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Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Really Shocking Haney Quote

...doesn't appear to have made it online anywhere yet. I heard Hank Haney say it during Golf Central Wednesday evening. It was an excerpt from an interview which I assume was done in the last day or so, since it referenced the notorious "Navy SEAL" quote. That seems to be the lightning rod for the media, although I don't understand why.

Hank HaneyWhy are we so surprised that Tiger may have explored a childhood dream? You can find where Tiger labeled it as such a couple of years ago and was quoted Wednesday in this UK Daily Mail article:
'I've always wanted to be a SEAL,' said Tiger, back then. 'That's something I told my dad from the get-go. Either I'm going to become a professional golfer or I'm going to become a Navy SEAL. A lot of my friends are special ops operators.'
Haven't you ever considered chasing a past dream, especially when life turned difficult? Tiger had spent 30+ years working his butt off, and we all know that the practice tee was his favorite time to spend with his dad. Don't you suppose that after a few years on the practice tee without his dad, compounded by the constant pain in his leg, and almost certainly including some "other factors" weighing on him at the time, maybe Tiger considered getting away from it all?

As someone who's taken some martial arts and read more than a few exercise books, I can tell you that the Navy SEAL training regimen finds a real source of interest among athletes and other fitness aficionados. For example, you can see a couple of the available books here and here, and if you scroll down the page to the "Customers who bought this item also bought..." list, you'll find quite a few more titles. The whole SEAL question just makes me want to say "duuuh!"

No, Haney said something I find far more shocking than any of the book excerpts I heard mentioned. In fact, when I heard it my mouth dropped open and I was speechless.

Hank Haney, who talks constantly about how hard golf is, about how much work you have to put into it to get better, and who hawks plenty of expensive golf aids that are supposed to help you accomplish this overwhelming task, told interviewers that he was shocked to find out that even Tiger Woods had trouble learning some things.

Read that again: Hank Haney told interviewers that he was SHOCKED to find out that even Tiger Woods had trouble learning some things.


Tiger has talked about the difficulty of making changes before. I remember an interview -- I believe it was during an NBC tournament shortly after he started working with Hank -- where he was asked why he said swing changes took 15 months. Tiger said they should only take two or three months but that, especially for pros who were trying to play tournaments while they made changes, that there was constant backsliding into the old habits. It didn't matter how hard you worked, some things just took longer to learn than others.

And Hank Haney didn't know this? He expected Tiger to be different from every other human on the planet? Even Jack Nicklaus had struggles with his swing, some of which he documented in his 1984 book The Full Swing. Every great player from Jones to Mickelson struggles with making changes.

For me this raises more questions about Hank Haney than about Tiger Woods!

I think many instructors make this game much harder than it needs to be. I don't think it should take years for you to learn to break 90. (Press me a bit and I'll lower that all the way down to 80. If you can play hockey or swing a baseball bat or hit a tennis backhand or throw a Frisbee™, you can learn to hit a golf ball decently.) But if you think you're never going to find something in the game that you have trouble learning, you aren't living in the real world.

The fact that no one in the media has even bothered to bring this up bothers me. If Hank missed something this simple, just how much should I trust his interpretation of Tiger's actions -- especially since he says they never talked about them?

I'm not telling you not to buy his book, folk. I just think you should take what you read with a grain of salt.

Especially when the source misses something this simple. Make sure you don't make the same mistake and get depressed when it takes you a while to improve your game.

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