Not long after host Tiger Woods presented the winner’s trophy to K.J. Choi at the inaugural AT&T National, he was on the phone to his coach, Hank Haney, asking if he seen how bad he hit the ball after shooting an even-par 70 in the final round and finishing tied for sixth.
"I was pulling everything,” Woods fumed. Haney hadn't watched the telecast, so he assumed his pupil had hit it all over Congressional Country Club. But he checked the stats, which revealed that Woods had missed just two greens. All Haney could do was shake his head at Woods' pursuit of perfection. Says Haney, “He’s always thinking, ‘What do I need to do today to be better than yesterday.’”
That never-ending search continued last week at Isleworth Country Club as Haney helped Woods prepare to defend his British Open title. (To fix the pulls, he had Woods make his backswing more upright.)
Originally, Woods planned on a similar strategy to the one he used so successfully at Royal Liverpool: a lot of stinger 2-irons off the tee to avoid Carnoustie's bunkers and water hazards. But after receiving a scouting report that the fairways are much more lush than Hoylake’s biscuit-colored turf, Haney decided higher, longer-carrying shots would work better, since ball wouldn’t roll as much.
While today's best player is undoubtedly his first priority, Haney has begun an association to train the stars of tomorrow. Haney has taken over as Director of Instruction for the International Junior Golf Academy on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. At his first meeting with students last week, the first question they posed to Haney was not about their own games. “Will Tiger visit?” they all wanted to know.
“He loves kids, “ Haney answered, “so you never know.”
Through his foundation, Woods had a proven record of working with youngsters. So does Haney, who was the Southern Methodist University men's golf coach for several years and has strong opinions about teaching young players so they can reach their full potential. So while the IJGA's students may be clamoring for Tiger, they would do well to listen to their shared instructor.