Every week of the 2010 PGA Tour season, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group will conduct an e-mail roundtable. Check in on Mondays for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.
HANEY AND TIGER SPLIT
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Greetings, fellow tee-heads. Welcome to another week of Confidential, or as we call it back at the lodge, “As The Orb Turns.” All of the sudden, there’s so much grama (golf drama) I can’t stand it. Remember back in the day when golf was dull and predictable? You know, 2009 and 2008? Now it’s always something. Let’s get the Tiger thing out of the way first. What gives there? My guess is that Hank quit before Tiger fired him. What do you all think?
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: You could certainly read that between the lines in some of his answers with Jim Gray on Golf Channel tonight. Sounds like he got weary of twisting in the wind and decided he didn’t need the heat any more.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: It seems like Haney had all the ancillary stuff going on that he could want, plus all the media inquiries about whether he’d been fired, which nobody could possibly want. I think it’ll end up working out best for both of them, especially Tiger, who seems like just another Tour pro these days.
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Hard to imagine a golf instructor simply walking away from the most high-profile gig in the game. There is more to the story.
David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: But I don’t think that he simply walked away. I thought it was really interesting to hear Hank say that Tiger could have stood up for him more often, nipping criticism in the bud and answering questions less evasively. I think it shows that the criticism hurt Haney, and that he was aware of what people were saying about him.
Gorant: From a business perspective, Hank has done well. He now owns four corporate-sponsored golf academies. The financial benefit of being Tiger’s coach comes not from what Tiger pays, but from the bump in reputation. He’s got the bump and taken advantage of it. What good does it do him to become the guy who ruined Tiger? Looking at it that way, it was time to go.
Morfit: I totally agree with Gorant. Once you’ve leveraged your brand like that, who needs the hassle anymore?
Dusek: The only additional positive Hank could have gained from the relationship, professionally, would have been as the guy who fixed Tiger and helped him win again. Someone else might get that distinction someday, but Tiger will probably take his time selecting a new coach.
Morfit: Haney was bound to be overshadowed by Harmon, the way Tiger tore through the Tour circa 2000. That was as close to perfect golf as anyone has ever seen, at least in this era. And we’ll never know how much of his swing change, his flatter action, etc., was necessitated by that balky left knee.
Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: I imagine they started talking and Tiger said, “You know Hank, I wouldn’t blame you if you quit.” I don’t think it ever got mean. Hank was just fed up with Tiger and the attacks on his swing philosophy. This was just a good time to cash out and move on.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: And Haney ends a six-year relationship with a text message? Fitting, I guess.
WOULD HANEY HAVE KNOWN ABOUT PEDs?
Bamberger: Haney says that he doesn’t believe Tiger ever used performance-enhancing drugs. I hope he’s correct. But if Woods had, I think there is NO chance that Hank would have known about it. In my experience, athletes who have used PEDs will lie to their grandmothers about it.
Morfit: Exactly. If I’m Tiger and I’m taking PEDs, I’m not picking up the phone and saying, “Hey, Hank, it’s T — you’ll never believe what I just put into my smoothie.” Not going to happen.
Godich: There is no way Tiger would share THAT with anyone.
Morfit: Remember, this is a guy who wouldn’t even tell us his neck hurt.
Herre: Haney says he didn’t know about the women, either.
Dusek: Hank said the only thing he saw Dr. Galea put in Tiger was what Galea had just taken out of Tiger and spun. But Hank can only really comment on what he saw. As Haney (and the rest of us) learned, there were lots of things in Tiger’s life that were happening, but not out in the open.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: This is where Tiger’s being untruthful about so many things comes back to haunt him. He has no credibility. Now I question everything he says.
Godich: I wonder if he ever gets that integrity and trust back. He has had a fall of epic proportions, and it’s not like he’s the kind of guy who’s going to do things to try and win people back.
Evans: Tiger lied to his wife, but when has he really lied to the media and his fans? The infidelity stuff is different territory from gauging his integrity as a professional athlete.
Godich: Well, for the better part of a month he told everybody he was healthy. Then — voila! — we learn that he has been playing with a bad neck all this time.
Gorant: He told everyone he was talking to Hank every day, but Hank just said on Golf Channel that he didn’t talk to Tiger during the time in question. Gray called him out on it.
ADAM SCOTT WINS IN TEXAS AGAIN
Bamberger: What an interesting event it turned out to be. Freddy J., the Swede with one of the funkiest swings on Tour today, getting nipped by Adam Scott, the Aussie who looks like every position is perfect, even when he’s shooting 80. Adam is impossible not to like, and it’s really something how he has turned things around. First Greg Norman had Scott play on his Presidents Cup team in San Francisco, and then he wins on a Greg Norman course in Texas. Could Scott become a truly elite golfer again? I’m saying most definitely.
Evans: He never left that top echelon of players. He just had a bad stretch. He has a great caddie and a great teacher. How can he fail?
Gorant: Wonder if it helped him to be out front and not playing in the final group. Has to be less pressure that way. Even so, he got a little twitchy down the stretch.
Herre: Scott had a hot putter in San Antonio. When that happens, it’s usually going to be a good week. He needs to put together a string of big weeks.
Godich: Until he does it over a period of time, he’s the flavor of the week. It didn’t hurt that he had the benefit of playing 36 holes on Sunday after getting on a roll. Interesting that three of his seven wins have come in Texas.
