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July 18, 2013

Hank Haney


THE MODERATOR:  Hank, we had Michael Phelps in here a little while ago talking about your instruction.  He's put on you the spot, just so you know.  So you'll probably get nailed here.
HANK HANEY:  He was a good student.  So he's allowed to do that.

Q.  You've been a regular guest here the last few years, and a number of your students obviously here.  Charles Barkley and Ray Romano and Michael Phelps.  So give us a little comparison to the three, tell us a little bit about Michael and try to morph to the other two if you would.
HANK HANEY:  Well, first off, it's incredible, I think, for the game of golf to have Michael Phelps just playing the game of golf, because I mean he's the greatest Olympian ever.  So it's great to have him involved in golf and liking the game and playing the game.  I think he just helps promote the whole game in general.
So it's awesome to see him in golf and it's really graduate it to see him playing the tournament.  He loves to compete.  So I already know he's probably a little nervous because this is for a different stage than he's used to.  But he's having a lot of good experience already from doing our show.
He played at the Pro‑Am at the Ryder Cup and then he played over at the Dunhill Cup in Scotland, went to the Pro‑Am in Phoenix, played on the 17 hole there.  That's a little prep for him on the 17 hole when they get on him over there.
But he's passionate about the game, and he's been practicing and improving.  But it's a hard game.  And he hasn't had a lot of time to practice golf because he's been swimming, but now he's into golf pretty big.  So it's fun to see.
I think he's somebody that has obviously a lot of potential.  He's got a great body for the game of golf.  He's 6'3".  A long wing span.  He can hit the ball a long way if I can get him to speed up a little bit.
But I have high hopes for the fact he's going to be a really good golfer some day.  And then Ray Romano ‑‑  Ray is as passionate as anybody about the game of golf.  And I love him, but he's a little hard on himself.  So in golf that doesn't usually work out so good and trying to get‑‑ I remember the first day we worked, I said:  Ray you've got to be a little more positive.  He said:  Hank, that's how I made all my money, making fun of this or making fun of that and of himself.
But in golf, boy, it's a hard game.  And you have to be positive.  But Ray's always trying to get better and improving.  I see him a few times a year and I try to give him some tips and enjoy it.  And Charles Barkley is one of my favorite people in the world.  He loves golf.  And golf loves him.
And I mean honestly my probably biggest wish is that he could really play and enjoy the game.
And couple of weeks ago he came down to Dallas where my wife and Suzanne and I live.  And it was my wife's birthday.  He came down to see us and stuff.  We practiced for a couple of days and he told me:  Hank, he said, I've hit more shots in the last 48 hours than I've hit in the last 20 years.
So I'm hoping that he won't pitch a no‑hitter here.  I'm not under any illusion that he's going to hit like all these great shots.  But I think I'd be disappointed if he didn't hit some better ones, because if he really hits some good shots.
I actually tweeted a picture the other day it was a great story because we were practicing in my course Vaquero where I live.  And we were on the 18th hole.  This guy walked out of the clubhouse.  He heard Charles and I were out there.  He wanted to see Charles.
He walks down, and he's walking toward the 18th green and he's about five steps from the 18th green right when Charles hits his ball and he flew it in the hole from 60 yards.  I took a picture of Charles getting the ball in the hole and he actually had a witness because I'm sure nobody would ever believe it because Charles usually says his goal is just to get one above his ankles and he'd be happy.
But he's hitting some better shots.  He's always good on the range.  Even though it doesn't look like it, that's a long walk from that range to the first tee, especially here at tournament.

Q.  As far as Michael's athleticism, that has to play a major impact and a major role in his ability to get better quicker, doesn't it?
HANK HANEY:  Not just‑‑ Michael can get better quicker because he's obviously so athletic.  But he just has a great focus.  First off, he's used to taking instruction.  He's had a coach his whole life.  So it's nothing new for him to have coaching, having instruction.  He knows how to take coaching well.
He knows that it takes commitment.  And the one thing that really I was impressed with, when I worked with him, is he would always say like baby steps, baby steps.  Just taking baby steps.  He's very, very aware that it's hard.  And he has no problem just taking baby steps.
And he's pleased with it if he is.  And that's how you have to be in golf.  Because if you just take enough little steps you can cover a lot of ground.  So he's got the right attitude.  He'll get upset if he's just not doing great, but he realizes it's a hard game and he's very aware of that.  But he also is pleased when he just sees some progress of any kind.  So he's got the right attitude.  And obviously he's a winner.  He knows how to compete.
And even when he wasn't very good at the game, which was when we first started, I mean, he played six times after the Olympics.  He shot between 98 and 117 he said.  And the last show we did he shot 85.  But even when he wasn't very good, I noticed that when he was under pressure, he was actually better.  So he was even better.  So that's always a good sign.

