The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods

The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods

by Hank Haney


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The Big Miss is Hank Haney's candid and surprisingly insightful account of his tumultuous six-year journey with Tiger Woods, during which the supremely gifted golfer collected six major championships and rewrote golf history. Hank was one of the very few people allowed behind the curtain. He was with Tiger 110 days a year, spoke to him over 200 days a year, and stayed at his home up to 30 days a year, observing him in nearly every circumstance: at tournaments, on the practice range, over meals, with his wife, Elin, and relaxing with friends.

The relationship between the two men began in March 2004 when Hank received a call from Tiger in which the golf champion asked him to be his coach. It was a call that would change both men's lives.

Tiger—only 28 at the time—was by then already an icon, judged by the sporting press as not only one of the best golfers ever, but possibly the best athlete ever. Already he was among the world's highest paid celebrities. There was an air of mystery surrounding him, an aura of invincibility. Unique among athletes, Tiger seemed to be able to shrug off any level of pressure and find a way to win.

But Tiger was always looking to improve, and he wanted Hank's help.

What Hank soon came to appreciate was that Tiger was one of the most complicated individuals he'd ever met, let alone coached. Although Hank had worked with hundreds of elite golfers and was not easily impressed, there were days watching Tiger on the range when Hank couldn't believe what he was witnessing. On those days, it was impossible to imagine another human playing golf so perfectly.

And yet Tiger is human—and Hank's expert eye was adept at spotting where Tiger's perfection ended and an opportunity for improvement existed. Always haunting Tiger was his fear of "the big miss"—the wildly inaccurate golf shot that can ruin an otherwise solid round—and it was because that type of blunder was sometimes part of Tiger's game that Hank carefully redesigned his swing mechanics.

Hank's most formidable coaching challenge, though, would be solving the riddle of Tiger's personality. Wary of the emotional distractions that might diminish his game and put him further from his goals, Tiger had developed a variety of tactics to keep people from getting too close, and not even Hank—or Tiger's family and friends, for that matter—was spared "the treatment."

Toward the end of Tiger and Hank's time together, the champion's laser-like focus began to blur and he became less willing to put in punishing hours practicing—a disappointment to Hank, who saw in Tiger's behavior signs that his pupil had developed a conflicted relationship with the game. Hints that Tiger hungered to reinvent himself were present in his bizarre infatuation with elite military training, and—in a development Hank didn't see coming—in the scandal that would make headlines in late 2009. It all added up to a big miss that Hank, try as he might, couldn't save Tiger from.

There's never been a book about Tiger Woods that is as intimate and revealing—or one so wise about what it takes to coach a superstar athlete.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307985989
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 03/27/2012
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

HANK HANEY coached Tiger Woods from early 2004 to the spring of 2010 and is considered by many to be the world’s number one golf instructor. He has tutored more than 200 touring professionals and runs several teaching facilities around the world. In addition to hosting the top-rated Golf Channel show The Haney Project, Hank also contributes to numerous publications and has appeared on the cover of Golf Digest seven times.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The Last Time

Finally, a moment of truth.

Less than an hour before he’ll tee off in the final round of the 2010 Masters, Tiger Woods walks onto the far corner of the Augusta National’s vast practice range.

The other players and caddies sneak looks. A cheer rises from the packed grandstands, and the rowdier people squeezed together behind the green gallery ropes yell encouragement from short range. “Go, Tiger! You’re the man!” He might be disgraced, he might be a punch line, but he’s still iconic.

As he puts on his glove, the force of the collective gaze that always makes me feel uncomfortable when I’m walking with Tiger at a major championship is more penetrating. He’s become more than just the greatest player alive. He’s the human being who’s fallen farther faster than anyone else in history. The haters, the sympathizers, the commentators—everyone—want to see what it’s done to him.

