Book Review: The Big Miss by Hank Haney

The Big MissJust finished The Big Miss by Hank Haney (Crown Archetype Publishing – 2012) and readers who are looking for an inside look at the world of Tiger Woods need to get this book.  Haney has been criticized for writing a kiss and tell book but I found the insights into the inner workings of Tiger Woods profoundly interesting.  After the well reported sex scandal broke in 2009, Tiger has been so reclusive and withdrawn it’s almost maddening to watch an interview with him and try to learn anything of substance.  His guard is always up and the book digs into some very good detail behind the scenes.  Strangely enough, even Haney admitted that while Tiger often referred to him as his close friend, he often felt shut out as Tiger rarely opened up to him.  But for the casual golf fan, the insights go way beyond what we are fed by the mainstream media.

I had always thought the title of the book referred to the concept of what went wrong (Big Miss) with Tiger’s career after the scandal broke, but the term “Big Miss” is used by both Haney and Tiger to describe a golfer’s worst shot.  That Haney used the term for the book is interesting because it may be prophetic in the higher sense when Tiger’s career is eventually summed up.  Haney doesn’t actually focus much on the scandal and thankfully keeps golf as the subject.

Some of the content I found most interesting:  The work Haney and Tiger did to avoid the ‘Big Miss’ off the tee and how Tiger actually feared using his driver in clutch situations.  It was great to get inside the brain of one of the world’s best golf coaches.  I also found Tiger’s fascination with Navy Seal training interesting and how detrimental it may have been to his career and health at the time.  The section on how his team prepped him for play while on a broken leg at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008 was fascinating.  A lot went on behind the scenes to make that victory possible that the general public is completely unaware of.  I also found it interesting that Tiger, and many other tour players work on their swing mechanics right up to tournament time, and then between tournament rounds as well.  This is diametrically opposed to the theories of Dr. Bob Rotella, where he espouses removal of as many mechanical thoughts the closer one gets to competition.  I’ve never found it beneficial to work on my swing, or think mechanics that close to playing on the course, but heck, I’m not a touring pro.  Still, you would think that as human beings, we’d be more effective without mechanical approaches at game time.

The only part I didn’t enjoy was the book’s ending where Haney compares his record to that of Butch Harmon as Tiger’s swing coach.  It seems he’s trying to justify the approach he took and the decision to quit when he did.  His analysis of Tiger’s “Big Miss” with his driving is way off too.  At the time the book was written, Tiger had just started working with Sean Foley in 2011 and Haney points to Tiger’s ranking of 186th in Total Driving in 2011 as proof that Foley’s swing changes will not work.  Now I’m no Sean Foley fan because I think his approach is too mechanical, but Tiger’s Total Driving stats were 5th in 2012 and 17th in 2013 which speaks for themselves.

Most of all, we learn in the Big Miss that Tiger has made many significant sacrifices in his life to achieve his level of greatness.  What will be interesting to see when his career is over is if those sacrifices are judged to be worth the ultimate record of accomplishment.  Get the book; it’s a good one.

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About Brian Penn

Avid sports fan and golf nut. I am a lifelong resident of the Washington D.C. area and love to follow the local teams. Also worked as a golf professional in the Middle Atlantic PGA for several years and am intrigued by the game to no end. I love to play and practice and am dedicated to continual improvement.
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