My biggest criticism of Tiger’s game during the Haney era was twofold…one was the stupidly, over-flat swing plane and the other, which kinda ties in, being the short, crooked drives.  In the Haney era, the best two ballstriking performances were at the 2006 Open in Liverpool and the 2007 PGA at Southern Hills.  What marked both of these performances as something better than the norm?  The abandonment of that flat swing plane allowing Tiger to truly unleash and be the player he was when he was at his most dominant…only with a more mature game.

Well, despite this season’s finishes, I think it’s safe to say that getting that Haney stink off of him has freed Tiger up to be the golfer he was, and yesterday proved that Tiger still has the ability to keep up with the big boys when it comes to driving the ball.

Despite his 73, Tiger’s ballstriking was fantastic and it was his normally spectacular short game that failed him.  Paired with bomber Dustin Johnson and fellow big hitter Davis Love III, Tiger was keeping in step with the both of them the entire round, showing incredible distance paired with accuracy that had belied him in under Haney’s direction.  The swing was more upright, the hips cleared, no more blocking shots to the right and lo and behold, power and accuracy.

Which brings us to Haney’s Golf Digest interview…

Now, I’ve never been a Haney fan and never truly understood why Tiger, the greatest player in the game, would go see a dude who really hasn’t taught anyone else.  I mean, it’s easy to get caught up in the name game, but isn’t it something to be wary of if a teacher spends all his time with kids rather than with Tour pros?  I’m not saying Haney’s a bad teacher, but the proof is in the pudding when it comes to his work with Tiger…the length went away, Tiger started thinking too much and the major wins started drying up.  I wish I could provide another great example to counteract this evidence, maybe Mark O’Meara’s work with Haney over a decade ago counts, but it just seems to me, after seeing Tiger’s swing turn to crap and watching Haney on the Golf Channel, that maybe Haney’s analytical approach wasn’t the best fit for Tiger’s mindset.

I’m not making excuses for Tiger, but clearly, I’m more of a Tiger fan than a Haney fan.

And the question remains…why is Tiger’s swing better whenever he gets pissed off and starts hearing criticism of his game?  And why, in his best ballstriking performances in the past eight or so years, have occurred when he abandons the overly flat swing plane Haney preaches?  It’s not that Haney’s method is bad, it’s just that it wasn’t a good fit right from the beginning.  It also shows that Tiger’s distance advantage is not a thing of the past and he still has that bomber mentality that served him so well in the past.

I think we’re seeing Tiger move into a new era.  He looks like a different golfer, kind of a meld of his former self and the new Tiger, the one with all the iron shots and all the game in the world from 100 yards in.  These things take time, and I’m sure that Tiger has a long term plan that involves actually making some putts and hitting his wedges like a man instead of Alice, but you have to be encouraged by seeing him AVERAGE 330 yards off the tee and lead the field in there.  As for the 57% accuracy?  Was that any worse when he was 50 yards shorter?  No.

Tiger’s ballstriking has been fantastic since the Open, even though his overall game is rusty.  Again, these things take time and it’s a process…we’re early in the process, but if yesterday showed us anything it’s that Tiger can still overpower a golf course with his distance.  Unfortunately for his scorecard yesterday, he forgot to put his putter in the bag…but it’ll come.  It most certainly will come.