Masters build-up a big miss
COLIN Montgomerie has pointed the finger at Tiger Woods's management team, suggesting their failure to draw up a contract with a former coach has led to embarrassment for the golfer, courtesy of a tell-all memoir.
Hank Haney's book, The Big Miss, was published on Tuesday and has become the talk of America with next week's Masters looming. Haney, who worked with Woods for six years during which time he won six majors, has appeared on several different networks promoting his work, including the influential Piers Morgan interview show on CNN.
In the face of growing criticism from the range, the Texan has defended the "revelations" in The Big Miss, which include Woods's coolness towards his then wife, an obsession with the military which, Haney claims, led to the knee trouble which threatened his career and his puerile and mean behaviour which featured him playing pornography in front of a fellow pro who is a devout Christian.
Woods is almost certain to be asked about the book at his pre-Masters press conference at Augusta next Tuesday, a likelihood which Montgomerie believes will be "very disappointing". Montgomerie plainly feels Woods should have been protected.
"It's like a Premiership manager being sacked," said the Scot yesterday. "You don't read many books of the stuff that went on. I'm amazed there wasn't some legal contract in place to stop this. This coach shouldn't have been allowed to have written it in the first place."
Woods and Montgomerie did share a management company, IMG, until two years ago when his long-time handler left, taking the 14-time major with him. The former IMG super agent Mark Steinberg is one of Woods's closest allies, although the latter may well be questioning why Haney was not forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
One reason might be because Haney was reported to be paid an hourly rate, with a $25,000 bonus for majors. Haney, himself, recognises the oversight, and said yesterday: "I never had a contract... I never signed an NDA or anything like that. Or else I couldn't have done the book, obviously. But I think that's one of the reasons they're upset about it. They think they screwed up."
NDA's are all but unheard of in golf, but despite the book being largely complimentary, Woods has called Haney "disloyal" and been backed by many who believe it unethical to spend so much time at another man's house and then write about his marriage. Haney's defence is simple. "Tiger never had a patent on my memories," he said.
Woods won his first official title in more than two years at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday and Montgomerie feels he will be even more motivated to win his first major in four years. "I think the name of the book is The Big Miss," said Montgomerie. "Well, that was 'The Big Hit 'last week and Tiger will be determined to put that book to rest. And if he putts as well as he did in Bay Hill he will be winning, or if not, be right there. I witnessed it in 1997 [when Montgomerie played with Tiger in the first Masters he won]. It was crazy. The pace control of those putts under those conditions was sublime."
Montgomerie is anticipating a vintage Masters and, in Woods and Rory McIlroy, sees a rivalry for the ages. "We have two guys right at the top of the game," he said. "It's like Federer versus Nadal for the last five years. We could have that now and it's going to be very exciting to see what happens."
Apart from watching his girlfriend, Caroline Wozniacki, play in Miami, McIlroy has also fitted in two practice rounds at Augusta this week. Montgomerie hopes he spent the time exorcising the demons of last year's final-round 80, which was capped by a triple bogey seven on the 10th. "He should hit as many shots off the 10th tee in practice as he can," he said. "Because that's the shot everybody will be focusing on in the first round. Let's pray he gets rid of that."
While McIlroy and Woods are preparing away from competition, Lee Westwood will tee it up today, alongside Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke, in the first round of the Houston Open.