QA with Sean Foley

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2010, 2:29 am

Much attention has been given to Sean Foley working with Tiger Woods at this year's PGA Championship. Golf Channel producer Scott Rude had a chance to speak with Foley at Colonial in May, offering a chance to learn more about Woods' potential swing coach.

Did you grow up emulating Butch Harmon, Hank Haney, David Leadbetter?

SF: Yeah, I read their books and what not, but I still think in generations there’s going to be differences. So, if you look at Copernicus, he told the Church that the Earth actually revolves around the sun. Well, we now have guys with Hubble telescopes that have found 400 galaxies since then. His point, he was the pioneer in shifting the paradigm, as I believe Lead (better) was. In my search for answers, I look into mathematics, geometry,(and) physics which I still believe are superficial to the biomechanics of human movement, so to speak – so philosophy, looking at psychology, all of those types of things. Society is always pointing the finger at the effect, but the reason we have trouble ridding the golf swing or issues is because we don’t recognize the cause as much, you know?

Tiger Woods & Sean Foley
Sean Foley has gained greater public recognition this week working with Tiger Woods. (Getty Images)
What is the key to getting someone better at something?

SF: I think everything is causal. Everything concurs with one another. Everything is everything. I could watch a successful lawyer who’s extremely successful at what he does and learn more about what I do. Also, with the golf swing, to this day, I still don’t know what’s right, but I have a pretty good idea of what’s wrong. It’s more of trying to get people, especially Tour players to stop doing the wrong things and allowing them to be their instinctive, genius selves.

Why are the instructors on the PGA Tour out here? Is it mostly good marketing or are they truly better at relaying the necessary elements for an improved golf game?

SF: I took an algebra class one year and failed it. The next year, I made an A. Well, the teacher got through to me. They were teaching me the same ideas, but one teacher understood that I needed extra time and for it to be (explained) differently. You’re not going to help everyone because not everyone can relate to one another. That’s why the world is in the state that it is. We don’t all get along. From that standpoint with myself, empirical, conceptual, and kinesthetic learners, I’m very successful with. I struggle with visual learners and evenly highly kinesthetic learners. If they don’t want to understand the concept or why things are wrong then – and I’ve done this – then I’ll say that this teacher here will really be able to help you move forward.

How did you get your break on Tour?

SF: Stephen Ames was my first client. We really worked well together. And then Sean (O'Hair) and Hunter (Mahan) started to work with me, then Parker (McLachlin) and Justin (Rose). It all worked out very well. But there are 10 to 12 players that I’ve talked to that I’ve declined helping them because I knew I wouldn’t be helping them very much. I could in fact hurt them. And you have to recognize that.

Why do we have instructors more famous than their players?

SF: The fact of the matter is, that I charge my players a marginal percentage of what they earn. So, I understand what my worth is. They are the talent. I’m just there to guide them, answer their questions and I don’t have all of the answers. I always try to get the answer. Sometimes it’s not just showing them videos when it’s not going right. It’s actually keeping the videos from where it’s really good and then recognizing where they were in their life from an energy level, if they were being optimistic or pessimistic. Everything is everything. It all equates to that. It’s not just about being on plane and having the right clubface position. When I was younger, I thought, “look, if I can get people to swing this way, they wouldn’t even need a sports psychologist.' But, through the intricacies of the brain and duality of ego and fear that we go through, I’ve come to learn that it’s not just about that.

We hear both sides of the fence with players crediting their coaches. Some say their coaches are monumental. Some consider them more as cheerleaders.

SF: It depends on the person. Some people are very independent. Some people are very dependent. One is not right or wrong. Again, this is non-duality, shades of gray. But the aspect is that I try to give them a better understanding not how to play golf – I never talk about that because they are much better players than I am – so just give them an understanding that the ball goes left because of that, the ball goes right because of that. If you have limited mobility and internal rotation in your lead leg, you get this. If your glutes don’t fire, you’ll get this. If you’re dehydrated, this will be a function too because we’re all bio-electric, right? It’s more answering their questions, but not for a second. I know when I’ve helped and I appreciate that, but I can also remember four or five times when my players were going really good and rather than recognizing on Sunday afternoon when they’re about to tee off that they were just a little tense or whatever, I actually gave them a full lesson on the range. They shot 77 that day and I took a lot of responsibility for that. So, it’s about knowing when to come in and say the right things, but more so always not saying the wrong thing.

