The big bliss
Nothing is bigger than the Masters, says Ewen Murray, not least a book that betrays Tiger Woods' trust.
Last Updated: 29/03/12 4:20pm
It's not long now before the masterpiece that is the Masters is upon us.
I remember as a kid waiting for the clock to tick up to the hour and then within seconds the beauty of Augusta is beamed into the family room.
My father was a professional golfer and so all of my life I have only really known golf. The times sitting with mum and dad watching the greatest golf show on earth reignites the happy memories of childhood.
Augusta gets you that way; the majesty of the property, the prestige of the title along with the fact that so many greats have triumphed there and so many have failed.
The wonderful presentation of Augusta National was the forerunner to the way our courses are presented today. They set the standards and golf courses the world over have benefitted from the example Augusta has set.
The Palmer, Player and Nicklaus years were thrilling. Back in the sixties, their rivalry was magical with all of them capable of turning a six shot deficit around during the final 18 holes.
They were the 'big three' in those days and in many people's eyes, they still are today.
The integrity of these golfing greats continued to build the sport from a sound footing laid by their predecessors and some made golf their hobby because of their excellence and charisma. It wasn't all smooth for the fans mind you. Arnie was the people's hero and when Jack made his entrance to the world stage and challenged his crown, not all of 'Arnie's army' were thrilled!
Televised golf arrived during their prime and with the advent of colour television at the end of the sixties golf boomed. It is today a sport made for TV.
I had 3D installed at my home this week and because golf is one of the few major sports played on uneven terrain, it's as if 3D was invented for our game. For those of you watching in 3D next week, it's a real treat because you will see just how hilly Augusta is and it's the nearest thing to being there without crossing the pond.
You will all have your favourites to put on the green jacket and this year it's the most open it's been for some time. So many of the world's top players are in good form and the strength in depth across the globe has never be greater.
Phil Mickelson had his fine victory at the AT&T closing out with a fine 64 in the final round with Tiger for company. England's Luke Donald has continued on from his brilliant 2011.
Rory McIlroy will be anxious to put to bed his disappointment of last year's Masters and add to his US Open crown which he won at Congressional in such elegant style.
Lee Westwood has been knocking at the door over the past four years and just needs that little bit of luck that all champions have enjoyed down the years, remember Freddie Couples' ball resting on the bank at 12? Never had that happened before nor has it happened since.
The world number four, German Martin Kaymer, has played four Masters and never struck a ball at the weekend. A year older and wiser, that will come to an end this year.
Stateside, Kyle Stanley and USPGA Champion Keegan Bradley look like the pick of the new crop and if you're looking for an each way bet, then consider the South Korean, Bae-Sang moon.
This year's tournament may come a little too early for him, but he is an immense talent and has that far eastern gift of calmness.
In this column at the end of last year, I went for Tiger Woods and after his win at Bay Hill last Sunday, I'm going to stay with that.
I felt that if he could get fit and have a run of tournaments to regain his sharpness, his well-documented problems over the past three years would drift far enough into his past.
Despite the ever-increasing nucleus of top players, I still think he will be the one to beat.
As readers of this column, you will know that myself and Tiger were at loggerheads over the infamous Dubai spitting incident. In my position, I had no option but to do and say what I said. It was a mistake on Tiger's behalf born out of frustration. It happens, it was dealt with by the officials and it is now history.
Tiger will have to deal with more media focus when the book, 'The Big Miss', written by his former coach, Hank Haney, hits the shops and Internet this week.
My own conclusions amount to a feeling of disgust.
Haney has broken the unwritten code of ethics between player and coach. I have been close to my great friend, Darren Clarke over the past seven years. In that time, there has been sadness and joy and I don't need to explain that.
Golf-wise, there has been times when despite his dedication, he has failed to reach the heights he, and I expect of him. That is the way the sport goes.
Other times, the elation of winning has far surpassed the down times. I have shared some of the more humorous moments with you via this column, but 90 per cent of our times together are sacrosanct.
They are between Darren and myself and they remain there.
Haney was a reasonably well respected coach before his alliance with Tiger. He coached tour players such as Mark O'Meara and Tommy Armour the third.
He helped many amateurs through his golf schools and was respected by those who went to him for guidance. That respect has died and all for the sake of that dreaded evil, money.
One quote in his book sticks like glue in my throat. Haney was having lunch with his Dad and suggested to him that he could become Tiger's next coach.
He took a call from Tiger during that lunch and their relationship was born. "I'll be famous," he said. Like all good Dad's do, he asked his son if he really wanted to do this?
"For sure," said Haney, and so the marriage began. In his time with Haney, Woods' ratio of victories was even better than in the Butch Harmon years and during their time together, they enjoyed six major championships albeit to Butch's eight.
Now, I have no idea how much Haney was paid for his undoubted knowledge, but the salary and bonuses would be considerable. Not only that, Haney became a regular member of the Golf Channel's analysts' team. He even had his own series called 'Haney's project'. He would have enjoyed corporate days and various deals being Tiger's swing instructor.
Here was a decent coach making hay on the back of the greatest player in modern times. Not a lot wrong with any of that.
Then came the greed. His tweets on Twitter have been vile. "off to CBS, watch me with Piers Morgan" at ESPN re "the big miss"; "At Fox Sports to promote my new book" etc.
The re-tweets, i.e. those of his followers, have surpassed vile. Self-promotion comes to mind, but it's much worse than that.
This is an exploitation of trust based on pure greed and of course, Haney will be the winner... for a short period of time.
Like yesterday's newspapers, it will be old hat in no time, tossed aside like fish and chip papers.
When the dust settles as it surely will, Haney's reputation will be in tatters. He is set to make millions of dollars from his book and add to that the vast amount of dollars he has already made from being Tiger's coach, he's welcome to that. He can now sail off into the Mexican sunset to his holiday home with his new wife and live the life of Riley.
He can afford luxury but it's one thing affording that, another thing enjoying it. No decent tour pro will ever cross his path again, nor should any amateur golfer trying to improve his game. There are many fine instructors out there who have your interests at heart, worldwide you have a lot of choice.
Tiger has been betrayed by one he trusted.
So go on Tiger, win the Masters and challenge Jack's record. That's a story I would enjoy reading.
Finally, and not surprisingly, Haney's book comes out on the eve of the tournament. I will give it its rightful title, the big miss.
Nothing is bigger than the Masters and back to winning ways, right now, after exhaustive changes with his new coach, Tiger's game is once again the talk of the sport.
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