Saturday, June 22, 2013

Review: The Big Miss (2012)

By Hank Haney

If there's one thing we know about Tiger Woods' personality, it's that you are either with him or against him ... completely. Stories abound about people who leaked out even the smallest bit of information, and suddenly became a non-person in Tiger's world.

Wonder what he thought, then, about Hank Haney's book, "The Big Miss."

It's one of the few looks we've ever had at Tiger's private world, before and after the announcement that he was a serial adulterer, to put his lifestyle status mildly. No matter how tame the book is, and it is relatively tame as these things go, it's easy to guess that he wasn't pleased. Even Haney made that guess at the end of the book.

Woods has had a couple of swing coaches work for him during most of his pro career. Butch Harmon was the first, and the two had plenty of success. Then Woods moved on to Haney for unspecified reasons, and they had just about as much success. Both have long track records as top coaches, and considering Tiger's talent and work ethic, it's no surprise that the combinations worked so well. Haney was absolutely thrilled to work with the man considered one of the greatest golfers in history - who was moving toward "greatest golfer ever" status when he fell on hard times.

If you wondering what the title means, Haney refers to the fact that he wanted to help Woods avoid those huge mistakes that sometimes pop up in golf, particularly in crucial times. In other words, Haney wanted Woods to have a dependable swing so that he wouldn't hit the ball out of bounds or into deep trouble. That's sort of error is a "big miss."

Haney writes in the book that he was paid $50,000 for his work per year, plus the odd bonus for such things as major championships. It sure sounds like he earned his money. Haney was essentially on call for several years, flying down to Orlando frequently to work with Woods for a few days at a time and showing up at several tournaments.

Two points jump out after reading the book. One, Haney certainly knows the golf swing. Good-sized sections of the book are devoted to such concepts as the swing plane. You can guess that you need to know a little bit about playing golf in order to get through this. This is Haney's business, though.

The other centers around just how distant Woods' personality can be. Ever imagine what it's like to hang with Tiger at times? Haney did that, and it's pretty chilly. Sometimes Woods can't even bothered to make a little small talk. Caddie Steve Williams spent as much time with Woods as anyone, and even he was treated that way. This for people who are called Tiger's best friends. And Haney says he didn't know about Woods' behavior with women, and after this I'm inclined to believe him.

Haney did some serious walking on eggshells with Tiger. Even the odd critical remark had to be well-couched before it was adopted, and there are plenty of ego-stroking messages about Tiger's ability (most of which, let's face it, are deserved).

Woods obviously had built something of a cocoon for himself, and felt it was the best way to prepare to win. But it's tough to know if it was the best way to prepare for life. Obviously it was a strain for all concerned, and Woods has gone through some difficult times by any standards. It was all too much for Haney, who admits in the book that he felt mostly relief when he decided to quit as Woods' coach - and Tiger couldn't even admit in public that someone left him instead of the other way around.

Let's face it - most people will read "The Big Miss" for the hints on what Woods is really like. The portrait comes across as fair; even Woods probably couldn't complain too much about the information contained on the pages. The golfer still fascinates us through his blinding talent, and we're anxious to see a year after the book's publication whether the golfer can regain his former glory. Although the book merely offers clues about Tiger, it's not a particularly pretty picture.

Three stars

Learn more about this book.

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