The Big Miss
My Years Coaching Tiger Woods
The Big Miss is Hank Haney’s candid and surprisingly insightful account of his tumultuous six-year journey with Tiger Woods, during which the supremely gifted golfer collected six major championships and rewrote golf history. Hank was one of the very few people allowed behind the curtain. He was with Tiger 110 days a year, spoke to him over 200 days a year, and stayed at his home up to 30 days a year, observing him in nearly every circumstance: at tournaments, on the practice range, over meals, with his wife, Elin, and relaxing with friends.
The relationship between the two men began in March 2004 when Hank received a call from Tiger in which the golf champion asked him to be his coach. It was a call that would change both men’s lives.
Tiger—only 28 at the time—was by then already an icon, judged by the sporting press as not only one of the best golfers ever, but possibly the best athlete ever. Already he was among the world’s highest paid celebrities. There was an air of mystery surrounding him, an aura of invincibility. Unique among athletes, Tiger seemed to be able to shrug off any level of pressure and find a way to win.
But Tiger was always looking to improve, and he wanted Hank’s help.
What Hank soon came to appreciate was that Tiger was one of the most complicated individuals he’d ever met, let alone coached. Although Hank had worked with hundreds of elite golfers and was not easily impressed, there were days watching Tiger on the range when Hank couldn’t believe what he was witnessing. On those days, it was impossible to imagine another human playing golf so perfectly.
And yet Tiger is human—and Hank’s expert eye was adept at spotting where Tiger’s perfection ended and an opportunity for improvement existed. Always haunting Tiger was his fear of “the big miss”—the wildly inaccurate golf shot that can ruin an otherwise solid round—and it was because that type of blunder was sometimes part of Tiger’s game that Hank carefully redesigned his swing mechanics.
Hank’s most formidable coaching challenge, though, would be solving the riddle of Tiger’s personality. Wary of the emotional distractions that might diminish his game and put him further from his goals, Tiger had developed a variety of tactics to keep people from getting too close, and not even Hank—or Tiger’s family and friends, for that matter—was spared “the treatment.”
Toward the end of Tiger and Hank’s time together, the champion’s laser-like focus began to blur and he became less willing to put in punishing hours practicing—a disappointment to Hank, who saw in Tiger’s behavior signs that his pupil had developed a conflicted relationship with the game. Hints that Tiger hungered to reinvent himself were present in his bizarre infatuation with elite military training, and—in a development Hank didn’t see coming—in the scandal that would make headlines in late 2009. It all added up to a big miss that Hank, try as he might, couldn’t save Tiger from.
There’s never been a book about Tiger Woods that is as intimate and revealing—or one so wise about what it takes to coach a superstar athlete.
–Wall Street Journal
“An alarming look at an athlete whose public glories masked a day-to-day existence of profound superficiality…Even more revealing than the swing material is evidence of Woods’ emotional blank wall: his indifference to people around him, his inability to empathize, and an obsession with military training and the Navy SEALs that, according to Haney, probably led to the leg injuries which have hampered Woods’ golf career.”
“I learned more about Tiger in The Big Miss than I have in eleven years of covering him on the PGA Tour…I actually thought the book was very fair, it was honest.”
–Damon Hack, Senior Writer, Sports Illustrated
“While The Big Miss is many things – a coach’s story; an account of a collapse; a deep dive into the swing mechanics and the art of golf – it also offers a welcome and unvarnished look inside. Books about major athletes are often authorized pabulum or arm’s-length agglomerations. Haney’s recollections are his own, and subject to dispute, but this is a rich and compelling rendering of a complicated athlete undone less by embarrassing details than by a self-inflicted, unsustainable myth.”
–Jason Gay, The Wall Street Journal
“Offers fascinating insights…The biggest strength of The Big Miss is the breadth of its insider view of the Tiger Woods phenomenon, a scrutiny previously unavailable to the public.”
–Kansas City Star
“Incredibly interesting—especially if you play golf…Haney does a great job of simply telling it like it is…The “why” behind the mystery of Tiger’s perplexing personality weaves its way through the entire book.”
-David G. Kindervater, Featured Columnist, Bleacher Report
“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….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.”
“Thoughtful…Haney makes his case fairly and honestly, emerging not as a self-serving, tell-all author but as a man who has devoted his working life to the intricacies of the golf swing and who, finally, remains thankful to have spent six years with the best golfer on the planet.”
”The Big Miss is the most extensive and interesting portrait of Woods you’re ever likely to read…[it] shines a light on the most opaque celebrity in sports. For that reason alone, it’s a can’t-miss.”
–Orange County Register