So do I. Yes, he’s been different since returning from an addiction-treatment facility six weeks ago—more subdued, possibly shell-shocked—but I’ve been waiting to judge whether he’s changed as a golfer. Tiger has always been able to go to a special place mentally in the majors, and I’m eager to find out if he still can. Will he still be Tiger Woods? Passing golf’s excruciating Sunday tests has always been what he does best. But this one feels most like a reckoning.

Tiger is in third place, four strokes behind Lee Westwood and three behind Phil Mickelson. Without saying so—he’s said little about anything all week—he knows that a good round today will regain him respect. And it’s in the air that a victory would be even bigger than the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, when he won on a broken leg; finishing on top here might legitimately be judged the most dramatic win in golf history. It would mean redemption, a goal that suddenly seems more important than surpassing Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championships.

Now it’s go time. Tiger’s Sunday warm-ups are traditionally works of art, especially when he’s in contention. After three competitive rounds, he’s usually distilled what is working to its essence, and using a mix of adrenaline and focus, he can go through the whole bag without missing a shot. Despite having watched Tiger hit thousands of balls, I still feel that thrill that comes with seeing him with full command at close quarters. His swing begins with serene poise at address, continues with a smooth gathering of power, and then, with the coordinated explosion that announces a supreme athlete, uncoils in a marriage of speed and control, the ball seemingly collected more than hit by the clubface. As he relaxes into his balanced finish, the look Tiger gets on his face as he watches his ball fly is more peaceful than at any other moment.

But something is wrong. After a few balls, I can see Tiger is strangely detached. He’s taking too little time between swings, barely watching where the balls go, sometimes even taking one hand off the club before completing his follow-through. The flush yet cracking sound of his impact that for years has announced his superiority over other players isn’t quite the same. He’s having a terrible warm-up, almost as if he’s not really trying. Other than a few quick grimaces of disgust, his face remains eerily stoic.

I’m about ten feet away, standing behind him along his target line, checking to see if his club shaft is on plane, marking his head movement, assessing the ball flight, weighing whether to say something or continue to stay quiet. It’s what I’ve done as his coach during countless practice sessions over the past six years, but he’s acting as if I’m not there. I wait for some eye contact from Tiger, some words beyond a mumble, some sense of partnership in this warm-up and this moment. I get nothing. Since emerging from his meal in the clubhouse, he’s switched on that cold-blooded ability to leave a person—even someone close to him—hanging. Amazingly, right here, right now, Tiger is blowing me off.

This is the treatment. I got my initiation the second time I ever officially worked with him, on the practice range at Isleworth in March 2004. I’d stood my ground then, and I’m standing my ground now. Tiger doesn’t respond well when underlings ask him if something’s wrong, or worse, when they’ve done something wrong. His longtime but now former trainer, Keith Kleven, was always fretting about whether Tiger was mad at him. Rather than taking Keith’s concern as a show of loyalty, Tiger saw weakness. In his world of testosterone-fueled heroics and military hardness, that’s unacceptable.

He’s never done this at a major championship when he’s been in contention, so I’m not sure what he’s thinking. My best guess is that he’s carried over his aggravation from the night before, when the raw numbers on the scoreboard forced a realization that winning will be a long shot. He’s probably telling me in a passive-aggressive way that he doesn’t like the golf swing I’ve given him for this week. His swing problems could also be attributable to pain in his chronically injured left knee or some other body part, but he hasn’t complained about anything like that all week. Ultimately, there may be a far simpler reason for the chill I’m feeling from him: He’s firing me in the nonconfrontational way that’s more common to a breakup than a professional relationship.

Whatever is going on, I know one thing: He’s not going to explain.

I react clinically. Tiger is Tiger, in all his complexities, and my job is to adjust and adapt to him and keep finding ways to get his best. That’s always been a lot harder to do than people think. It turned out to be a lot harder than I thought. But since he’s returned from the Mississippi clinic where he followed a psychologically brutal program of self-examination, it’s gotten harder still.

He’s playing in this Masters after his most rushed, most erratic, and poorest preparation for a major championship ever. Five days before the first round, his game was so ragged it forced me to suggest a limited swing that has cost him distance and shot-making versatility but kept his misses playable.

