Foley: Quit hatin’ on Tiger; Butch: Lose the swing coach(es)
By Stephanie Wei under Tiger Woods

Putter throw!

Tiger Woods’ current and former swing coaches, Sean Foley and Butch Harmon, respectively, both weighed in with opinions on the 14-time major champ earlier this week. Foley thinks the fish-bowl critiquing of Tiger has gotten out of control. (Hasn’t he always been under more scrutiny than everyone else? It’s part of the gig.) Speaking on the XM Sirius show “Fairways of Life” hosted by Matt Adams, Foley says, back off, my man!

“I know everyone has a job to do, and I get it. But if it is about the game of golf, Tiger Woods is an extremely important part of the game, and I think everyone understands that. It has just gotten to the point where the tearing down of Tiger as a person and a golfer has become just too much. I think it is just out of hand.

“I realize it is 2012 and we have dot-coms, and you have to write five articles a day, and you run out of things to write about. But we should be in a position where we are trying to help and lift up and support a player like Tiger Woods instead of tearing him down, because everyone in the golf industry is better off because of his existence.”

Case in point here! (Thanks for understanding, Sean.) And there’s no denying Tiger’s boosted the golf business.

“That is basically one thing I want to get out. Tiger is a wonderful person, and he is a good dude, and he lives a complex life. I think things have got to slow down, and it has got to stop, the daily referendums and the criticism.”

I don’t think the five posts a day on Tiger are necessarily knocking him down. Many are commentary and points for discussion — which, as Foley said he understands is our job — and just because we’re not hero-worshipping him, it doesn’t mean we’re ripping him a new one, either.

Meanwhile, Butch Harmon, not known to mince words, shared his opinions on Tiger’s current struggles, according to the Wall Street Journal:

“For me, and I think we saw this at the Masters, he looks like he’s playing ‘golf- swing’ and not golf,” Harmon said. “In my opinion, he’s very robotic. And you could see that at Augusta with all his practice swings and the double-cross shots when he’s trying to fade it and he hooks it. I think everyone thought because he won at Bay Hill that he was back; well, he didn’t hit it great at Bay Hill, he hit it OK. And Bay Hill’s not a major.”

“When I had him, I’m more of a natural-type teacher, I like to keep what you do naturally and just try to improve on it. I like to let you be creative, which he was good at.” There comes a point where swing changes, no matter how sound and well-intended, can become counterproductive. “Under pressure,” Harmon said, “which swing am I using? What am I thinking? What are my eyes seeing? There’s too much more that goes into it than just the actual swing. He’s changed so many times he may have confused himself.

“And for me, I think he’s lost his nerve putting. I think his nerves are bad, and he’s lost his confidence.”

From my amateur perspective, I completely agree. When you get to a certain level, putting is mostly mental and becomes more about feel than technique. Gary Gilchrist, who teaches world No. 1 Yani Tseng and Peter Hanson, among others, made similar remarks to Butch when I spoke with him earlier this month at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, and said, “One of the things I’ve found over the years of teachings is that as soon as people start over-thinking, their putting goes. That’s the problem.”

Butch’s solution to the problem?

“If he ever asked me what I thought he needed to do, I’d tell him, look, go on the practice tee without anybody—without me, without Sean [Foley, his current coach], without Haney, without a camera, and start hitting golf shots. Hit some high draws, some low draws, high fades, low fades, move the ball up and down, move it around; don’t worry about how you do it and go back to feeling it again. Quit playing golf-swing and just hit shots; just say to himself, I’m gonna hit a low fade, and I don’t need anybody to tell me how to do it, I’m just gonna feel it. He’s Tiger Woods, for God’s sake. He doesn’t know how to hit a shot?”

Once again, that reminded me of Gilchrist’s comments at the Kraft. “The funny thing is if Tiger came to me, he’d think, are you kidding me? I’d probably tell him, Tiger, ‘hit a draw.’ He’d hit a draw. So then I’d tell him, ‘Tiger, hit a fade.’ He’d hit a fade.

“So what are we doing here? What’s the problem? If he can’t hit the draw, then he’s doing something, but it can’t be something that it takes two years to work on to fix. We’re talking about one of the best athletes that ever played the game. He’s high on detail. So if I came and gave him a simple answer, he’s going to go, ‘Meh, huh?’

“Now if I give him 55 things to do, he’ll say, ‘Now you’re feeding my need.'”

(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)