Q.  As far as the Hank Haney Project, a number of your students have obviously participated in this event.  Is this an annual scouting report for you as well, or what?
HANK HANEY:  Yeah, I mean, there's certainly a lot of possibilities.  I mean but the biggest one everybody keeps coming up to me, all the nice people that are here watching the tournament, they're always like you oughta do an average Joe show.  But everyone wants to be the average Joe.  I'm just not sure who is going to watch the average Joe.  But they all want to be the average Joe.
I had like probably about 100 people today volunteer to be the average Joe for the next Haney Project.  So we've gotta do something with the average player.  And I think probably people would enjoy just seeing anybody improve.

Q.  We'd be happy to have one of the fans here at the American Century Championship be a winner in a contest.
HANK HANEY:  From the greatest Olympian ever to average Joe.

Q.  Greatest Olympian ever.  I watched the episode when you gamely exposed your golfer's tan and took some swimming lessons in front of everybody.
HANK HANEY:  My gosh, that was fun.

Q.  I want to know, I listened to him say your mechanics could be this‑‑ have you assimilated his lessons that he gave you?
HANK HANEY:  Absolutely.  Oh my gosh.  We did that for the show.  Obviously you're trying to find things that unique and different and make the show interesting.
But to get in the pool with Michael Phelps and get a swim lesson, are you kidding me, that was one of the biggest thrills in my life.
That was so much fun it was unbelievable.  And I love to swim, but I'm not what you call great.  And Michael gave me some great lessons and some great tips, and I practiced a lot.  So, yeah, I'm getting better.

Q.  I wanted to see if you assimilated the lessons from another coach like we have to try to do when we're doing golf swing things.
HANK HANEY:  It's a little easier when it's Michael Phelps giving you a swim lesson.  (Laughter) I mean, he's not your average coach.  He's got a little credibility walking through the door.  He's got 22 of them, 18 of them are gold.  So he's got a lot of credibility.

Q.  I know you recently created your foundation, was it in 2011?

Q.  I'm wondering, how is it going with that foundation?  Are you enjoying‑‑ is it enjoying success and do you think you'll ever sponsor or create your own celebrity golf tournament?
HANK HANEY:  Well, I mean, that would be certainly something that I'm looking at doing.  I'm trying to do.  We've got a tournament coming up in October that will be our first attempt at that.
Just on a local level at a course that I own in Texarkana, Texas, and to benefit my foundation.  And you know the thing is that you feel like‑‑ and I do.  The game of golf has been so incredibly good to me.  I feel like just the luckiest guy in the world and so incredibly blessed I've had all the opportunities I've had.
So to use golf as an avenue and a vehicle to give back a little bit is certainly something that is very exciting to me and something I want to do.  And in answer to your question about the success, I mean, we got good plans to be more successful.
And I do a lot of things for charities.  I don't teach private golf lessons anymore and the only time I do is when it's for a charitable donation.
But I just I want to try to do more, no doubt about it.

