Hank Haney stands accused of treachery. He has written a tell-all book on his time with Tiger Woods and the locker room is up in arms, or least in three-irons. "He's violated our code," screamed Rick Smith, a former mentor of Phil Mickelson who sounded awfully concerned about the future of his profession. "I would rather be penniless than break the player-coach confidentially."
Who was aware that golf coaches are bound by such an ethical protocol? Maybe they always have been and maybe, while being ordained, they must take the "Yipocratic Oath" and swear they will never reveal why their clients are suddenly missing from two feet. Or maybe they aren't and maybe Smith is over-reacting. Maybe, like Tiger himself, he hasn't yet realised that which has long been inevitable. With Woods there is a void. And voids, like divots, are eventually filled.
Woods has never accepted this. When he was a teenager he asked his father, Earl: "Why do they need to know everything?" The thing was, "they" didn't need to know everything in those days. But then his sporting prowess delivered everything and more than it had ever promised; then he became a phenomenon, one of the most celebrated athletes in history; and then the scramble intensified to uncover the secrets behind the icon.
And all the while, Tiger stood there guarding his underworld, like a modern-day Cerberus, wearing three visors, snarling at would-be intruders. But if nothing can get in, something can always get out. It did and it will. Woods would be better off writing his own "warts and all" tome and at least stopping the dissidents cashing in on his legend. Alas, it's too late for that.
First he would have had to understand "why they need to know everything?". That's a difficult concept with which to come to terms. Why should Woods be required to give us any more than the sport? Why can't we be satisfied with watching Woods play golf better than anyone before? Why do we need to know what he had for breakfast, or, indeed,if he ended up having the waitress for breakfast? In short, why do we consider this any of our business?
If "The Big Miss" – Haney's book is published on Tuesday – tells us anything, it's that what a sports star is and who he or she happens to be are intrinsically linked. Haney is being lambasted for not only picking apart the golf swing but picking apart the man. Yet if he, or his ghost writer, were to produce a work of any genuine insight the person and the sportsman could not be separated.
That point may appear obvious to you and me but it escapes Woods and his sympathisers. He doesn't see, they don't see, that his own petulance, self-absorption, pettiness, aloofness and miserly qualities helped him become a 14-time major winner. Granted, as Haney points out, his obsession with the military probably did lead to injuries as a result of training with the navy Seals which may well see him stuck on 14 victories, but there you go. Someone once observed that "biography is a system in which the contradictions of a human life are unified". Whatever else anyone accuses Haney of, he is helping to unlock the riddle. We will never quite get there, but thanks to Haney our understanding of Woods will be a lot more advanced.
But then, our heart will go out to Woods, because we will read Haney's "revelations" concerning his characteristics, we will pour over the insults in his private text messages and private conversations, and any of us with the barest trace of humility will sit there, uncomfortable in the knowledge that if any of the people who we, ourselves, have become close to wrote a book about us then we, too, could be made to look like A-grade nutcases. That thought makes us chide Haney, yet we shouldn't.
He is merely colouring in the gaps for posterity and not only his own posterity. It was Woods who insisted on these gaps. Whether he approves or not, there is a genuine desire to know what has made Woods tick and what may carry on making him tick. Haney's book sales will prove so. And why not? It is natural for us to want to delve deeper into the psyches of our sporting superstars.
It's plainly not enough to admire, or marvel, or eulogise. We wish to get under their skin. After all, they are vicariously living our wildest fantasies and for that reason we believe they owe us.
We yearn to be them, but then an insider such as Haney opens up and makes us realise the price that must be paid to be them. One of the costs is having that which you wish to remain private out there to be ridiculed. Rory McIlroy has the right idea. Give 'em plenty; don't leave 'em wanting. Let them in and they might let you off. And if you can't, then don't shoot Hank. He is but merely the messenger.Reuse content