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Book Review: The Big Miss By Hank Haney

Tiger Woods should be grateful Hank Haney wrote The Big Miss.

Not that the book will ever elicit any emotion from Woods other than a Mt. St. Helens fury of bulging-eye bitterness upon mention of the book’s tantalizing title. Nor is it hard to see why such a private, obsessive-compulsive control freak finds the new book to be the ultimate betrayal, even as he has shown little loyalty to those who’ve worked for him at meager wages considering the pressures involved. Yet after flying through this 247-page, mostly breezy and fascinating look into the life of a champion, I suspect most readers will ultimately have a newfound respect for Woods. I know I do.

That’s not to say you’ll look at him in a more positive light. The various leaked anecdotes certainly stand out and deserve the attention they got, but in the overall flow of the narrative, the now infamous Popsicle story or the Zach Johnson hotel adult movie revelation merely read like fun little jabs livening up Haney’s largely reverential assessment of Tiger.  Working with ghostwriter Jaime Diaz (big disclosure: new editor at Golf World where I'm a Contributing Writer), the Texas-based instructor never holds back in pointing out Tiger’s frugality, Woods’ downright rudeness or the socially-inept gamesmanship muddying Tiger’s most basic daily interactions.

However, it’s hard not to marvel at Woods' purposefulness, eccentricity and drive, which any sports fan suspects is at the core of the all-time greats. Not for a minute do you suspect Haney is making anything up for dramatic effect. Tiger is a workaholic who loves the game, loves trying to improve and likes winning majors. And for the first time in the history of golf literature, we get a behind-the-scenes look at how an all-time great works. Many times the details are not pretty, but most of the journey Haney takes us on reveals a relentless passion to thrive in an era when so many professionals appear content to occasionally contend and collect healthy checks.  If I were asked to recommend a book for an aspiring young golfer, The Big Miss would be the first title I’d select if for no other reason than most of today’s Tiger-wannabes will be motivated to work much harder than they currently do. They’ll also learn how not to treat the people closest to them.

Much of initial Big Miss backlash stems from the publisher’s decision to allow a slow drip of mostly salacious revelations to frame the discussion. Due to a lack of book reviews putting the salacious stuff into context, the perception of the book is one of a teacher-client confidentiality breach, with vindictive humiliation as the primary motive. (As if anything in the book is even remotely as humiliating as what came out in late 2009?)

This marketing approach, while likely to sell a boatload of books, may prove costly to Haney’s reputation based on the vitriolic social media reaction. Yet I sensed Haney’s primary goal was to document an amazing time in sports history and his small-but-influential role in some of the best golf ever played.

The Big Miss is not perfect. Some of the geeky golf instruction talk runs so far off the deep end that a reader will actually long for images to help illustrate what is being talked about. Also, Haney’s tone is genuine and consistently modest throughout. So when he chooses to use the final chapter (“Adding It Up”) to let us know Tiger had more wins during his watch than he did under Butch Harmon, it’s jarring and a peculiar drift from the rest of The Big Miss. Especially since, to that point, Harmon is treated with enormous respect. So much so that Haney even suggests much of his swing coaching for Tiger was little more than a continuation of Harmon’s teaching, with different views only on top-of-the-backswing position and communication styles.

In the minor quibble department, there were a few moments when Diaz’s voice takes over, but they are brief and inevitable in a situation like this where the ghost is such a knowledgeable student of the subject at hand. Most readers won’t notice as they revel in Diaz’s cogent, succinct style, ignited by a Grishamesque opening chapter.

Haney will take plenty of hits for profiting from exposing the inner workings of his time with Woods. And Diaz will never hear whatever frat house nickname Tiger might bestow on someone once respected enough to have spoken at Earl Woods' memorial service. However, in time The Big Miss will be considered a landmark tome in the already crowded bookshelf of classic golf books. Had Jack Grout or O.B. Keeler written a similar warts-and-all book about their days beside the legends whose lives they helped shape, or had Ben Hogan relied on a book-writing swing instructor for “coaching,” we’d be richer for insights that no “authorized” book comes close to delivering.  More importantly, without The Big Miss, aspiring golfers would not have had a powerful motivational tool to make themselves better players and even better human beings.  

The Big Miss

by Hank Haney (with Jaime Diaz)

Published March 27, 2012 by Crown Archetype

Edited by Rick Horgan

Available in hardcover, ebook and audiobook format read by Haney.

