Haney/Woods Break-Up Came at Right Time
May 12, 2010 by Ryan Ballengee • Print Story •
For Hank Haney, it clearly was not worth it any longer to have skin in the Tiger Woods game in exchange for the pound of flesh that critics of his were seeking to extract. Three tournaments into Woods' comeback bid from the golfing scandal of all golfing scandals, Haney's noose had again been fitted for him. His single-plane method blamed for Woods' errant driving (which has been statistically lower than when Woods was with Butch Harmon), Haney turned into a scapegoat for Woods' poor play.
To the extent that he would, Woods defended Haney in his own way at the Players, saying that Hank and he were still working together — but that there was a lot to do. Not until Woods' neck pain became too unbearable did he explain his latest injury. Not until the rumors were flying about Haney's demise did we learn that something more powerful than swing thoughts was keeping Tiger back. And that was not even the long-rumored dissolution of Woods' marriage.
Haney had to see the writing on the wall. Despite myriad personal problems self-imposed on his highest profile client, Haney could not escape criticism for his swing method. Never mind that Haney's six-year record with Woods is comparable in almost every way to Butch Harmon. Forget that Woods hired Haney in the first place to develop a swing that would place less pressure on his oft-injured knee.
With Hank Haney, or any swing teacher, it is easy to blame them when things go wrong. Haney knew that going into his relationship with Woods in '04, and has become more than aware of it since. Speaking with ESPN's Bob Harig, Haney explained what he knows so well.
"If you have no critics, you have no successes," he said succinctly.
Right now, though, Haney was having no success with Woods. Woods has been having no success with himself, at anything. It may seem kind of cold for the relationship to end at such a low point in Woods' career, but sometimes relationships reach their natural end at that point.
I had quipped last summer that The Barclays would be where Tiger and Haney would break up because New York would be the classy backdrop to end scene on the then-five-year play. Provided how it took nearly a year for anyone to realize that Tiger had stopped working with Butch Harmon, it seems only appropriate that it would be an awkward break-up this time around as well. Though much swifter — probably at Haney's request — it is an equally bizarre situation.
Rumors had been spreading like wildfire at the Players that perhaps Haney and Woods had already called off their relationship. Maybe that was the case, maybe not. It could be that Woods' withdrawing from the Players on Sunday gave Haney a window for both to part ways provided the question marks surrounding every aspect of Woods' life — including when can play next.
The signs should have been apparent, though. Last season was only the second time in Woods' career that he won multiple PGA Tour events and failed to take home a major. The last time that happened? 2003. That was the year-long break-up between Woods and Harmon. 2004 produced a single win during the transition to Haney. Right now, 2004 looks great compared to what has happened so far in 2010. Haney — an ever astute observer of how his record compares to Butch Harmon — probably realized what was unfolding. Tiger did, too, and that likely spurred on the textversation that ended their relationship.
Haney has always been an open book. In that way, he is very much different than Tiger. There are plenty of other differences, too, but like DJ Kool Kat and Paula Abdul, it just worked. It worked well for four full years out of six. Relationships like theirs, though, tend not to survive on the PGA Tour.
Haney is going in a different direction — up — and Woods is sinking. The professional respect that each has for the other likely lead to their joint realization that all good things must come to an end.