Tiger Woods was ready to give up golf to join the special forces by becoming a Navy Seal. That is the astonishing claim made by his long-time coach Hank Haney.
Woods won six of his 14 majors under Haney, but if the latter is to be believed he was on the brink of giving up his long-time pursuit of Jack Nicklaus's record major haul of 18 to emulate his father. Earl Woods was in the special forces and actually named his son after a pilot he met when on a tour of duty in the Vietnam War. Tiger gave a speech at Barack Obama's inauguration in which he paid tribute to the military.
"Tiger was seriously considering becoming a Navy Seal," writes Haney in the book Big Miss due to be published next month. "I didn't know how he'd go about it but when he talked about it, it was clear he had a plan... I thought 'Wow ! Here is Tiger Woods, the greatest athlete on the planet, maybe the greatest athlete ever, right in the middle of his prime, ready to leave it all behind for a military life'."
Woods eventually decided against enlisting, but Haney also reveals his former pupil's fascination with the special forces. In an excerpt appearing in Golf Digest, the American magazine, Haney says the obsession threatened to be self-detrimental at times; particularly when he underwent four days of special-ops training when recovering from knee surgery.
"Tiger did two tandem parachute jumps, engaged in hand-to-hand exercise, went on four-mile runs wearing combat boots and did drills in a wind tunnel," says Haney. "Tiger loved it, but his therapist... went crazy worrying about the further damage Tiger might be doing to his knee."
Woods and Haney split up in 2010 in the wake of the sex scandal which rocked Tiger's world. The relationship has become increasingly acrimonious since, with Woods's new coach, Sean Foley, becoming involved in a spat through the media. When Woods discovered Haney was writing a book – interestingly enough with Golf Digest's Jaime Diaz, one of the few journalists ever to get close to Tiger – he reacted with fury.
Seeing as Woods likes to remain guarded to the point of paranoia, he will not appreciate these "revelations". He might also be concerned about what else is in the book. Golf Digest used to employ Woods before he left after his extra-marital behaviour emerged. Do not expect any reconciliation soon.
Woods had been called fearless, Haney recalls. "But the more I observed him close up the more it became clear he wasn't," says Haney. "He'd remind me that he never considered himself a good driver... 'That's why my name is Woods,' he'd joke. 'Maybe it would have been different if I'd been named Fairway'."