SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Tiger Woods won’t confirm he’s working with Sean Foley. At this point, there might be nothing to confirm. But Woods’ description of his own recent swing changes are in line with Foley’s core principles.
Woods has been his own coach since Hank Haney resigned in May. In a news conference Tuesday, Woods said he’s been trying to limit his head movement on his backswing, “so that I can start going down the line again, start using my legs again properly. I feel like . . . I can use my legs and my rotation the way that I know I can.”
“Leg drive’’ and “rotation’’ are two key principles of Foley’s teaching. He’s hardly the first person to emphasize these principles. But he focuses on them more than most. Leg drive was the first thing that he and Sean O’Hair worked on when they began their relationship in July 2008. Foley once told me that technology “was the death of the ballstriker,” partly because it lessened the need to compress the ball at impact.
Foley teaches his students to “step on the accelerator” at the start of the downswing, i.e. put pressure into the ground underneath their left foot, before releasing the body through impact. Recent swing theories have taught players to allow the hands to square the clubface. Foley wants players to square the face with their body rotation.
• Age: 36
• Title: Teaching consultant, Core Golf Academy at Orange County National, Winter Garden, Fla.
• Other notable students: Sean O’Hair, Justin Rose, Stephen Ames, Jamie Lovemark and Parker McLachlin.
Earlier this year, Foley told me this about his teaching, “You probably see similar patterns (with my students). Even though they all look different, they’re working on the same kind of principles – big-muscle movement, keeping the hands from getting involved. . . . Good leg drive and good rotation. If the body rotates, the hands don’t. If the body doesn’t rotate, the hands have to, and that just doesn’t hold up well.”
When asked whether he’s working with Foley, Woods said, “Certainly it’s a possibility. No doubt. But there also is a lot other coaches out there that’s a possibility, as well, that I’ve talked to.”
When Hunter Mahan, a Foley pupil and winner of last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, was asked whether his instructor had input on Woods’ latest changes, he said, “He may have. Sean’s not shy about sharing his opinions.
“I don’t know what their situation is at this time. I have a feeling they’re going to talk about that in private and then figure that out in the next few weeks or months.”
It’s premature to say that Woods and Foley are in a formal relationship.
Part of this saga makes me feel like I’m in high school again. Woods and Foley probably aren’t going “steady’’ yet. They’re likely just “seeing each other.’’ When Woods does formalize a relationship with a teacher, we’ll likely find out by seeing the two working together on the driving range at a PGA Tour event.
Woods likely is bouncing ideas off of Foley to see if he wants to take the relationship further. Woods played a practice round with Foley pupils Mahan and O’Hair on Tuesday. Foley walked some of the round with the group. “I wasn’t doing anything with him today,” Woods said. “He was watching Hunter and Sean, and I did ask him to film a couple I would like to take a look at it, which I did look.”
And the golf world will be looking closely at their actions over the coming months.