Frustrated Woods says future ‘up in air’

Haney resigns as swing coach

“I want to practice. I want to play,’’ said Tiger Woods, who will have an MRI later this week. “I want to practice. I want to play,’’ said Tiger Woods, who will have an MRI later this week. (Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Globe Wire Services / May 11, 2010

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NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. — Before last weekend, Tiger Woods was already in the midst of his most scrutinized professional season, one in which his private life was as likely to be analyzed as his life in public, one in which his results in golf tournaments — good or bad — could be linked by armchair psychologists to how well he was dealing with the tumult he has experiencing at home. Yesterday, though, Woods made clear that he’s unsure how much of this season will be left to pick apart, because the neck injury that forced him to withdraw from the Players Championship is bothersome enough that he has no idea when he’ll return to tournament play.

“A lot of that’s still up in the air right now,’’ Woods said. “It’s not a place where I wanted it to be, no doubt.’’

And when he does return, it will be with a new swing coach.

Hank Haney said in a statement to the Golf Channel late last night that he was resigning. Haney said he enjoyed working with Woods but thinks it’s time for him to step aside as his coach. Haney said it was his decision.

There had been speculation at the Players Championship that Woods was about to leave Haney, his swing coach since 2004. But Woods said earlier yesterday he was working with Haney on his swing.

Without Woods, the PGA Tour is back in the precarious position it found itself when the world’s No. 1 player took an indefinite leave of absence last December following revelations of a sex scandal. Normally, Woods said, he would like to play the Memorial June 3-6 in Columbus, Ohio — where he won a year ago — before playing the US Open June 17-20 at Pebble Beach, Calif., where he won the championship in 2000.

Now? He must get an MRI of the neck this week near his home in Windermere, Fla., before having even the faintest idea of how he’ll proceed. He repeatedly called the situation “frustrating’’ and “annoying.’’ He said the injury is more complicated than the massive leg problems that caused him to miss the second half of the 2008 season, because then he knew he needed surgery, and he knew he would be out. Yesterday, he sounded subdued, befuddled — and cautious.

“This is a little bit different,’’ Woods said. “This is an injury that I know it can get really bad. I’ve had numerous friends who have had injuries in their necks, and you just don’t want to mess with this.

“I want to practice. I want to play. I want to compete. But this is not allowing me to do the things that I need to do.’’

Woods spoke at a news conference at Aronimink Golf Club designed to promote the AT&T National — the tournament that benefits his foundation that is normally held at Congressional Country Club, but is spending two years here as the Bethesda, Md., club undergoes preparations to host the 2011 US Open.

Woods was supposed to hold a clinic, but instead spent almost the entirety of a 30-minute news conference discussing the specifics of his latest ailment.

“I can deal with the pain,’’ he said. “But once it locked up, I couldn’t move back or through, actually turn coming back or turn going through.’’

Woods said he had previously treated the injury — which first flared up about two weeks before the Masters — with anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy. Though he said last month that he suffered a busted-up lip and a “pretty sore neck’’ in the Nov. 27 single-car accident that unleashed a torrent of revelations about his apparently rampant infidelity, Woods quickly dismissed the notion that the accident was related to his current problems.

“Zero connection,’’ Woods said. “Absolutely zero. My neck started bothering me when I really started to practice a lot.’’

That practice, Woods said, might have been part of the problem. Woods’s exile — in which he spent time in therapy — covered 4 1/2 months, and he said yesterday that he might not have been prepared for an aggressive return to the practice range.

“I like to spend a lot of time working on my game,’’ Woods said. “My body wasn’t quite ready for that.’’