Gorant: And if he wins Colonial in two weeks, he’ll be the only player to have won all four of the Texas events.
Bamberger: Scott has won the Players, and he looked like an elite player then, but he has not really contended in majors. He’s a work in progress, but with all that talent and charisma, I’d have to guess desire is the missing thing.
Van Sickle: We’d all love to see Scott step up to the top of the batting order, but seriously, his biggest win was the Players, when he yanked an iron shot into the lake. Sure, he got up and down for bogey and still won, but if he hadn’t won, he’d still be hearing about that collapse. On Sunday, he frittered away a four-shot lead on the closing holes and bogeyed the final, a par 5. As closers go, he’s no Rollie Fingers. You can’t count on having a three-shot lead going to 18.
Dusek: If Adam Scott can ride a hot putter and get his confidence going, he’s got the rest of the tools to get back into the top 10. I agree with Gorant that NOT having final-group pressure and expectations was a good thing for him.
Godich: And even then, the nerves showed on the last two holes: a shoved sand wedge on 17 and that ugly bogey on 18. For a guy who made one putt after another for 71 holes, that was one hideous putt at the last.
TPC SAN ANTONIO
Bamberger: What did you all think of TPC San Antonio, on TV or otherwise. It’s a super-long course designed by Greg Norman, with an assist from his non-son-in-law, Sergio Garcia. Everyone was worried that it was going to be long, and maybe too hard. My take is that you almost can’t make a course too long for these guys, so you might as well not even try. As for too hard, that’s all on the rough, the hole location, the weather. What was your sense of the course?
Morfit: I once helped Norman open one of his courses, somehow ending up in a foursome with Michael Wilbon, some other media person and Norman. It was called Lansdowne Resort in Virginia, and some guy came up to Norman before the round and said he’d pledge X dollars to the tsunami relief effort for every birdie Norman made. The course was so hard, Norman made none.
Van Sickle: I’m glad I don’t have to mow the greens. They look ginormous. Or maybe gi-Norman.
Godich: For as long as it was touted to be, I sure saw a lot of guys hitting 3-wood off the tee.
Dusek: Because players knew they couldn’t reach the 18th in two regardless, so they hit 3-wood to hit the fairway.
Godich: It wasn’t just the 18th.
Gorant: The greens seemed to be a problem — repelling shots as they did — but otherwise it was interesting. Hard to say what it would have been like without all the rain. Last week Cameron Beckman wrote a story for us where he predicted 10-under would win it. Scott got to 14-under, so maybe the anxiety was unwarranted.
Van Sickle: That rainstorm may have been the best thing that happened to the course all week. It made it more playable. But Bamberger is right — there’s no such thing as too difficult, not counting that Carnoustie setup in ’99.
Dusek: Totally different look and feel from La Cantera, and I think a nice upgrade. With a bunker in the middle of the green on No. 16, I think we can assume The Shark is a fan of Riviera.
Evans: Players complain about a course until they see somebody shoot 65 on it. Then they figure out what they knew all along: guys are still making birdies, and you had better be one of them.
Herre: TPC San Antonio looks great on TV, much better than La Cantera. Some might say the par-3 16th is contrived, but I think the multiple tees and the bunker in the middle of the huge green are kinda cool and really change the hole from day to day.
Bamberger: Maybe it’s just me, but are you following the Champions Tour more closely this year? With all the drama on the PGA Tour, I find the staid Champions tour a nice place to go for just pure golf. The guy who won this week, Dan Forsman, is a terrific guy who, like a lot of winners in their 50s, has the same body-type and the same swing he did in his 30s. I like following Couples, and Langer, and Jay Haas. I like seeing the good scores (with easy pin positions), and I don’t miss all the noise that has accompanied the PGA Tour this year. How about the rest of you?
Evans: The senior tour has always been a putting contest. But it still has good winners, and folks like seeing birdies. Forsman and Couples could still be middle-tier regular tour players.
Van Sickle: The surge of the Champions Tour has been overstated, but Couples has brought a little buzz. I like the guys who play senior golf, and I enjoy covering their majors, but it’s a tough tour to follow as a fan because the tournaments aren’t recognizable. (Neither are the courses, and they have all nine of their majors in a four-week stretch. Or so it seems.) The Senior PGA Championship and British Open are probably the two most interesting events.
Godich: I do find myself looking for familiar names among the leaders. It was nice to see Forsman win.
Gorant: I’ve always kept an eye on the seniors and still do, but I can’t say I’m watching more than I have in the past. Feels like I’m hearing more about it, though. That’s largely due to Freddie, who’s so popular that everyone wants to write and talk about him when they have a reason to.
Herre: For many of us, the guys who are playing well on the senior tour are our demographic. We have dealt with them many times over the years and know them well. I think that helps explain our interest. The general public? Not sure that anything has changed.
Van Sickle: It’s a tour that’s best experienced in person. I think the fans who attend go away feeling good. They are excellent golfing exhibitions, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Dusek: If you really like golf, you’ll make the effort to watch Champions Tour events and know everyone in the field. If Couples goes on an extended winning streak, he could help them cross over a bit, but the Champions Tour and the Nationwide Tour are really for golf lovers only.