It’s been a theme of my work with Tiger for much of our time together. 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. What he abhors, and has built his career on avoiding, are the kinds of mistakes that produce bogeys or worse and kill both momentum and confidence—wild tee shots that produce penalty strokes, loose approaches that leave no chance to save par, blown short putts. These blunders are the stuff of high scores, and after such a round, a tour player or caddie will often lament “the big miss.” 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. Until recently, his entire life seemed free of the big miss. But things change.

It’s why the game Tiger has brought to Augusta has been less powerful, less versatile, and less likely to shoot a low number than his A game. But it’s fulfilled its purpose by producing consistent scores of 68, 70, and 70 to stay in contention.

Now Tiger knows that he’ll almost certainly need something in the mid-60s to have a chance to win, and I’m getting the sense he’s unhappy that the style of play we’ve prepared is going to lack the kind of firepower such a round usually requires. He’s also aware that he’s never come from behind on a Sunday to win any of his 14 major championships. In his current state, the odds are against his making that breakthrough, and it’s not helping his mood.

I have the feeling that Tiger is most aggravated that he’s spotting three strokes to Mickelson. 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. For years Tiger reveled in the idea that Mickelson had trouble playing in his presence. But Phil adjusted, and in recent years he’s outplayed Tiger down the stretch in several tournaments. His increased confidence against Tiger, along with the positive energy of the gallery, has flipped the psychological advantage in their matchup in his favor. Phil has won two of the last six Masters, both victories coming on the lengthened and narrowed Augusta course that has given Tiger—who won three of his four on the earlier design—trouble. I sense that Tiger has begun to press against Mickelson, making today’s mountain that much higher.

Then again, at this Masters, Tiger has already accomplished a great deal. In the first tournament he’s played in five months—a period in which he’s suffered public humiliation, the painful, regimented program designed to look into a psyche he never before questioned, the ordeal of his televised February 19 public apology, which was so anticipated that it preempted network programming, and the certainty that his wife will soon file for divorce—he’s battled furiously and played amazingly well. He’s made more mistakes than usual but nearly offset them with short bursts of truly spectacular golf. By the end of the tournament, he will have made a total of 17 birdies and a record four eagles in 72 holes, a 25-under-par barrage that will exceed his sub-par holes in 1997 when he won by 12 and set the tournament record on a much shorter golf course. Considering where he was a few weeks ago, I consider having a part in where he is my best job of short-term coaching ever.

In my mind, Tiger is playing with house money. As a person who has lost so much, he should be feeling that this final round presents him with everything to gain. But as I watch him rake another ball out of the pile without looking up, there’s zero indication he sees things that way. He hasn’t been going through our practice progression of the Nine Shots—in which he hits the nine possible ball flights with each club—in a regimented way. Somehow, his devotion to excellence, the quality that most identifies him to the world, is missing.

But what I’ve learned at close quarters is that excellence, year after year, is exhausting. Late at night, I’ve been wondering if the 2010 Masters would mark the moment Tiger didn’t want to be Tiger Woods anymore. It’s not something I’ve said to many people, because it sounds so absurd, but I’ve often thought, even when Tiger’s game was at its peak, that because of insane expectations that even he can’t fulfill, there is no harder person to be in the world than Tiger Woods.

I look over at Steve Williams, standing a few feet away next to Tiger’s bag. He’s carried it for 13 major-championship victories since 1999, which, without even counting his long and very successful stints with Greg Norman and Raymond Floyd, make him the greatest caddie in history. He’s been in my corner from the beginning, in part because he’d been in favor of Tiger leaving his former swing coach Butch Harmon and wanted Butch’s successor to do well. Steve has his hard-ass game face on and hasn’t said a word, but we’re brothers in arms, and when our eyes meet, so do our thoughts.