Haney talking about the book with ESPN Monday, with a scheduled appearance on CNN's Piers Morgan Tuesday:

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Reader Comments (112)

"meager wages considering the pressures involved"

Let me see: He can demand lesson rates of $10,000 a day, got his own television show, columns in golf magazines. I think Haney was more than adequately paid...
03.26.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
TW paid him $50k/year – peanuts considering the crap he had to put up with.
03.26.2012 | Unregistered CommenterGary K. McCormick
Right on the mark Geoff with the review, people need to read this and then decide. I thought it was fascinating.
03.26.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCK
Michael, then Hank should've worked for free by your logic. By your reckoning Hank should be happy with the ancillary income, be grateful and shut up.

I don't know, maybe I am a bit old fashioned because I believe that a guy worth half a billion $ should pay a professional who is essential in the process of obtaining and maintaining that kind of monumental lucre, a fee commensurate with that endeavor, not only as remuneration for services rendered but also as a sign of respect, appreciation and acknowledged gratitude for the assistance rendered in helping achieve greatness.

But thats just me. When it comes to Tiger, what else would you expect from a self obsessed social eunuch incapable of intimacy and honesty?

50k a year.
Hit and Gary, if he thought he was underpaid, he could leave. Employees across the US do it all the time when the think they are underpaid. He stayed because the overall compensation package was worth not leaving (and no other pro would have him).
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterGoose
Geoff - a fine review, I was unsure whether or not I wanted to fritter any of my hard earned cash on this book, but your comment last week -" Fifteen years from now, the book will not be viewed with hostility, but instead as a fine bit of historical documentation", turned me round and my copy is now on it's way. I can understand from a publicity point of view why the publishers leaked the parts of the book they did, but your information and Brad Klein's review have convinced me that there is more in there than popsicles and Navy SEALS training and we will learn more about the life of Tiger and his preparation for major championships than ever before.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered Commentertitleist38
interesting. so if it's so positive, why the title? what does it mean, 'the big miss'?
03.27.2012 | Unregistered Commentergrr
If Hank felt the $$ were not enough for the work he was doing with Tiger....he could have always left or tried to renegotiate.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered Commentermark
Still no mention of who she is . . .
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLudell Hogwaller
Maybe I'll read it in 15 years.
But, but, but,,,Hank Haney is a bad man. I read it right here.
Guys 50k is a good wage, Hank DID NOT have to coach Tiger. You make it sound like he was forced to teach him!?? Hank Haney has not earned himself any respect with this book and personally I am glad! In the words of Rick Smith "he's broken and violated are code of ethics".
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJay
I believe this book is a glaring attempt to cash in on someone else’s fame. Does it matter to me that Tiger was not the best tipper, no. furthermore I could care less if he attempted a sophomoric joke with an adult channel. I am sure a few people would have chucked if it was told in person in confidence. One of the things that does stand out is that the Navy SEALs stated Tiger never trained with them. If Hank said he did, and the SEALs say he didn’t…I tend to believe the SEALs.

The fact is this book was done in bad taste, I don’t care how many times Hank say’s “they are my memories too” there are some memories that should just stay that. The fervor for this book is because Tiger is so private, and seemingly with good reason. We clamor to know more, but just how much are we really entitled to? He isn’t the first man to cheat on his wife, and the uproar doesn’t seem consistent with the responses of men in the past who have cheated in the past. All I know is this book seems like a purposeful jab, with compliments sprinkled about.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKori
Nice review Geoff. It was too easy to believe all the twitter hype and write this off as malicious, self promoting bilge. I will certainly be reading it now, and I'll be less annoyed about the extra £12 lining Mr Haney's tired, worn out slacks.
Is it just me or is Hannah Storm an absolute BABE that gets better and better with age,(looks that is). No wonder Dan Hicks always has that little smirk on his face.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
Hank got $50K plus world wide exposure. Is there an expert on this site that can put a value on the free publicity Hank received and is still receiving due to his relationship with TW? $10 million- $20 million??

Do you really think the Navy can admit that Tiger Woods was doing SEAL training outside of the sanctioned media events? Nothing good can come from them acknowledging this happening. Haney has no motivation for adding that information into the book though. The spirit of the book is his time working with Tiger on golf and stories such as this are simply there to break up the golf talk and provide every golf fan what they want most; a look behind the curtain of Tiger's off the course life.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeeRoy
@ grr:

"The Big Miss" apparently refers to how uncomfortable both Hank and Tiger were when Tiger would hit driver. His "Big Miss" would be a duck hook left, hence the title, that is kind of a double entendre, I guess.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered Commenterkfk
Where did Gary McCormick get your information about how much Woods paid Haney? Why is "charlie" running with subjective, as usual,"people hear what they want to hear"
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMic
This book is disgusting. Shame on Hank, Jaime and any golf writer who gives it anything but bitter reviews because they have personal and professional ties with those two.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterYip

