Hank Haney says Tiger Woods’s chances at Masters depends on putter

Tiger Woods putted well at Bay Hill, where he won by five shots.

NEW YORK (AP) – Tiger Woods' former swing coach thinks the 14-time major winner's chances at the Masters next week depend on his putter.

Once a coach, always a coach for Hank Haney – even after writing a detailed book about his most famous student.

“I don't think you can predict how someone is going to putt,'' Haney said Wednesday while signing copies of his book, “The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods,'' at a midtown Manhattan golf store a day after its release. “Tiger hasn't putted well enough at Augusta in some time, since 2005. If he putts well – it really gets down to eliminating three putts. If he does that I would be very surprised if he doesn't have a chance to win. I'd be shocked if he doesn't have a chance to win.''

Haney pointed to a recent change in Woods' putting stroke, a switch back to an older style, as reason for his improved performance on the greens that helped him to victory at Bay Hill last week.

And Haney is in position to know. He worked with Woods from 2004-10, when the then-No. 1 player in the world won six majors but resigned not long after Woods returned to the PGA Tour from a sex scandal that ended his marriage and sent his life into turmoil.

“The Big Miss'' generated a lot of buzz in the months leading up to its release because of excerpts that focused in part on Woods' obsession with the Navy SEALS and his relationship with wife Elin Nordegren, but it's a more complicated look at a self-centered superstar athlete.

“Read the book in context I think it's an overly positive book about Tiger,'' Haney said. “I couldn't have only positive things in the book because then it wouldn't be an honest book.''

Haney said Woods told him that they “should remain good friends'' when they parted not long after the 2010 Masters, but they have not spoken since then. Haney hasn't reached out to Woods, either: “Why would I?'' he said.

Still, Haney watches Woods carefully enough to be able to rattle off his rankings in different statistical categories.

“I like to watch, see how he's doing, analyze what he's doing. Hopefully watch him win. It's great for golf,'' Haney said “Eventually, I think it'll be very good for me if he ever has an opportunity to break Jack Nicklaus' record because any way you slice it I will have at least a little part in that record because I helped him for six of those majors,'' Haney added. “Obviously, it's a little part, but you still feel connected in some way.''

Haney is confident that the timing of the books release will have no affect on Woods as he heads to the Masters, which is April 5-8.

“He just won. Tiger doesn't get distracted easily,'' Haney said. “He's gone through a lot. But time heals a lot of things. It looks to me like he's getting a lot more comfortable on the course. … that time has passed.''