Some Say Tiger is Making a Mistake With Sean Foley

Today’s post got started when I discovered this column by Golf Digest’s, Alex Myers, “Chamblee weighs in on Woods again: ‘I definitely think Tiger is overcoached.'”

Myers relates the reasons that The Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee continues to believe that Woods’ coach, Sean Foley, has not been good for him. He believes that the amazing natural talent that Woods exuded in his early career when he was working with Butch Harmon has been stifled by too much technical emphasis. When once he could warm up on the range and naturally hit all nine shots (draw, straight, cut through all three trajectories, high, regular, low), now he’s consumed with thinking and can’t hit a draw with his driver. Johnny Miller also offered some criticism. 

That started me thinking about Tiger leaving Foley and going back to his roots and I was reminded that Sean O’Hair had left Foley. When Tiger came into the fold, his four most prominent players were Hunter Mahan, Justin Rose, O’Hair and Stephen Ames. This post at announcing the split, “O’Hair decides to leave swing coach Foley,” says that O’Hair simply wanted to go in a new direction. For his part, Foley said that it was all part of the business, he was still a big fan, and wished him well.

But looking for more on O’hair’s decision, I came across this article by the esteemed golf writer, Jaime Diaz, “Sean O’ Hair. At Peace.” Written a year before the split, it is Diaz at his best getting to the core of who these players are. And in O’Hair’s case, there were many levels of very personal stuff gently told. While it does shed light on the relationship he had with Foley at the time, I was drawn to it more because of what O’Hair has had to deal with in his life to get where he is. Not in very good shape this year; he’s playing in the Tour Finals in an effort to win his card back. But this article gives you a sense that no matter what happens, O’Hair will be alright.

I remembered that Stephen Ames had also left Foley and found this article at, “Foley’s Full Plate Leaves Ames On The Outs.” Alas, the Tour pro who gave Foley his start, couldn’t find room at the trough anymore and was now back home in Calgary, lost and aimlessly pounding balls. Reading the entire article, it becomes apparent that these are not circumstances of Foley’s doing, but rather Ames’ quirky personality and communications with Foley. Mahan backs that up and supports Foley saying that Foley’s schedule is chaotic, but he finds the time for his guys.

And finally, have you ever wondered just what Foley and Tiger are talking about? I found this extensive review of Foley’s DVD, “Critical Review: ‘Next Generation with Sean Foley’ DVD.” The writer is in search of the “Perfect Golf Swing” and has an impressive site devoted to all aspects of the swing. What’s interesting about his DVD review is that he illustrates his points with photos I assumed to be from the DVD. So you get the distinctions he’s trying to make about Foley’s teachings in words and pictures. It is quite thorough and he makes interesting points.

As for Chamblee’s and Miller’s criticisms of Tiger’s swing, the truth is that he’s won five times this year including The Players, the WGC at Doral and the WGC at Firestone.

There was a period in Tiger’s early work with Foley that he was lost in space from a playing perspective, but was ironclad sure that he was on the right path and he just needed to get the reps in. As he slowly did all that hard work, things began to come around and ended up being quite spectacular.

But the problem with working on the golf swing is that it’s a little bit like trying to peg all four corners of a tent in blustery winds on hard ground. About the time you master that last corner, one of the other ones pops out again.

Honing a golf swing is an iterative process that frequently gets you to one peak only to discover that there is another one beyond.

So it would not surprise me to eventually learn that all of the Tiger’s swing work has fallen into place through the bag and now it’s time, once again, to add that last bit of conformity to his driver.

Since he has the most at stake in all of this and he seems unworried by the process, perhaps we shouldn’t be either.

Tiger is probably the best person to know when he should be doing something else.

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