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In caustic observations that shed fresh light upon Tiger Woods’s battle with Achilles problems, Hank Haney has accused his former pupil of wearing injuries like an “athletic badge of honour.”So obsessed was Woods with being regarded as an athlete, his former coach argues, that he used injuries as a means of being accepted by stars who played more physically demanding sports than golf.
Haney recalls: “It got to the point where Steve Williams [Woods’s former caddie] and Mark Steinberg [the golfer’s agent] would just roll their eyes when Tiger had another injury complaint.”
The extraordinary disclosure from Haney comes ahead of next Tuesday’s publication of The Big Miss, an advance copy of which has been seen by Telegraph Sport.
Haney, who chronicles his six years working alongside golf star Woods with merciless candour, depicts Woods as a gym rat trying to shatter the perception of golf as a sport for “out-of-shape white guys”.
Less than a fortnight ago, Woods withdrew midway through the final round of the Cadillac Championship at Doral, citing a problem with his left Achilles.
Haney admits that he had grown concerned about his student’s frequent injury dramas but that Williams had told him: “Don’t worry, it’s always something.”
In Haney’s account, Woods “liked being one of Nike’s so-called golf athletes. He liked being considered buff. He liked using terms from other sports, like ‘reps’, ‘game speed’, ‘taking it deep’, or ‘getting good looks’, and applying them to golf. And he liked the impression that his swing was so violently athletic that it put him on constant guard against injury.”
The accusation that Woods took pride in his injuries is guaranteed to antagonise the 14-time major champion, who opened his quest for a seventh title here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a first-round 69 on Thursday.
Haney’s book has been represented as a superficial, self-indulgent work by some critics, but it is littered with fascinating aperçus about Woods’s life and character.
For example, Haney explains that although Woods counted Roger Federer and Lance Armstrong among the personalities he most admired in sport, he “didn’t let any of these figures close, even when they reached out”.
Haney found out on a plane back from the 2006 Open at Hoylake just how impersonal Woods could be. Seeing Woods was in exuberant mood, having just lifted a third Claret Jug, he gave him a yardage book and championship programme to sign. They were handed back, inscribed simply, ‘Tiger Woods’.
“I thanked him, but I had been hoping he would write something personal and include my name,” Haney says.
The rumour of Woods being a miserly tipper is also analysed in detail. Haney remembers one incident in Las Vegas, where Woods had been playing blackjack with the high-rollers and gave the waitress “only a couple of hundred dollars, when a couple of thousand would have been more appropriate”.
Haney, ominously for one who coached Woods to six major triumphs, expresses scepticism that the 36 year-old can reach or surpass Jack Nicklaus’s mark of 18 titles. “Nicklaus was able to win four majors after turning 36, but three of them came by age 40, with the last one — at age 46 — a miracle, even to Jack.”
Describing Woods, controversially, as old for his age and more mentally fragile than in his pomp, Haney asserts: “Unlike the Tiger who in his 20s and early 30s was virtually indomitable, today’s Tiger has discovered that in life real disaster lurks.
“Plans don’t come true. Things can go wrong. That realisation creates doubt, and in competitive golf doubt is a killer. The big miss found its way into his life.”
Woods did not resemble a man in psychological torment yesterday. Buoyed by a three-under-par round at Bay Hill, which lifted him in to a share of third place with England’s Justin Rose, he claimed that his ball-striking felt as pure as it had all season.
And, as if on cue, there was a thinly veiled dig at Haney, as he lauded the swing adjustments he has made recently under Canadian coach Sean Foley.
“It’s all the work Sean and I have put together,” Woods said, when asked about his much-improved driving. “I’ve got the club in a position where I can do that. And I haven’t had that for a very long time.”
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