Commentary

Haney: Tiger predicted U.S. Open victory despite two leg fractures

Originally Published: June 18, 2008
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

We saw him limp through 91 holes, wince with every big swing and win the U.S. Open in a playoff over Rocco Mediate on Monday despite virtually no preparation for the tournament.

Now we are learning that Tiger Woods' participation and triumph in the major championship at Torrey Pines is even more remarkable.

Woods announced Wednesday that he will have reconstructive ACL surgery on his left knee and will miss the remainder of the golf season.

Hank Haney, Woods' swing coach, said Wednesday that the world's No. 1-ranked golfer defied his doctor's advice and even predicted he'd win the Open.

"The week of Memorial [two weeks before the Open], I thought there was no chance he could play," Haney said in a telephone interview from his home in Texas. "The doctors told him he needed to be on crutches for three weeks and then three more weeks of inactivity, and then you start rehabbing.

"But Tiger looked the guy in the eye and said, 'I'm playing in the U.S. Open and I'm going to win.' Then he started putting on his shoes and told me we're going to go practice. It's just incredible."

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Woods will also need time to rehabilitate a double stress fracture of his left tibia that was discovered just prior to the Memorial. Those fractures were attributed to his rehab after arthroscopic knee surgery on April 15.

Haney said the extent of Woods' preparation for the U.S. Open was hitting four or five practice balls at a time before heading back to a golf cart.

"He couldn't walk," Haney said. "The 50 balls I'm talking about him hitting included the first 15 warm-up wedges. You're talking about 30 full swings a day."

"Tiger has such an incredible pain tolerance," Haney said. "When he said he was going to play, I knew he was going to play. The thing that concerned me most was, was he going to be able to walk? Was it just going to deteriorate so much that he wasn't going to be able to swing at all?

"And that didn't take into account the issue that he hadn't had any preparation. He didn't get to play. He didn't get to do anything. That was the concern. But Tiger has such an incredible pain tolerance.

"In my mind, I honestly thought he was just going to give it his best effort, his 100 percent best effort all the way up until the tournament. I knew he wasn't going to bag it two weeks before. He was going to hope for a miracle until the last possible point that he couldn't make it. In my mind, that was the most likely scenario: He just would try until the end and then come to the realization that he couldn't go. When he canceled out of the Memorial, he was in real bad shape then. He couldn't have played in the U.S. Open then. He couldn't even move."

Haney believes Woods had no choice but to go through with surgery now. And that, in the long run, he'll be better off.

"Why wouldn't he? I expect him to be much better than ever," Haney said. "He's going to have a strong leg and a structurally sound knee. He hasn't had that in years. There is no reason that he won't be better than he's ever been. He's going to have all this time to think about the improvements that he's going to make in his golf swing and everything else.

"It's just incredible he accomplished what he did. I'm so proud of him. I can't believe it. The guy's heart and his toughness ... wow. It really is just wow. I don't know what more you can say than that."

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com