There was a time, believe it or not, when Tiger Woods seriously considered abandoning his golf career and becoming a Navy SEAL.
So writes Hank Haney, his former swing coach, in his new book “The Big Miss,” which has been excerpted on Golf Digest’s tablet editions and in the April edition of the magazine.
Woods’s late father, Earl, served in the Army’s Special Forces in Vietnam and the golfer has always had a high regard for the military. In 2004, he conducted a golf clinic and trained with various units for three days at Fort Bragg, N.C. Haney writes of Woods’s training runs in Army boots and of Woods’s flirtation with joining the SEALs, to the point of participating in vigorous, secret training sessions.
“I thought, ‘Wow. Here is Tiger Woods, the greatest athlete on the planet, maybe the greatest athlete ever, right in the middle of his prime, basically ready to leave it all behind for a military life,’ ” Haney writes.
Woods, now 36, told Haney that the SEALs were “ ‘making a special age exemption for me.’ ”
“To my knowledge, he did training in parachuting, self-defense, urban-warfare simulations and shooting,” Haney writes. “I never heard of Tiger doing any training in the water with the SEALs, but he was already a pretty accomplished diver.”
Woods told Haney about training as a sharpshooter and in self-defense, adding that the golfer “really wanted to be able to protect his family and his home if anything ever happened.”
Haney writes that he became alarmed about the training. “When I later learned the full truth about the dangerous exercises that Tiger engaged in with the SEALs, it caused me to question whether the greatest golfer the game has ever seen severely hampered his chance at surpassing one of the most revered marks in all of sports — Jack Nicklaus’ record — because of his fascination with the military.”
Woods’s Excel Sports Management agent, Mark Steinberg, called Haney’s claim that the book was about golf “clearly false.” In a statement, he added: “His armchair psychology about Tiger, on matters he admits they didn’t even discuss, is ridiculous. Because of his father, it’s no secret that Tiger has always had high respect for the military, so for Haney to twist that admiration into something negative is disrespectful.”
Just the kind of distraction Woods needs as he prepares to play in the Honda Classic on Thursday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
“The disruptive timing of this book shows that Haney’s self-promotion is more important to him than any other person or tournament,” Steinberg said. “What’s been written violates the trust between a coach and player and someone also once considered a friend.”
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