Mr. Pedantic here: When you metnion "... furthermore I could care less if he attempted ...", don't you think writing " ... I could not care less ..." would more appropriately express your feelings that you have no care whatsoever about this or that with Tiger. See? One is never to old to learn! Thanks.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPedantic Sam
I'd rather read one of those romantic fantasy paperbacks with a picture of Fabio on the cover.
I wish Hank would return to his obscure pre-Tiger life. Shame on him and for Jaime for being involved.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered Commenterredneck
Lee Roy, It would be more disastrous if the Navy was caught in a lie. I don’t believe celebrities are granted access to train with Navy SEALs. For a number of reasons, one is the ability to keep an even private. They operate on a level of absolute trust. Can the people responsible for national security, covert operation, and missions that no one reports for safety and publicity, can they trust a golfer not to describe their “kill house” and tactics?

Sam I will take the instruction into consideration. No one is ever too old to learn. I would have preferred a response to my statements instead of correction of context. We write to gather opinion. On here anyway.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKori
I'll probably read the book, because of morbid curiosity, but I'll never pay another second's attention to Hank Haney, a disloyal reprobate who would still be coaching the bottom tier of tour players were it not for Tiger tapping him on the shoulder. Talk about the Big Break! Hank Haney has television shows, columns in golf magazines and a reputation. Why? Because Tiger made the mistake of asking him to be his swing coach. Loyalty means nothing to the man, that much is clear.

When the dust settles from this ratting-out-the-boss memoir, people will forget Haney and still talk about Tiger, because Tiger, for all his personal failings, still has talent. Haney has a ghost writer.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered Commentertlavin
I see it showing up on my door soon so I can read it.


will be able to comment on how realistic the medical "Injury methodology, surgery realism and rehab expectations" stack up with real life people. (Read believability)

My readers expect no less from me.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterGolfFan
Tiger: "Hank, the job pays $50k, do you want it"?

Hank: "Yes".


Hank: "No.
I'll withhold judgement before reading it. I will admit that I fell victim to the frenzy yesterday and downloaded the eBook version onto my iPhone. I'll get around to reading it right after I finish Lorne Rubenstein's "Moe and Me" - which I'm about a third of the way through and is excellent, I might add.

Regarding the coach-player professional code... I can appreciate the argument. I respect the argument. That doesn't exactly put Haney on golf's axis of evil list, but it's a pretty safe bet that he's officially offed his career as a Tour instructor.

Not that he really cares. He's got a nice home, he's got a young attractive wife spritzing up that nice estate, and he's more than financially secure heading into retirement, whenever that might officially happen. You kinda get the impression that this has been Haney's exit strategy from Day One, knowing that he would never be able to top being the head guru of the greatest player in modern times. He seems more than content being the celebrity swing doctor and peddling his wares on Golf Channel infomercials.

I think this book was in the works the minute he accepted Tiger's offer to come work for him back in 2004. But I do believe that the manner in which their partnership started becoming more and more suspect following the scandal, and specifically the distance that Tiger created between himself and Hank thereafter, merely expedited the process. Otherwise, this book probably wouldn't have been released for several more years and would likely not include many of the seemingly critical details surrounding Tiger's personal life.

Was revenge a motivation, considering that Hank often felt as though Tiger treated him like an underling? I'm sure. But Haney isn't stupid. He knew the day was looming, and likely much sooner than he could've expected, when he'd know exactly how Harmon felt that day that Tiger kicked him to the curb. Haney wasn't going out like that. He'd observed a lot more about Tiger than just what he saw in him as a great golfer. He knew that his days were numbered, and he wasn't going to give him the satisfaction. Sure, there was some revenge in all of this.

To what extent - I guess I'll figure that out when I read it.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPA PLAYA
Cheap tightwads always get it in the end. 50k a year? Ha ha Hanks book advance more than made up for team Tigers cheapness.

Shame on the cheap one. You make your bed lie in it. I don't really care but the Hank bashing is ridiculous.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterA3
The genre for this book finally popped into my mind -- it's a "Kiss-and-Tell". Unfortunately my local library has yet to put a copy on order. I'm not keen on putting money in Haney's pocket. I did, however, sample it to my Kindle. It'll have to be very impressive for me to shell out the nearly $13 for an eCopy.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered Commenterggg
Great objective review Geoff, thank you for that. You really do in a short piece put in so much of the context that was missing in the excerpts that were dripped out by the publishers. As witnessed by the comments here there are some who just can't let go of the idea that his was some kind of betrayal, I don't feel that way at all. I also reject the idea that money earned because of some new exposure or celebrity should be counted as compensation. This idea is absurd. By this logic, any time a professional person, say a lawyer for instance, performs a service for a celebrity, they should be happy with the 'exposure' they get as compensation. Totally and completely ridiculous. I'm not saying Hank was underpaid, I'm just saying counting any of the ancillary benefits of their relationship as compensation is not on.