Q.  I want to take you across the pond for just a couple of questions.  Rory McIlroy I heard it coming over, he changed equipment and therefore his game went south.  I know there's no real answer to it, but I'd like your input with that.
HANK HANEY:  Well, I mean, the worst part‑‑ you can argue about the equipment.  I think probably the biggest issue would be the ball, because it's quite a bit different.  But I think the biggest problem isn't the equipment.  I think the biggest problem is people asking you constantly about the equipment.  That's the biggest problem.  If you don't get off‑‑ if you change equipment and you don't get off to a good start everybody's going to ask you about your equipment.
And then they're going to keep you asking about your equipment and going to keep asking about your equipment.  And then you start trying different pieces of equipment because now you start to even though you don't want to admit it to the media you start this driver is not quite right or this is not quite right because maybe it's because of your swing or whatever, but now there might be some self‑doubt that goes in there.  That's the bigger issue, the attention everybody brings to it.  And people can say that I don't listen things; I'm not going to listen to my critics and everything, but that's just not the real world.  I don't know of anybody that doesn't hear those things.
And it has to have some impact on you.  Now, is that the only problem, I think that's one of the problems.  I think another problem is that awful high expectations based on how he finished last year.  Rory McIlroy is a player that's missed a lot of cuts.  He's missed way more cuts than Tiger Woods has in his whole career.
Probably within two years' time he would miss more cuts than Tiger has in his whole career.  So I look at that.  I look at the statistics.  You look at Tiger Woods and this year he's ranked 35th or something in greens regulation.
But every year‑‑ almost every year I coached Tiger he was number one in greens regulation.  Almost every year Butch helped him, he was number one in greens regulation.  Every year in Jack Nicklaus' career he was number one or right at the top.  Rory McIlroy, if you look at the statistics in years leading up to this year, his statistics have been such that you wouldn't look at the statistics and say he's going to be a dominant No. 1 player.
There's not statistical evidence to back that up, other than the great wins that he had last year.
90percent of the wins on the PGA TOUR, when they come, the player who wins finishes top 10 that week in putting.  Having said that, the No. 1 putter last year on the tour was Brandt Snedeker, he only finished top10 in putting six times in the whole year out of 24 events.  So what you have to do is you have to parlay a great ball‑striking week with a great putting week.  And Rory McElroy did that four times at the end of last year.
Now for somebody who is 65th in greens regulation and 60 something in putting like he was last year, that's unbelievable that you could hit four parlays like that.  But he did.
And then all of a sudden everybody says he's this is going to be the norm, he's going to win all these tournaments.  And those unrealistic expectations put more pressure on you and then you're asked about the equipment.  You've got unrealistic expectations that are being placed, you're going to be the next Tiger Woods or the next whatever.  And I think all those things add up to the fact that he struggled this year.
He's a phenomenal player, but let's make no mistake about it, he's not Tiger Woods.  I mean, that's not a close comparison.  I mean, now when I look at his game this year, his ball‑striking has been good.  He's the best he's ever been in greens regulation, but he's 100‑‑ he's way up there in putting.  You'll have to look it up, but 150 or something.  He's just horrible statistic.
And you can say whatever you want and people can talk about the golf swing and this and that; you don't putt, you don't win, just as simple as that.  That's professional golf and, yeah, you gotta hit it good, gotta do all this stuff, but you have to be able to putt.
And there ain't anybody‑‑ there ain't a No. 1 player in the world ever 150th in putting.  It just doesn't happen.
His ball‑striking this year, even though that's getting the attention, which everybody talks about the equipment and everything else, but if you look at his statistics, it's his putting.  His putting is not well at all.  It's a complicated question.  It's not just one thing.

Q.  I want to bring you back to a long‑time student of yours, if you notice Mark O'Meara got off to a pretty hot start today.  And he could roll his rock in his days.
HANK HANEY:  And that happens at the British, especially when it's playing hard and fast.  Distance isn't a factor.  The players are, a lot aren't even using drivers.  And if you're older‑‑ the big thing when you're older, it really gets down to distance.  I mean, that's just the bottom line.
And that's not a factor.  Because the ball's rolling out so much.  The fairways are so fast.  The other thing that you look at is the experience and British Open is much different.  You have to be able to play those kind of shots, those low shots, those run‑up shots.  You have to have a feel for kind of courses.  Mark O'Meara has a tremendous record not only won the British Open but he's won over in Europe.  He has a lot of experience and we saw it a couple of weeks ago with Tom Watson.
So this is a tournament where it used to be you would see that at Augusta.  And Jack was 46.  So you saw the big kind of surprise, if you will, at Augusta.  That was on the old Augusta, not on the new lengthened Augusta.
So the surprise you'll see now is the Open Championship.  And we saw it with Greg Norman when he almost won and we saw it with Tom Watson, he almost won.  So it's not that big a surprise that it's Mark O'Meara.  And Tom Lehman was playing very well today, too, two players that have great track records there.

Q.  When you were talking during this last question, you mentioned the ball might be a difference between the titles, can you explain that?
HANK HANEY:  It's a different feel.  And that's when you look at the equipment, you know, he plays with blade irons.  So there's not that much‑‑ I mean, there's not going to be that much difference.
The wedges that every company makes are of a similar design in the flange and everything else.  And it's easily grinded to make it exactly the same.
So the irons and the wedges pretty much the same.  Now, that brings you to what's left and what's left is the putter, the woods and the ball.  So it's not‑‑ the equipment, well equipment is a big category.  But we're really only looking at a few things.  We're really only looking at you don't hit your 3‑wood that much.  You're only looking at the driver and the ball.  And then the putter.
Okay, the face of the putter is different.  But basically they're all, a lot of these putters look the same.  They're really all take‑offs from PINGs, back in the day PINGs.  Not that much difference.  So it gets down to the ball and driver, I think, and those are the only two things you can point to that you can say are different.  And there's a different feel.

