The Golf Blog: Did Hank Haney and Jaime Diaz sell out Tiger Woods for The Big Miss book?

mulligan, 10 April 2012, Comments Off on The Golf Blog: Did Hank Haney and Jaime Diaz sell out Tiger Woods for The Big Miss book?
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The Golf Blog says: Hank Haney’s book about Tiger Woods, The Big Miss, co-authored with veteran golf writer Jaime Diaz, is the No. 1 New York Times bestseller for nonfiction books. The book has drawn mixed reviews from readers on Amazon–some praising it as a fair book, while others questioning the possible breach of Tiger’s confidences, gossipy details, and reportedly self-serving chapter about how Haney’s instruction was better than Butch Harmon’s.

We would love to read this book, but before we do, we need to answer a fundamental ethical question: should we give money to Haney and Diaz by buying their book if Haney breached a student-teacher confidential relationship or ethic?

In his defense, Haney posits 2 justifications: (1) These are his “memories,” too–he was a witness to history, and (2) other coaches (Joe Torre and Phil Jackson) have written books. Neither justification seems convincing. They don’t answer the fundamental question: does a golf coach hired by a professional golfer owe some duty of confidentiality to that student?

If there is no formal duty–such as doctor/patient, lawyer/client, priest/parishioner, accountant/client, teacher/student, counselor/patient–then we might ask whether golfers believe there is an informal or implied duty when they hire a coach? Our guess is probably, but we’d like to get the views of some tour players and coaches. (Rick Smith, for one, says there is such a duty.)

Haney’s contention that it’s his memory too avoids answering this important ethical question. Doctors, counselors, teachers, and the like all have “memories” with their patients or students, but they are not free to disclose whatever they want about those memories. Teachers, for example, couldn’t publicly disclose the grades they gave their students without violating their confidentiality duty–and the law, notwithstanding the “memories” they shared in teaching the students.

Morevoer, the difference with a manager of a baseball team or head coach of a basketball team is that, in those professional relationships, the coaches are not hired by the players, and the relationships are not one-on-one. Neither Torre nor Jackson wrote a book about Alex Rodriguez or Michael Jordan. They wrote about the teams they managed. By contrast, Haney wrote a book about Tiger Woods. But Tiger hired Haney to work for Tiger, in a one-on-one, exclusive relationship. This kind of close relationship seems more likely to raise a reasonable expectation by the player that his private interactions with the golf coach he hired won’t be divulged publicly, much less in a book. For example, what if Tiger revealed to Haney during a practice session that Tiger’s worst golf resulted from being paired with a a slow player. Wouldn’t Tiger have a reasonable expectation that his private disclosure about his weakness wouldn’t ever be revealed by Haney? Haney’s ruminations about how Tiger feared the driver seem pretty close to that kind of revelation. Or what if Tiger confided in Haney that he had a sex addiction? Would it be appropriate for Haney to divulge that in a book? That kind of personal revelation seems akin to what Haney reportedly discloses about Elin’s reaction after learning about the affairs. If there are things that Haney would not disclose, what separates those facts from what he did reveal about Tiger?

It seems to us that, at very least, Haney owed Tiger a call to ask him for his consent to write the book. Had Tiger said no (as he likely would), Haney might have had to contemplate more seriously the ethical question in his writing a book about his own student. With that said, we haven’t made a final decision about this important question. Please email us if you have comments or reaction.

UPDATE: We received some comments about Jaime Diaz, a senior writer and now editor of Golf World and Golf Digest, who helped Haney write the book about Tiger. Diaz is very well-respected (interviewed Tiger numerous times in the past), but he may be complicit in Haney’s ethical breach if one was committed. We’ll have more to say about Jaime Diaz in another post.


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