@ Goose - "no other pro would have him." Really?? why did Tiger choose him for his swing coach?
News Flash: He did leave him.

Rick Smith is a joke. We may as well take comments from the guy who runs the driving range up the road.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPress Agent
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoger Fanbelt
"More important, without The Big Miss, aspiring golfers would not have had a powerful motivational tool to make themselves better players and even better human beings."

Good finish, Geoff.

At 247 pages, though, it's out of Pulitzer consideration.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterTrevor
tlavin, how come Tiger can have coaches, but Haney can't have ghost writers?
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChas
It's not just you, ol Harv. Hannah has a way.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRock
A3 this doesn’t affect Tiger as bad as you wish it did. He has always received some level of negative press or comments. This isn’t anything new. It just another mean thing, but in terms of beds and lying in them…he is still incredibly wealthy, incredibly popular and very powerful. He is still the most important person in golf. He will still have swarms of women wanting to be with him. His kids will have the best of everything. He will have access to care and luxury that we will not. By not paying Hank more money…that doesn’t hinder him at all. Many wealthy individuals are cheap; they have made their money on their own and give it away at their leisure. Tiger has given tens of millions to charities, to sponsor and support our military and veterans, has established scholarships for thousands of students who otherwise wouldn’t get to college, without massive debt. So do I care if he didn’t tip a valet? Nope. Do I care that he paid 50k to a coach.Nope. Clearly Hank isn’t hurting for money. So I do not offer any sympathy for Hank for only earning more than the average American. And what was his job again. Tell a great athlete how to swing a club? Fly on private jets, get sponsor, have a TV show, go to the most luxurious golf courses in the world and give him some tips before tee off and some tips after the round? He didn’t even carry clubs or have to walk 18holes are we really complaining that a guy earned 50k for that?
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKori
Maybe Tiger could channel some of his purposefulness, eccentricity and drive to clean up his language.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBob
Jay - in a sense, Hank Haney was forced to teach Tiger Woods, as the influence of the player and magnitude of the responsibility predicated all other individual notions of value. TW calling you means TW picked you, and if you are a teacher of the game, and you turn down the opportunity to teach the most important player in the game, it isn't going to remain private, and the likely outcome is to be pulled down in the undertow of speculation and assertions of half-truth and resentment. At the time, Mark O'Meara was one of Haney's chief students. That was a 3-way relationship. Denying TW means Hank Haney loses more than he would gain my saying yes. In any business situation, that is s classic damned-if-you-don't situation.

I imagine TW paid him $50k a year because of the assumed value of the teaching assignment. Unfortunately, it tuned out to sully HH's idea of teaching tour pros altogether. The result of the scandal, and the slow, public drag-out firing of HH made it a losing deal for him. Writing the book was the only manner HH could finally close on the promise of greater opportunity being associated with TW.

How many of us felt pressured to take a dream assignment, just to realize that it could only be a dream, because the reality of the downside couldn't be believed?
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDG
Tiger's handlers shouldn't have fought this. They should have embraced it. There's a lot of money to be made with the Bad Boy image.
No matter how hard they try, they won't be able to sanitize what's been done. It's not all bad. He didn't kill anyone. He's not done time.
Go with the flow, and milk it for all it's worth. Maybe substitute the "F-yuh" with "Kiss my grits!"
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterWalter
Thanks Geoff. Now I feel less like a voyeur for pre-ordering this. I'll admit to being a big Tiger fan as a player, so I the inner workings of his practice and training regimen (minus the SEAL stuff) sounds fascinating.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe O
Oh Press Agent, I feel so sorry for guys like you that are so blind to reality or just refuse to see what is right in front of their face. I thought you were a little smarter than you evidently are. Hank really didn't leave Tiger pal. OK, I know, he sent him a text, yada yada yada. But we both know that Tiger hadn't been talking to him or returning his calls and was shopping for a new teacher in front of Hank's face. THAT'S THE REASON HE WROTE THE BOOK. Does it make it a little clearer now? Hank is a very bitter guy and perhaps the most sensitive teacher we've ever seen. Tiger realized where this guy was leading him and it was a quick path to nowhere. I expect more from you PA.
03.27.2012 | Unregistered Commenterkdub

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