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The Big Miss
Cover of The Big Miss
The Big Miss
My Years Coaching Tiger Woods
Borrow Borrow

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.

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.

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter 1 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...

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.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    June 1, 2012
    An insider's look at a champion's rise and fall. There's something both profoundly sad and profoundly satisfying about watching a former spouse, partner or friend crumble. So it is with Haney, host of the Golf Channel show The Haney Project, who opens with a vignette of standing 10 feet from his student Tiger Woods at the 2010 Masters and getting--well, nothing except blown off. "He's become less of a golfer," Haney concludes, "and he's never going to be the same again." As well known now for personal scandal and strange shortcomings as for a particularly brilliant approach to the game of golf, Woods emerges here as a mercurial, difficult character who meets discipline with indiscipline and genius with mulishness. Over the years, Haney corrected strokes and stances, taught the geography of the course, and issued pointed critiques. All this will be meaningful to golf aficionados, though the big news for less tee-crazed types comes with Woods' apparent efforts to become a Navy SEAL and leave golf behind. "There is a strong likelihood," writes Haney portentously, "that a Kill House is where Tiger did serious damage to his career." Read the book for details of said Kill House, but be warned that the indifferently written narrative is stocked with standard sports cliches, though full of junkie-pleasing stats--e.g., "In nine official events on the 2011 PGA Tour, Tiger hit only 48.9 percent of his fairways, a career-low number in driving accuracy that ranked him 186th on the tour." Woods has won big and lost bigger, and not just on the green, and he probably merits a more insightful book--though Haney does provide some good tips for would-be pros.

    COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Damon Hack, Senior Writer, Sports Illustrated "Insightful...Advance coverage of The Big Miss focused on the sensational...but those revelations misrepresent the primary focus of the book, which is to convey the experience of working with Woods as an instructor and to dissect what makes Tiger Tiger...Golf fans will put the book down feeling as if they were an eyewitness to history, and glad for the experience."
    --Wall Street Journal

    "An alarming look at an athlete whose public glories masked a day-to-day existence of profound superficiality...Even more revealing than the swing material is evidence of Woods' emotional blank wall: his indifference to people around him, his inability to empathize, and an obsession with military training and the Navy SEALs that, according to Haney, probably led to the leg injuries which have hampered Woods' golf career."
    --Golfweek

    "I learned more about Tiger in The Big Miss than I have in eleven years of covering him on the PGA Tour...
    I actually thought the book was very fair, it was honest."
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