Tiger Woods completed his first competitive event in sixteen months Sunday, with a 4-under finish in the Hero World Challenge.
There were glimpses of the Tiger of years ago, yet some shots reflective of a 40 year old who is recovering from his third back surgery during his most recent absence from golf, the longest in his career.
Hank Haney coached Woods during his last six major victories. During his years working with Haney, Woods won 45% of events entered, and finished 85% of events in the top 10. Nobody knows Woods game better than Haney.
Haney agreed to an exclusive interview Sunday with My Golf Daily after the final round of the Hero World Challenge and we asked him to review Woods play, and to give us a peek into Woods future from his viewpoint.
Q. Overall were you surprised by how well Tiger played this week?
A. “I wasn’t surprised at all about how Tiger played. I actually thought he would score better than he did and I think that for the most part he hit the ball well enough to have scored better than 73,65,70,76.”
Q. Did you see anything in particular he needs to work on with his swing?
A. “Tiger’s swing looks a lot better. He was back to shaping shots left to right and right to left and flighting the ball up and down, which is what he needs to do in order to be competitive with the best players in the world. I can’t imagine his goal is anything less than that.
For the first 3 rounds his swing was very smooth, it speeded up with the driver on Sunday. I don’t know if that was by design to test his body out or something that just happened.
He hit a lot of great iron shots and really didn’t hit the ‘Big Misses’ that had cost him in recent years. He did hit some bad drives that resulted in six penalty shots but none were totally off the map.”
Q. After three back surgeries and turning 41 this month, how realistic is it for Woods to play nine more years on the PGA Tour?
A. “I would think that realistically if Tiger is going to catch Sam Snead’s record of PGA Tour wins and make a run at Jack’s record of major championships he will have to do the bulk of that in the next 4-5 years.”
Q, Tiger says he plans to play a full schedule this year. How many events do you think that will be, considering he has never played what most players consider a full schedule?
A. “I thought for a long time that Tiger should play a schedule more like what Jack Nicklaus played toward the later stages of his career.
I think Tiger should plan his schedule around the majors and play maybe 15-16 tournaments. He could extend his career this way by saving his body, his motivation would likely stay high, he would have time to prepare for every tournament properly and he would have time for his kids.”
Q. Any other observations or comments?
A. “When you look at the names of the players that have won tournaments on the PGA Tour in the last few years and for that matter major championships, I can’t see how anyone wouldn’t believe that Tiger will win more tournaments.
I expect him to pass Sam Snead’s record and win at least one more major. As soon as he wins one more major that will be the key to unlocking a run at Jack’s record.
While this layoff was tough for Tiger with the back surgeries, this break really appears to have rejuvenated him and his desire. I’ve always said that was the main questions were his body and his desire. I never bought the theory that somehow Tiger had forgotten how to compete.
Having said that, he needed a golf swing and a short game technique that gave him a chance to compete and both of those things look like they will be there.”
Our thanks to Hank Haney for this impressive insight in to Tiger Woods game and what his future may hold.