Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book review: "The Big Miss," by Hank Haney

I am a huge golf fan, a huge Tiger Woods fan, a big Hank Haney fan, and I know how to read (sort of), so when Haney wrote a book about Tiger Woods playing golf, that was right up my alley So here are my thoughts, for what they're worth:

-You have to give Haney some credibility, simply because of his time spent with Tiger. That said, you also still have to remember that his is just one view. I don't doubt for a second that Tiger's personality is just as Haney described- distant, aloof, selfish, etc.- but Haney seems like a very sensitive dude after reading the whole book, and it seems like maybe he wasn't the right personality type to "get" Tiger, or also to be really liked by Tiger.

-On that same note, one thing you definitely pick up on throughout the book is a surprising level of insecurity on Haney's part. There are myriad mentions, in different forms, of how bothered he was by criticisms and comparisons and such. You would think a guy as successful as Haney, and Haney was VERY successful, both before Tiger and with Tiger, would be a little more thick skinned. Haney tried several times to claim that he and Tiger have similar outlooks and both have the same mental makeup in certain ways, but in my opinion, that was more a case of Haney trying to convince himself it was true, trying to keep up with Tiger. Fact is, Tiger is a unique personality and casts a huge shadow, and despite the fact that Haney dealt with it for 6 years and in many ways handled it well, I get the sense that Haney was just desperate for Tiger's approval the whole time and since he never got the public validation from Tiger, he wrote the book to try get validation from everyone else. He even has a whole chapter devoted to convincing people that Tiger was just as good under Haney as he was under Harmon. He put waaaay too much effort into comparing himself to Harmon. Like I said, I was surprised at how insecure Haney seems to be. 

-The chapter about the US Open at Torrey Pines (the one Tiger won despite playing with a torn ACL and two stress fractures in his leg) is awesome. Very cool to hear the details about the injury, the weeks leading up to it, and everything that went into that amazing performance. My favorite part of the book, by far.

-Overall, it was also a very good look into such a unique guy like Tiger Woods. In my lifetime (I'm 32), I basically feel like there are two guys who are wired differently than the rest of humanity, but who are wired the same as each other. Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. I've read a ton about MJ, and love seeing how that type of person goes about becoming the best of all time. Very interesting to hear about all of Tiger's flaws, which Haney fairly points out are also part of the reason he's such a great golfer. There are also plenty of cool "here's how good Tiger Woods is" stories, which I love. I love following greatness and I love hearing about just how great the greatest are. 

-Even if you take everything Hank says as gospel, and it may be, you can't honestly say you're surprised at what you hear. OF COURSE Tiger is a messed up dude. He's been famous since adolescence, and fame like that can be a curse. That said, I have no idea (and honestly kind of doubt) if Tiger is quite as jerky as Hank sometimes makes him out to be. I think it was more a case of Haney being a different personality type than Tiger, but obviously I am just guessing here. 

-Hank does a good job of still, even while criticizing Tiger, pointing out that he believes Tiger is the greatest of all time. It was also interesting to hear of Tiger's struggles. Struggles on the range, struggles on the course, struggles with trusting certain parts of his game, etc. While it's cool to admire greatness, it's also cool to hear that the great ones have struggles to overcome. 

-All told, I liked both Tiger and Haney before all this, and I still like them both fine now. I never had any illusions that Tiger was a normal, friendly guy. I always actually like the fact that he doesn't "play the game" and isn't afraid to admit that he only wants to win- period. So I still respect Tiger as a golfer like I always have, and still have the "fan" part of me that would love to hang out with him, but also still have the rational part of me that knows that he's probably pretty much a selfish jerk. I'm mature enough to separate those out and still be as big a Tiger fan as there is when he's playing. As for Hank, I like him more in some ways after reading the book, and in some ways I think he's whiny and insecure. But no matter. I like him. I still love watching the Haney Project. I'm a loyal guy, and once I like someone, I pretty much like them forever. And these days, I'm so obsessed with golf, that I like everyone associated with it. 

If you're a golf fan, you should read this book.

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