Teacher’s Comments: A great read with terrific insights into the game and mind of the best golfer of his generation
Hank Haney’s The Big Miss is without a doubt one of the most controversial—if not THE most controversial—golf book ever written. As it has been variously described as an expose, a scandal sheet, and a violation of teacher-student privilege, I approached the volume with some trepidation. I really have no interest in Hollywood style exposes and as a teacher, I was more than a little uncomfortable with the idea of airing out a student’s dirty laundry in public.
My worries—based on early media reports and complaints from the Tiger camp—were misplaced. I found The Big Miss to be neither scandalous nor disrespectful.
The Big Miss succeeds for me because it is nearly entirely about golf. Haney writes about Tiger’s tournament preparation, training and work habits. He dissects Tiger’s swing issues and explains the attempts to fix them. Haney dissects—from a teacher’s point of view—Tiger’s mental processes and how they both helped and hampered his winning of championships. And he writes about his increasingly frustrating attempts to establish a personal relationship with Tiger.
Of Tiger’s marital infidelities, sex addiction and other potential scandals there is very little. Haney—like most of Tiger’s “inner circle”—seems to have known nothing about the other women. He also refutes the idea that Tiger has taken performance enhancing drugs. Haney’s discussion of the scandals is only in relation to how they apparently changed Tiger’s game and his relationship to Haney.
Perhaps most revealing is the now widely-spread story of Tiger’s obsession with the military and military-style training. Haney claims—and we may never know the full truth—that Tiger’s injuries were due to Navy SEAL style training exercises. He contends that both he and Tiger’s regular trainer argued against the high stress exercises, and against adding bulk and power lifting but were ignored.
If the Tiger camp condemns The Big Miss, it is because the book’s claims are close enough to the mark to be uncomfortable. The military training has the ring of truth. Further, the Tiger portrayed is not at all likable. Haney’s portrait of Tiger is of a man focused entirely on winning golf, to the point where his human relationships suffer. He is cold and calculating, taking much and giving little in return.
But none of that can be news to anyone who has paid attention to Tiger over the years. Media reports have been consistent with the notion that Tiger is a bit of a cold fish. The only shocking thing to me is how poorly he apparently treated Haney.
Still, Haney treats his former pupil with a great deal of respect and compassion. I actually came away from reading this book with a better understanding of—and compassion for—Tiger. He is a more sympathetic character in many ways than I had previously suspected.
The book’s title is an interesting one. On one level, it refers to a central tenet of his lessons to Tiger—to develop a swing that avoids the Big Miss. But it has many deeper meanings: Haney’s teaching … Tiger’s life …