Probing Tiger’s Process With Sean Foley
By Stephanie Wei under Interviews

On Tuesday afternoon at Innisbrook’s Copperhead course, the site of the Transitions Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida, I ran into Sean Foley, who had just finished working on the range with last year’s Nationwide Tour money list winner, Jamie Lovemark. He stopped to chat and I mentioned that I enjoyed reading the Q&A he did with SI‘s Farrell Evans recently (along with Hank Haney losing his mind and going on a Twitter tirade).

Sean, smiling, said, “Did you like my Brandel Chamblee interview in Golf Canada?” Yeah, that one was good, too.

Naturally, Sean and I started discussing Tiger. In my humble opinion, we (the media) are sometimes too quick to point fingers at instructors — they’re not the ones swinging the club, after all.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

WUP: You’ve been under a lot of scrutiny and criticism lately. My thinking is there’s too much emphasis on blaming coaches. It’s almost like coaches are a scapegoat, but it’s doesn’t seem fair to blame the coach for everything. What’s your take?

Sean Foley: Look, I blame myself. I know I’ve said things to Sean O’Hair to cause him to miss the cut and I know I’ve said things to Sean O’Hair to help him win. But fact of the matter is in either situation he was the one who was actively hitting all the shots. I know my role, so I don’t get too upset.

As a player, you know what you’re doing, and (as a coach) I know what I’m seeing on a day-to-day basis with Tiger. I know at some point things will tip and when they tip, it’ll be all good. I know at some point he’ll be able to do what he’s (working on) and he’s starting to.

No one would have even known on TV last week with all the criticism that he finished fourth in greens in regulation (at the WGC-Cadillac Championship). Tell me the last time he finished fourth in greens and seventh in driving distance. His speed is coming back.

He got short and crooked the other way (he was swinging). When do you remember him bombing it down the fairways, anyway? I don’t remember that.

Fact is, Tiger is very happy with (what we’re doing) and that’s really all that matters.

WUP: What are you working on with Tiger’s chipping and putting?

SF: Well, that’s all speculation.

WUP: Sorry, let me rephrase — are you working with him on his chipping and putting?

SF: We’re just trying to make it a little more simple — less handsy. But when you’re in the process of making things more simple, it doesn’t look that way, but over time it becomes more simple. That’s all it is. People are like, “We don’t understand this matching short game with swing.” We’re not doing it that much. It’s not like OK, we have to match exactly where you are in your swing. We’re looking for a golf swing that has more rotation with the body and where the club face is more square. That’s all it is — better rotation and better face position. We’re doing the same thing with chipping, it’s not like we’re saying, here you are with your swing, now match that perfectly. You know what I mean?

WUP: Yeah, I think so. It’s just applying the same philosophy?

SF: Yeah, that’s all.

WUP: Got it. Everyone is reading too much into it then?

SF: Everyone is going to read too much into it when they don’t even ask the people that are performing it and doing it. Al you’ll ever read — there’s no discussion about him or me on these things. It’s just people saying, “I heard he was more on his left side.” I’ll show you all the videos, he’s not even close to that.

WUP: Speaking of videos, what’s the deal with you and Tiger looking at them all the time? Everyone is always saying, “Oh, I saw Tiger checking out video the entire practice round — that’s not a good sign!” To me, it doesn’t seem like a huge deal because I used to do that, but I can’t explain it eloquently (nor do I want to speculate). But I just assume he just wants to see his swing.

SF: Tiger will say, ‘I’m going to take this one and get it more upright. Whoa, that felt really upright.’ So then I show him the video, ‘Here you go, Tiger, this is what it looks like when it feels really up.’ It’s not like we’re getting incremental. We’re not sitting there saying, you have to be 31 degrees across the axis at this point.  It’s just more of a benchmark to know he can see how it feels. So then he can say, ‘Now I see what that feels like.’

Thanks, Sean!

(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)