Based on the improved look of Tiger's swing and an inside source, Steve Eubanks blogs that Tiger Woods and Hank Haney have split up.
Before the start of the second round of the Tour Championship, Butch Harmon nudged Adam Scott in the ribs and said, "It's pretty sweet that Tiger's trying to swing like you now."
In fact, there have been some noticeable changes in Tiger's swing of late. Gone are the exaggerated follow-throughs, the long, flat backswings, and the flat left wrist. The Tiger of today looks remarkably similar to the Tiger of 2001, a time when everyone said Scott's swing looked just like Tiger's. According to those in a position to know such things, there might be a good reason for Tiger's new look. According to sources close to the situation, Tiger and Hank Haney are, in a word, done. As one source put it, "They're not making it public yet, but they're done. And you can tell by the way he's swinging the golf club."
If true, this has been coming for some time. As early as April, when Tiger finished second at Augusta after hitting tee shots in every direction, he was observed making some curt comments to his instructor. At one point, the number-one player in the world turned to Haney on the driving range and said, "Get the f--- away from me."
Then in August, Haney signed on as the new director of the International Junior Golf Academy on Hilton Head, Island, a move that had many people wondering how Tiger's coach planned to balance his instructor duties with the demands of running a full-time school.
The final clue came this week when Haney was nowhere to be seen during The Tour Championship. With $10 million on the line, most coaches would have at least made a cursory appearance.
While no one in either camp would confirm the rumors at this time, evidence is mounting of a split. Stay tuned.
** Reader Steve pointed out that Jason Sobel talked to Haney yesterday via email, and it doesn't exactly sound like he's someone who was let go.
"No doubt that Tiger has turned the corner in confidence in his swing, that has been the big change," Haney said via e-mail on Sunday. "He has his weight more on the balls of his feet at address and that changes his posture and makes him look like he is closer to the ball. ... I have seen him play like this for the last two years, but it has mostly been at Isleworth [Woods' home course]. I really point to the first tee shot on Saturday at Oakmont [during the U.S. Open] as the big breakthrough in his confidence to take his swing to the course and he has been better since then."
And yet, that big breakthrough may not be the key to Woods' recent run of success. After all, he has delivered an unflappable swing at other times during his career, but it's quite possible that it has never before been accompanied by such a solid putting stroke.
One week after leading the field in both putting average and putts per round at the BMW Championship, Woods finished first in both categories at East Lake, never once three-putting through 72 holes.
"The reality is that Tiger is putting great the last few weeks," Haney said. "No amount of ball striking can overcome bad putting, especially when you have to shoot the scores that these guys have shot the last couple of weeks. You take any top player, make them No. 1 for the week in putting ... any top player putts like he has and he will be tough to beat."