Thank you, Hank Haney, for helping to destroy a sportswriting cliché.
One of the most persistent tropes in many a golf writer's arsenal has been that Tiger Woods need only show up on Sundays, don the red and black and watch his opponents melt away like butter in the Georgia sun.
Haney, the former Woods swing instructor turned bestselling author turned SiriusXM satellite radio host, was in New York’s Times Square on Tuesday to promote TaylorMade’s SpeedBlade series of irons.
Asked if Tiger still carries the same aura about him, Haney responded that there may have never been an aura to begin with.
“I didn’t buy into that when people talked about it as much as people talked about it," Haney said. "Tiger won because he shot the lowest score, not because he intimidated his opponents.”
The pressure of playing in one of the final groups on Sunday is always there, whether or not Tiger is, Haney said. That -- not Tiger's presence -- is the reason players fade.
“Back in the day when you were playing with Tiger, you were playing in the last group,” Haney said. “It’s hard to play in the last group, no matter who you are playing with. Everyone says, ‘Oh, he can’t play with Tiger.’ It’s hard to play on the lead, and that’s hard no matter what tournament it is and no matter who’s playing.”
Haney said the wild final few holes of the Honda Classic were the most recent examples. Russell Henley emerged the victor from a four-man playoff with Rory McIlroy, Ryan Palmer and Russell Knox, having all endured a series of misadventures.
“You look how difficult it was for those guys to close that tournament,” Haney said. “It had nothing to do with Tiger being there. Nobody was intimidated by anyone. It’s hard to play on the lead."
Tiger finished tied for 25th last week in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral. He shot 66 on Saturday, evoking memories of the player who won five times last year. He faded with a birdie-less 78 the next day -- his worst ever final round score -- and looked to be fighting an injured back.
“Is he having as much fun now? Clearly not,” Haney said. “He’s not winning as much. The fun for someone like Tiger is to be in the last group. Look at Honda, at Saturday’s round. He teed off at 7:45. That’s not what his usual tee time is.”
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