What is going on? Scandal or no scandal, aren’t these the moments Tiger has always said he worked for? Lived for? The times when his ability to hyperfocus and be mentally bulletproof give him his most important advantage over the competition? The times he’s always said he relishes the most?

But Tiger, tellingly, is not relishing this. His attitude is straight-up horrible. Now, at the moment of truth, it’s a defining signal.

I doubt anyone has a greater appreciation for how great Tiger is than I do. He’s a genius in the most exacting sport there is—physically, technically, mentally, emotionally. Nicklaus might have the greatest overall record, but no one has ever played golf as well as Tiger Woods, and no one has ever been better than his competition by a wider margin. He’s the greatest.

But life is about loss. With the cold part of my mind that keeps any sadness momentarily walled off, I make the call. He’s become less of a golfer, and he’s never going to be the same again.



Tiger Woods is sullen the first time I meet him. Maybe even a little rude. But also, without a doubt, fascinating.

It’s May 1993, and Tiger is a 17-year-old amateur who has come to Dallas to play in the PGA Tour’s Byron Nelson Classic on a sponsor’s exemption. He and his father, Earl, are staying in the home of Ernie and Pam Kuehne, whose three kids—Trip, Hank, and Kelly—are all successful junior golfers I teach. Ernie, Hank, and Kelli have brought Tiger and Earl to the Hank Haney Golf Ranch—it’s a former horse farm with converted barns and stables—in the North Dallas suburb of McKinney to show them where they practice and introduce them to the coach who helps them with their games.

I’m giving a lesson when I see the five of them appear from behind one of the barns. I think, Wow, that’s Tiger Woods! Like everyone in golf, I’ve heard a lot about Tiger and am excited to see him in the flesh. More than any junior golfer ever, he’s famous. He’s won his age group at the Optimist Junior World tournament almost every year since he was eight. He’s won the U.S. Junior Amateur twice, and in a few months he’ll make it three in a row. No male player has ever done those things.

I take a break to walk over and say hello. Tiger is gangly from a recent growth spurt, about six feet but weighing less than 150 pounds, and the bagginess of what has to be an XL-size golf shirt only accentuates his lankiness. But skinny as he is, he looks golf strong. His is a body built for clubhead speed.

I tell Tiger what a pleasure it is to meet him, and congratulate him on his accomplishments. He seems sleepy, and when I put out my hand, he takes it weakly. It reminds me of the light grip you get from older touring pros who believe a regular shake might mess up their touch. I notice that Tiger’s hand seems kind of delicate, the fingers long and thin.

