Tiger Woods is slated to make his second competitive start following back surgery at next week’s British Open on a Hoylake course he bent to his will on the way to winning the 2006 Open Championship. This time around will be far different for the former No. 1, who, according to one of his ex-coaches, is not fit to tackle the competition or the track.
"That [Woods] isn’t going to play competitively in the two weeks running up to the Open speaks to the fact that he doesn’t care as much as he used to," Hank Haney, who coached Tiger to six of his 14 major titles, told John Huggan recently.
While it’s possible that Tiger can "catch lightning in a bottle" and contend in England, Haney believes next week is all about getting ready for the PGA Championship at Valhalla in August.
"That’s a much more realistic target for him," said Haney, who’s on something of a Tiger media tour, telling Golf Digest last week that Woods lacked the "drive" that geared him up to win 79 PGA Tour events, including those 14 majors.
"I can’t believe he feels like he is ready to win the Open. If he did, he would have played at the Greenbrier this week or at the Scottish Open," Haney opined. "But he hasn’t practiced much for almost a year now. He took time off at the end of last season, played a bit, then got hurt. So he is way behind in his preparation.
"It says a lot about him that he spent this past week with his kids," added Haney. "That will make him a better person, but it won’t make him a better golfer.
That Haney believes Woods to be ill-prepared for a major is hardly anything new. It’s a tune he has whistled several times since 2010, when he bitterly broke off his six-year relationship with his former student.
Haney, who in 2012 wrote a tell-all book about his time with Woods, has not shied away from criticizing the oft-injured former ace and his chat with Huggan was no different. Terming the big left-to-righter that Woods sets up for a "big slice" rather than the less-stigmatizing "fade," Haney said he was disappointed to see nothing different about Tiger’s swing in his much-ballyhooed but short-lived return to the tour at Congressional two weeks ago.
"I laughed when I heard Tiger say he was pleased with his play last week and how he had worked the ball ‘both ways,’" said Haney, who noted his pupil had similar problems with the driver when the two worked together.
Most amusing to the instructor was how golf watchers described Woods’ issues, which led to a quick exit from the Quicken Loans National.
"The thing that cracked me up most though was commentators explaining his bad shots by saying he was ‘rusty,’" Haney said. "Rust shows up when you hit a chip too hard or too easy, or when you misjudge distance on a less than full shot. It’s a lack of touch and/or feel. But a mis-hit is not rust. Pulling it in the bunker is not rust."