Johnny Miller Thinks Tiger is Really Going to Struggle to Even Just Tie Jack Nicklaus’ Record at This PointMay 11, 2010 – 11:15 am by Chris Fedor
The hits just keep coming for Tiger Woods. After a huge layoff, I don’t think anyone really knew what to expect from the World’s Greatest Golfer. Then he returned to the Masters, was in contention on Sunday, but faltered down the stretch. However, the way he played at the golf’s first major raised the expectations for Tiger and he hasn’t lived up to them. In fact, he has been awful since his top-five finish at Augusta. In his last two starts on tour, Tiger has missed the cut by a huge margin and then this past week he had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a neck injury. To make matters even worse, Tiger was hitting some shots at The Player’s that I have never seen from a player his caliber. If that’s not bad enough, he and his swing coach have decided to part ways. So not only is Tiger now trying to fix his personal life, which is clearly affecting his game, but now he has no swing coach to help him with a swing that looked anything but polished in his last two tournaments, and he has an injured neck. There was one time in his career when it looked like 20-plus majors for Tiger was a near-certainty. And while he can still break Jack Nicklaus’ record, there continue to be more hurdles that come up that Tiger will have to clear en route to breaking that record that weren’t there a couple of years ago.
Johnny Miller joined ESPN Radio in Chicago with Waddle and Silvy to talk about what he makes of Tiger parting ways with Hank Haney, how surprised he was that Tiger withdrew from the Player’s, and also whether or not Tiger will still break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.
On why parting with Hank Haney is a good move for Tiger Woods:
“To set the stage, so to speak, every teacher brings something to the table. There are teachers that teach about chipping and putting, or just you know edge game, you got the (Dave) Pells and all those guys. Haney’s a super good teacher, and for some reason, he did a really good job with Tiger’s iron game, and I don’t know how much he touched his short game ‘cause his short game is already amazing, he never could quite get Tiger to drive the ball well. And for Tiger, he always said he’s an Army brat with his driver. ‘Left, right, left, right.’ Always had trouble driving it straight. So the one thing Tiger really needs is a really simple swing, no make up moves. Just really good simple standard positions. I think Haney was teaching him a sort of Hogan move, and with Tiger’s speed coming down, it was too much of a complication to make it work. He really needs a simple swing, like how Harmon had him doing. Shorten the backswing, just putting it in a real good position with arms halfway up and halfway down, and just rip it with his hips. I just don’t think Haney, he had a really good record with Tiger, I’m not sure who really gets the credit, but he had that break, and everyone says ‘Well he needs time to come back,’ and Haney had a couple months to really establish the Haney swing with no pressure, no tournaments, and Tiger comes out with the Haney swing at The Players and is hitting pop ups, pull hooks, blocks to the right and I thought ‘This has got to change.’ You know, I love Hank Haney, he’s a good guy, a good man, but just what he was trying to with the club laid off at the top and the move down, it shoulda been working but it wasn’t. In my case, when I took time off, I played better when I came back. You go back to your natural swing. Lot of people notice that when you take three, four, or five months off and go back, you play great ‘cause you aren’t thinking about anything and just playing. He had too many thoughts, and I said it at the Players, and sorta regretted it a little bit ‘he needs to get a new coach, this is not working.’ I was feeling so bad for Tiger on the course. I don’t know what the feel was off the course, but on the course he was hitting shots he’d never hit before and he was brought to his knees. It’s sad to see his mojo is long gone right now.”
On how surprised he was when Tiger withdrew:
“Um, I was definitely surprised. Obviously it’s personal stuff, but from his operations, his neck – take my word for it, because I’ve had a million things go wrong where I’ve had a herniated disk, bad knees, bad lower leg and when I won the US Open I didn’t even play Monday or Tuesday ‘cause my neck hurt so bad and I didn’t even take Advil then – So there’s stuff you can take to get over it, but I just don’t think he was seeing any progress. He was 2 over on the day, he just did not want to be there, in my opinion. But to not finish out the round and walk off the course and not gut it out, I just think he felt he couldn’t perform and had to get out. What was he accomplishing? ‘I gotta get out of here, this is too much for me.’ I have a feeling that he had already made a decision, him and Haney, but he wanted to wait for when he was done with the Players before it was announced.”
On whether or not he looks at what Tiger did as quitting:
“Well I mean, he definitely had a neck pull and he’s been fighting that thing. I caught up with (Tiger’s caddie) Stevie (Williams) in the parking lot after Tiger had withdrawn and he said he was hitting balls on the range and hit a real hard shot and it aggravated it. I have no problem with that he walked off the course if it was bothering him and couldn’t hit the shot he wanted. We’re independent contractors, we have no guaranteed contracts, so if he wants to walk off and feels like it’ll make it worse, then I have no qualms about that. I’ve done it myself. I’m not proud of it, but a golfer doesn’t have to answer to anyone in particular. It’s not like he’s walking off in the 8th inning one run behind. It’s just a different story. So I’m just pulling him so bad to get everything in order. Golf needs him, sports needs him, and he was a terrific example in sports up to a certain point. I’m not sure when he lost his way, but I think everyone wants to make a success story out of him. I don’t know what will happen with the marriage and the family, but boy you talk about when it rains it pours. It’s not only pouring, but there’s tornadoes running around.”
On whether or not he will win a tournament or break Jack Nicklaus’ major record:
“Well those are good questions. I think he needs to get a new teacher to give him hope. When you go to a new guy, hope springs eternal. You think the new technique, the new tries, and you hope it works. If he gets a guy who can teach him the basic fundamentals and let his natural talent come to the fore, yeah he could even play a great U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He’s got enough time to sort it out, ‘cause his chipping is good and his irons are good. As for the record, I talked about it in my book ‘I Called The Shots.’ I wrote that you just never know with family life and desires and injury. Boy, he’s at 14 already, and to get to 18, that’s a whole career. Look at Phil Mickelson, he’s worked his butt off to get to 4 majors. So I know it’s Tiger Woods, but he’s really gonna struggle to just tie Jack’s record.”
On whether or not he may get back together with Butch Harmon:
“Well the reason why the ship sailed there is I think ‘cause Phil pays him about five times more than Tiger did, so Butch said he won’t take Tiger back in the camp. Then again, if Tiger were to go to Butch and want to get back in the camp, that’s a pretty tempting thing for Butch. Butch said that he’ll send Tiger all the videos, but he’ll take the sound off it. I wouldn’t call it bad blood, but Butch just loves working with Phil. He’s the most generous athlete alive. He tips the shoe shine guys in the locker room $2000, I mean it’s like this guy is to him a way to help other people, so he’s pretty amazing that way.”