Table of Contents

1 The Last Time 1

2 Beginnings 8

3 Coaching Tiger 37

4 Greatness 84

5 Distraction 134

6 Highest Mountain 167

7 Quitting 193

8 Adding It Up 229

Acknowledgments 249

Tiger Woods's Worldwide Performance Record While Hank Haney Was His Coach 251

Glossary of Golf Terms 255

Index of Names 259

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The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
PinHighandRight More than 1 year ago
I'd seen Tiger's comments about the book. I heard lots of opinion and speculation about the book. I'd heard everyone take shots at Haney for being unprofessional and breaking some student-coach unwritten confidentiality rule. So I decided to read the book. Let me preface my comments and say that I am not a Tiger fan. I think he is the greatest golfer I have ever seen. But he has never been my cup of tea. He never looks happy, doesn't seem to be having fun, and generally seems like a miserable person to be stuck with on the course. I observed him in person at the 2005 British Open and he did nothing to change my mind. If anything, watching him in person only strengthened my opinion. Tiger should thank Haney for writing this book. It has (somewhat) changed my opinion of Tiger - for the better. I have a little better insight into why he is the best, and why, for him, that means that he will come off as distant and unconnected. I am far more sympathetic about the pressure of "being Tiger Woods" and feel sorry that he never really got to be a regular guy. When Tiger's scandal broke, I found it hard to believe that Stevie Williams, his caddie or Haney had no knowledge concerning Tiger’s behavior. After reading the book I’m left with little doubt that Tiger was very effective in keeping them in the dark. Haney relates an exchange with Williams where Williams complains that Tiger spoke to him twice in an entire round of golf. The picture painted is that Tiger kept everyone at some distance, even those who from the outside, appeared to be very close to him. If you’re looking for juicy gossip - don’t bother. Haney’s focus is mostly on golf and any personal details about his interaction with Tiger are related in some way to golf. For example, Haney relates a couple of instances where Tiger is cheap - either not tipping / not tipping enough or having someone else grab a check. (There are plenty of stories about Tiger being cheap - nothing new here.) Haney tells these stories in the context that Tiger operates in a focused, insular manner - precisely what makes him the best in the world. If Tiger were looser, more laid back, more fun loving (think Trevino or Couples) would he be more likable? Undoubtably. Would he be the best in the world? Who knows. All in all, a quick, enjoyable read.
guls More than 1 year ago
If your looking for the dirt on Tiger's dirt it's not here. Rather it's a story of how selfabsorbed a superstar is to get to the very highest level of a sport. Tiger isn't a very nice person but you must admire the inside view of how much work he did to get to the top
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not a Tiger fan, however after reading this book, I appreciate him for what he truly is.. a great golfer and nothing more. Hank does a great job shedding light on why Tiger is the way he is. The only downside to the book is all the technical verbage about the ins and outs of Tigers golf swing.
Digetydog More than 1 year ago
I am not a fan of TW or his behavior. Although many people have portrayed this book as a betrayal of TW by Haney, I think Haney's book is generally favorable to TW. While I don't condone TW's behavior, I understand his lonely existence and feel for him.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After slogging though this book of Hank Haney constantly patting himself on the back for all things that are golf, I have more respect for Tiger and none at all for Hank. What a waste of money!
knightlight777 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Egos on display here from all sides. Hank Haney clearly frustrated at times in coaching Tiger needed to set the record straight from his point of view that his alterations on Tiger's swing did not diminish his success. He got into some things that seemed kind of petty like Tiger refusing go offer him.... a Popsicle? Tiger on the other hand comes off as a rather shallow fellow whose self-centered behavior led him to where he is today, struggling for the most part.It can only be imagined how furious Tiger must be about this book coming out being the private person he is.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great insight into the personality of the world's greatest golfer and the tribulations of coaching at the highest level.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Big Miss, by Hank Haney, chronicles the relationship between Tiger Woods and his long time swing coach, Hank Haney. This book is perfect for anyone interested in the game of golf. Tiger Woods is an icon that drew many to the game, and it is interesting to see a behind the scenes view of him. However, readers may not like what they find. Tiger was idealized by many, including me, but seeing his true personality puts him into a different light. The relationship between Haney and Woods is strained, due to both of their personalities. Anyone interested in the game of golf, or Woods, should enjoy this different perspective. This book will be hard to understand for someone who doesn't play or understand golf. The book goes in depth with Haney’s time as Tiger’s swing coach. Furthermore, Haney goes in depth with Tiger’s swing frequently. He discusses different movements that Tiger makes, and possible changes that Haney attempts to implement. When discussing these, Haney often gets very technical. He uses terms to describe the golf swing that may be difficult for some to understand. If you are a fan of golf, or even just Tiger Woods, I would recommend this book to you. Haney portrays Tiger in a light