Q.  As I look at the odds‑‑
HANK HANEY:  Not just a different feel but a different flight.  They're different in the wind.  And it doesn't matter‑‑ it's not to say one's better than the other, it's just to say they're different.  And different is something that you have to get adjusted to.

Q.  I'm looking at the odds of some of the students you've had over the years.
HANK HANEY:  Is Charles‑‑ how is Charles looking?

Q.  Charles is again at 500 to 1.  But follow this.  Then we have Romano at 300 to 1.  Phelps is 100 to 1.  You're getting there.
HANK HANEY:  I am getting there.  I mean, it's like you know I mean maybe some day, you know?  I guess I'm going to try to get somebody to crack the 100 to 1 odds, that would be my next goal.  But I'm‑‑ Adam Levine wants to play sometime.  So he'll be somebody that will get in here before you know it.
He's turned into a real passionate golfer.  Loves the game.  Obviously they did the concert here last year.  But his game wasn't quite ready.  He's working on it.  Practicing every day and playing every day.  He went from absolute beginner to being able to‑‑ he shot 88 the other day.  So he's going to be coming on pretty soon.  But I think Michael has a future.  It's going to take him a little while though.
Golf's a hard game.  It takes time.

Q.  Obviously you and Tiger will always be linked because of the relationship you had as his instructor.  How do you like his chances this week over at the British?
HANK HANEY:  I pick Tiger for every tournament he plays in because he's the best player.  And if you ask me who is going to win, I always pick the best player.
And when I coached him I was right 45percent of the time.  The thing is, is the best player doesn't always win.  But if you're going to pick a player, I mean how do you not take the best player and when‑‑ he's not just the best player, he's way the best player.
Now, you factor in that.  Then you look at a British Open that has experience as a big factor.  I think that tips a little more in Tiger's favor.  Muirfield is a pino, long, hard golf course.  That goes against Tiger but that's negated by the fact that it hasn't rained all summer and everything and it's playing real fast.
Now you're looking at a situation where there's going to be very few drivers or even fairer woods, he's hitting a lot of irons off the tee.  That's back in Tiger's favor.  I like his chances.
But in golf it's the same thing with every player who plays the game, it boils down to three things, and even with the best players in the world:  First thing is you have to eliminate your big miss.  You have to eliminate penalty shots.  At the end of the day, you just can't have penalty shots.
Tiger had a penalty shot off the first tee today.  Then you have to eliminate what I call two chips, two chips, two pitches, two sand shots.  Whenever you get in close proximity to the green, you have to get the ball in the green in one shot.  Penalty shots, two chips, and next thing is three putts.  When you add up, with Tiger, it will really almost always‑‑ like Augusta was clearly penalty shots.  Four penalty shots he lost the tournament.
And really those occurred from a bad break.  And if he doesn't hit the pin and then should have would have could have, but mean people including myself thinks it might have been a different result at the Masters if he didn't hit that pin and people are asking why hasn't he won in five years.
But you eliminate the penalty shots.  You eliminate the two chips, you eliminate the 3‑putts.  If Tiger doesn't win the Open Championship, you will add up the 3‑putts and you'll add up the penalty shots and that will be the margin of defeat.  And it will almost always hold true.

Q.  Who do you see as the best player here at the American Century Championship?
HANK HANEY:  Oh, my gosh.  I mean, I like Jack Wagner, he's a great player.  I played with Jack at Michael Douglas's tournament.  I saw him play and compete firsthand up, close, personal.
We had a group to play, him and Brian Baumgartner and I and Tony Dovolani from Dancing With the Stars.  But we had a great time.  And we got in the playoff.  It was just a nine hole match.  We got into the playoff.  And we were playing on the 18th hole against the other team that we were playing, I forget who it was.  But anyway, it was a really tough driving haul.
And we were trying to decide who is going to hit the drive.  Jack right away said:  I'm going to hit the drive.  It was a really hard driving haul.  And he just hit the greatest drive that you could hit.  And I've been around a lot of great players.  I mean, this was a great drive.
So I have a lot of respect for his game.  And not just his game, but his gamesmanship, what I mean is his ability to play under pressure, and I think he's a phenomenal player.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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