Coach says Tiger obsessed with SEALs
Tiger Woods was seriously considering leaving golf to become a Navy SEAL?
That’s the stunning revelation made by his former swing coach Hank Haney in an excerpt from the upcoming book, "The Big Miss."
Haney’s book will be released by Crown Publishing/Random House on March 27, one week before the Masters. But excerpts are available now on GolfDigest.com’s tablet editions and next month’s issue.
Tiger Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, has hit back at the golfers’ estranged coach over Haney’s claims that Woods was obsessed with becoming a Navy SEAL.
"Based on the excerpts published today, Hank Haney’s claim that his book is about golf is clearly false," Steinberg wrote in an email to FOXSports.com.
"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.
"The disruptive timing of this book shows that Haney’s self-promotion is more important to him than any other person or tournament. What’s been written violates the trust between a coach and player and someone also once considered a friend."
Haney writes in the book that he tried to convince Woods — whose father, Earl, was a special forces soldier in Vietnam — not to go on secret training exercises with the SEALs, but that Woods was obsessed with joining the Navy’s elite fighting unit.
When he told Woods that SEALs can’t be older than 28, hoping to show him that it was a pie-in-the-sky ambition, he writes, Woods responded: "It’s not a problem. They’re making a special age exemption for me."
"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.’
“The only thing that probably rivals it in sports history is Michael Jordan leaving basketball to play minor-league baseball. Although Tiger ultimately didn’t enlist, the lengths he went to to make a SEALs career a real possibility still stun me."
According to Haney, Woods undertook dozens of trips to naval bases across the country “in a program that approximated the training for a Navy SEAL candidate.”
“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."
According to the book, Woods talked about a three-day trip during which he parachuted as many as 10 times a day and touted his long-range shooting skills.
“He talked all about the different guns and how to allow for wind and the flight of the bullet, almost as if he were describing a golf shot," Haney writes.
Tiger seemed most proud of his self-defense achievements, according to Haney, who writes that Tiger told him "he really wanted to be able to protect his family and his home if anything ever happened."
The more stories Haney heard, the more concerned he became about the golfer:
“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.”
In the excerpt, Haney also writes that by 2007, the pressure to perform was getting to Woods.
When he was criticized for not winning a tournament, Woods would often complain that “nothing is ever good enough.”
“For me, the job got harder. There was more urgency and less fun. Tiger was more irritable and impatient,” Haney writes.
“He never mentioned Nicklaus’ record, but it started to weigh more heavily at every major. And Tiger’s actions indicated he believed he had less time to do it than everyone else thought.
“In retrospect, 2007 was when Tiger began to lose the joy of playing and began to look at his career as something he wanted to get over with sooner rather than later.
“And the most obvious sign was his growing obsession with the military.”
Haney writes that he admonished Woods in an email for visiting installations near San Diego for a three-day parachuting exercise right before the 2006 US Open.
Earl Woods had died less than two weeks before.
“I can tell by the way you are talking and acting that you still want to become a Navy SEAL. Man, are you crazy?" Haney emailed Woods, according to the book. “You have history to make in golf and people to influence and help. Focus on your destiny, and that isn’t flushing bad guys out of buildings in Iraq. Just play the video games some more.
“That Navy SEAL stuff is serious business. They use real bullets.”