that many have never seen before. It is intriguing to see what made Tiger so great, and how it all led to his downfall (with his scandal and injuries). This book sheds a different light on Golf’s most famous player, and it is worth the read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Everyone in the world knows that Tiger Woods is a jerk/full of himself; however, Hank - your book (written by you) - makes you sound like an oversize Cry-Baby! At least Butch Harmon took the high road. And, allowed Tiger to show everyone who Tiger Woods is, without commentary from Butch. Hank, you would have been better off to just let the chips fall where they may, instead of "trying" to defend your position. The old saying, "...if you don't have anything nice to say, then just shut-up!" clearly applies. But, good luck with having anyone on the PGA Tour "trust" you again. Hope the book deal was worth the respect of your fellow Golf Instructors and Tour Players.
golfbum1 More than 1 year ago
This is an tell all book about Tiger. It's an interesting read, but not nearly as good as Golf's Forgotten Legends which is a phenomenal book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For a long time, I would not read this book because I was not interested in gossip or Tiger-bashing by an ex-coach. This is not because I am a fan of Tiger's but simply because I prefer not to fill my mind with pettiness of such kind. Thanks to countless reviews on this site that emphasized that the book primarily focuses on Woods' swing and training, I finally took the plunge, particularly because I was looking for some insight as to how the golfer might handle this latest setback and how he got to this point in the first place. The reviews were correct. The overwhelming majority of the content spoke to Tiger's swing changes and his mental wiring. The author wrote that he wanted to work with Woods to get a glimpse into the mind of someone who performed and dominated at the level set by Tiger. We find that ultimately Haney didn't much understand or care for what he saw. Most insightful, though, were tidbits about the degree to which Tiger trained with the SEALs, that following his father's death, he considered leaving golf and likewise joining the Special Forces, and how mentally tough he was to play and win with fractures in his leg. The reader also learned that Tiger was a nerd, sometimes finds it hard to maintain his intensity and drive as far as practicing the minutia goes, and is somewhat socially awkward, the latter of which really isn't all that surprising given that Woods has been on a singular mission for most of his reasoned life. It seems, too, from Haney's writing that Tiger also lost a part of himself with his dad's passing, and also began to question his existence and his desire leading up to and following the fiasco of 1999 (bimbo-gate). Haney left Woods in 2010 because, according to Haney, he hoped that Tiger would come back from rehab a changed man. This is where I encounter some ambiguity about the book and Haney's motives for writing it. On the one hand he claims to have wanted to coach Tiger to study the mind of an athlete of Tiger's level. Then upon getting to see it up close and personal, he decided he didn't much care for what he saw, but instead of simply accepting it for what it was, sought change in the wiring. When that didn't happen he quit during one of his Pupil's greatest time of need. What is more, Haney insisted that he wanted a closer relationship to Tiger and to get into his inner circle. Given that when Haney didn't get that, he then turned around and wrote a book about Tiger, in hindsight, one can only applaud Woods' wisdom in not letting Haney get closer. Goodness knows to what we would then have been privy in the pages of this book had Haney had greater access to Woods. All in all I give the book three stars. I did enjoy reading about Woods and his golf journey in greater detail. I take off two stars, though, because I do have issues with the betrayal of trust on Haney's part that allowed me to do so. The book reads quickly and easily, and is well constructed and organized. The statistical analysis of Woods' record versus other golf greats is truly insightful and was one of my most lasting takeaways from "The Big Miss."
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book Did awesome job showing the different sides of tiger that the media never saw Only part i didnt care for was defending hanks records vs tigers previous trainers
L.A.Carlson-writer More than 1 year ago
This book didn't offer any stunning revelations especially after how the media saturated the public with details about Wood's personal life. Hanley appears to be an excellent golf pro who's proud of his accomplishments-the book does offer insights into the game and yet we get a sense he was dismayed at the way Tiger acted. The few glimpses he offers into the world we don't see confirm Tiger is at best immature and self-absorbed. Yes, Woods is a product of his upbringing and his unprofessional behavior speaks volumes. Before and after his melt-down he never looked happy playing golf and after reading the book this reader who's taken with the old-school golf legends would hope the Nicklaus records stands forever.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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This book was a fun and easy read! Getting insight into the best golfers world allows you to understand the big picture much clearer! I would recommend this book to all!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not sure why Hank is getting bashed. This insightful book is more about a teacher and his student and what the teacher has to do to make a number one player even better. Could he have left out personal references to his top client, sure, but that was part of his experience and influenced their relationship. I think Hank is overly fair in his analysis and enjoyed the read.
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