Charles Barkley is heading off to have breakfast with his new golf coach (and possible savior) Hank Haney. We learn from friends that Barkley was a pretty good golfer years ago, but his game has since deteriorated into a punchline. Barkley seems sincere in his love of golf and his desire to fix his problems, and he’s saddened and humbled by what’s happened to his game.
We learn from a cognitive therapist that Barkley’s swing problems are mostly mental. Being a celebrity and feeling like he’s in a fishbowl has put pressure on him, and being watched and scrutinized — not to mention laughed at — during celebrity golf events may have messed with his head.
A side-by-side comparison of Barkley’s golf swing shows us the way it was in 1994 and what it looks like now. Wow. The difference is amazing. Not to mention the difference in Barkley’s girth.
After seeing Tiger Woods’ impression of Barkley’s golf swing, Sir Charles gets a few jabs in on Tiger. “He’s a jackass, too,” Barkley says of Woods. “He’s a flash in the pan. Clearly, his hair is leaving us quickly.” Ouch. He gets in another dig at Tiger later on. “I’m the closest thing [Haney’s] ever come to working with a stud.”
Haney asks Barkley if he’s willing to do a “Tiger Day” of practice. It’s a dawn-to-dusk regimen of lifting weights, hitting balls, putting, playing nine holes, hitting more balls, playing another nine holes, then hitting more balls. Most people couldn’t keep up with it. I feel wiped out after hitting a bucket at the range, so a Tiger Day sounds brutal.
Haney puts Barkley’s swing under video analysis. Looks like the biggest problem (of many) is that Barkley’s dropping his head way down. This causes the pivot point in the pendulum of his swing to drop, and if he were to follow through with the swing, he’d hit the turf about two feet behind the ball. This is causing Barkley to stop mid-swing to readjust. He’s also regripping the club in the middle of his swing instead of maintaining a firm grip. And his elbows are all bent out of shape.
Haney puts Barkley through a first day of hitting balls that feels more like a run at boot camp. He’s hitting balls in wind, heat and rain. And he’s got his drill instructor Haney barking at him all day, too. And Sir Charles sticks it out with a great attitude — he actually looks like he might improve quickly.
Of course, previews for the season ahead show that it’s not going to be quite so easy.
Photo: Credit: GOLF CHANNEL