Woods' failure puts his coach in line of fire
Sunday 19 July 2009
There hasn't been an inquest as urgent as this in these parts since the locals discovered that Mr and Mrs Sawney Bean and their 46 offspring had been living undetected in caves for 25 years feasting themselves on more than 1,000 (human) victims. Why did Tiger Woods miss the cut? Seemingly everybody had a theory here yesterday.
It is fair to say that one or two of these were ever so slightly wide of the mark. Take this from Chris Evans, the well-known radio celebrity and the lesser-known swing expert. Asked for his opinion live on BBC TV by that Andrew Marr of the fairways, Gary Lineker, Evans said: "Well, in the pub last night we were saying it's because Tiger can't shape the ball."
Evans has recently married a lady who was once known by a golf magazine as "The Golf Nurse". We can only hope she persuades her husband to keep taking the pills.
Woods can not only shape the ball but can shape it better than any of his contemporaries. Fortunately, the BBC also had Mark James in the studio. "The reason he might not have been able to shape the ball here was because he was swinging badly," said the former Ryder Cup captain, looking appropriately embarrassed by his co-panellist's deductions. "His head was going up and down like a yo-yo. If I was Tiger Woods I would be distraught and would be having serious words with my coach."
James had cut directly to the heart of the matter; or at least what the golfing world will generally consider to be the heart of this matter. Woods has been ascribed with possessing such genius that it has become almost impossible to attach any blame or even any fallibility at his locker-room door.
So where's the coach? He must be responsible for mishandling this talent. Actually, Hank Haney has been nowhere near Turnberry. For the first time since they linked up in 2004, Haney did not accompany Woods to a major; a fact which may dissolve him of fault with some, but which will inevitably be used as evidence of a rift by most.
The Texan has not been in town because Woods said he did not want him here; not because of any relationship meltdown but simply because Woods considered the work already to have been done. The pair spent three days with each other in the week leading up to The Open and both were apparently very satisfied with the way Woods was swinging it when he jumped on his private jet. What happened in the meantime? Haney probably does not yet know for sure, although like James he would have wondered why his client's head was in "yo-yo" mode.
No doubt the answers will be sought in the next two weeks before Woods reappears at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, an event he has won the last three times he has played in it. If Haney keeps his job, that is.
Listen to some experts and one might have expected Woods to sack the instructor as soon as he returned to Florida yesterday. In truth, this was unlikely. Woods has dismissed talk of a split as "speculation" and is known to have privately reassured Haney. Yet if and when they do end up parting company, their association can be described as nothing but a success.
Woods has won six majors since he has been with Haney and in recent years his form has been a phenomenon of consistency. This was the first time since Carnoustie in 2007 when Woods finished outside the top 10 in a stroke-play event.
Furthermore, even with this the fifth missed cut of his career, he remains ahead of where Jack Nicklaus was at the same stage. In his 13th year as a professional, Nicklaus had won 12 majors and had missed three cuts in majors. Woods stands at 14 and two. In that 13th season, Nicklaus failed to win any of the four majors.
These spells that may laughingly be called "barren" happen in golf. It is the nature of the sport. What should be unarguable is that Woods was due one quite bad day to be followed by one really, really bad day. It should be. Alas, it isn't.
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