Tiger Woods returned to the PGA Tour last week and looked extremely rusty en route to a missed cut at the Quicken Loans National. Former coach Hank Haney wonders if an overall lack of preparation is going to remain a significant issue moving forward.
The 14-time major champion missed nearly four months due to a back injury and failed to break par in either of his first two rounds of competition. It wouldn't be a notable result for most players, but Woods is held to a unique standard despite the fact he hasn't won a major since 2008.
Matthew Rudy of Golf Digest passed along comments from Haney, who said getting back to a championship level is far more difficult than it seems.
"I know people were excited to hear that he was back hitting balls, but hitting balls isn't the same as practicing," Haney said. "You have to get your swing going and your endurance back first. You don't just walk out there and start pounding balls for four hours. It's not that easy."
The longtime swing instructor explained that during his time with Woods, he implemented a recovery schedule that took a month to complete. He would steadily increase the level of difficulty and stress until his star pupil was ready to hit every shot.
Haney also noted that during his peak seasons, the fan favorite would practice for about eight hours every day to stay in peak form. That time would be split between working on individual shots and then going out to play later in the day.
Interestingly, Haney then questioned whether Woods still has the internal drive necessary to put in that much work on a daily basis at this stage of his life:
A lot of athletes continue to have a lot of drive. I mean, you can't question Peyton Manning's drive. But I saw Tiger's drive diminish as early as 2006. That's speculation and observation, but you can't deny that he doesn't practice as much. It could be because of his kids. It could be because of injuries. It doesn't matter what the because is. It's reality. The question is what happens now.
Will Brinson of CBSSports.com weighed in on Haney's point about Woods' drive and desire at this point in his career:
Remember, he's been on the national stage nearly 20 years now and there's only so long the fire can burn. I don't begrudge him. He gave us many great years and he'll have a few more runs in him, but to be supposedly feeling great and to go on vacation after his Congressional play suggests he just doesn't care like he used to. Doesn't make him a bad person, it just means he's not the Tiger we used to know.
The fact that Haney is speaking out about Woods' play doesn't come as much of a surprise. He wrote a book discussing his time with the golfer, titled The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods, and he has always spoken his mind when asked about Woods' play since their partnership ended.
Will Woods ever be a dominant force at majors again?
His remarks about Woods losing his competitive drive are certainly interesting, though.
Woods stands within striking distance of two huge PGA Tour records for most overall wins and most victories in major championships. Prevailing wisdom in recent years has suggested he is trying too hard and it has taken a mental toll, but Haney seems to suggest the opposite.
For what it's worth, the 38-year-old superstar said he was encouraged by his performance last week, even though the results were lackluster, per Golf Central:
"All little things I know I can fix. As I said, it's very encouraging." - Tiger on his play this week pic.twitter.com/wAkLKoiY7u— Golf Central (@GolfCentral) June 27, 2014
Woods isn't expected to play again until The Open Championship, which gets underway on July 17. Based on the way he played at Congressional and his lack of competition in recent months, it's hard to like his chances of winning a 15th major at Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
The real question is whether Woods is ever going to get back to a level where he can win majors on a regular basis in order to pass Jack Nicklaus. Based on Haney's comments, he's clearly skeptical those five more major titles are ever going to come.