me as if puzzled that I was asking, and said, “Yeah, sure, go ahead and get one.” I did, but even after that, Tiger never offered me a popsicle. It can sound petty, recalling a slight so ludicrously tiny, but my point is, it was that quality of paying attention only to his own needs that was so central to his ability to win.

He has a one-strike policy

The next time I saw Tiger, though, a couple of weeks later, I realized that it had somehow leaked that I’d tipped off the producer. He told me in a flat voice, “Don’t tell people where I’m going to play.” I said, “OK, sorry; won’t happen again.” And that was the end of the discussion. But from that moment, I was never again told whether he was entering a tournament until the same day he publicly announced his decision on his website. It made my life harder as far as planning went, but I guess he felt I’d betrayed him, and this was the consequence. In the bigger picture, he probably didn’t trust me as much, although I’m not sure. With Tiger, as far as staying in the inner sanctum, you’re pretty much one and done.

He has a unique ability to manage emotion

I think one of Tiger’s gifts was the ability, when he needed to, to turn off emotion. It was why after a tantrum he could still be serene over the next shot. No doubt he’d learned early on that strong emotions unchecked adversely affect coordination and focus and generally impede winning. His knack for shutting down emotion was a big reason he closed out victories better than anyone else in history, and why he was so incredibly good at making the last putt.

He’s ruthlessly competitive

Early in his career, when Ernie Els was the next-best player, Tiger handed him a string of hard defeats, and he frankly thought it broke Ernie as a serious rival. Tiger was always looking to do that with anyone who challenged him.

I can remember a few times when another player would make a conciliatory gesture toward Tiger, like sitting down at the lunch table or stopping to say something nice on the practice tee, and Tiger would respond with the cold shoulder. Sergio Garcia got the treatment after some early success against Tiger, and I think it bothered Sergio to the extent that he never played well in their matchups again.

That’s it, folks

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