Everyone talks on the PGA Tour about who’s teaching whom. Why?

SF: I would imagine that it’s like why people see the same orthopedic surgeon. There’s always the illusion, because at the end of the day, no one really knows what you’re talking about with your player. It’s just human society. A guy plays well one week and says he’s been working with these guys and the next week those (teachers) are extremely busy. But it doesn’t mean if they see 30 (players), that all 30 will be successful. It just depends. It’s like: I’m married to my wife. I dated a lot of women, but she’s the one I wanted to marry or the one that wanted to marry me. So, that’s kind of how it is. In that relationship, there has to be a point of ethics and values and morals. I could be bold, some say obnoxious. I could be loud. But one of my players could be insular and not say much, but when we talk about the true things in life, that truly matter, we’re very similar. So, all of those have to come into play.

Where did you grow up?

SF: I was born in Scarboro, Ontario which is outside Toronto. My Dad is Scottish. My Mom is west Indian. She’s from Gianna. They met in Montreal. We moved to Wilmington, Del., when I was six. My dad worked for DuPont. I went out to San Fran when I was seven, L.A. when I was about 10, Vancouver at 14, back to Toronto at 15. So, we were moving.

How would you describe your family dynamic?

SF: My dad had a tough go with his dad growing up in Scotland. My mom wasn’t that close with her parents. So, rather than repeating the cycle, they made a permanent indent. When it comes down to my dad, people compliment me all the time about the type of person I am. I say, “look this isn’t original.” My parents were cool because they didn’t really ever talk or condemn and judge. I’ve never heard my mom say a bad thing about a person and I’ve never heard my dad complain in 35 years. So, they never told us how to be. We just watched their actions. There are the walkers and talkers, and they were that way.

Would you say that your parents have been your biggest influence?

SF: I’ve never been interested, ever since I was little, in what other people had to say. I have my own sort of idea of what it was all about. I’m very empathetic to the human condition before my dad said that it was possible. And, I’ve always been the same person. Regardless of whatever happens in golf, nothing will ever change that because the key thing is to recognize your identity and who you are and be fine with that. You can’t be everything for everyone. People are going to criticize you. But most people that have criticized me haven’t ever had lunch with me, so I can’t really get upset about that because they’re criticizing an illusion they’re creating through their own perception. I’m fine with that.

What would you say has been the key turning point in your life?

SF: I think I got into an identity crisis as a kid because I tried to do everything for everyone because it was tough being the new kid in school. So you would be something for people so they’d accept you. I learned that at an early age that that’s no way to be. It doesn’t provide you with any peace. I went to a historically black university where the campus was 90 percent African American and that was very interesting because that was the first time I recognized racism. I don’t mean with myself but being in the south coming from a liberal, very intellectual Canadian family, I didn’t think that type of stuff existed. Because I couldn’t believe that at a menial level that people were devolving to the point that someone would look at someone or their skin color or their financial status and use that to determine who that person was – that would be the label instead of who that person is. So, that was massive. And, in that, I found my identity. The fact was that I had to become my own best friend. And, that as I treated people, I needed to treat myself the same way. That was huge. I went from self critical and self judgmental to kind of recognizing life as an experience and as a journey that doesn’t need to be recognized by a label. It’s just observation.

How did you get into golf instruction?

SF: I started playing golf when I was 10 and I was very interested. I’ve always been very scientific minded; my dad was a chemist. I loved the golf swing and read about (Ben) Hogan and Moe Norman. I was really interested in the ball strikers. I’d watch golf with my dad. At 13, I went to the Canadian Open and I saw David Leadbetter on the range with Nick Faldo and I pretty much knew at that point that that’s what I wanted to do. I never really dreamed of playing on the PGA Tour or even teaching on the Tour. I just really liked what David Leadbetter was doing. I thought that was extremely cool.

What is your current philosophy with the golf swing?

SF: There’s not one way to do it. There’s only one way to generate power. Kinetically and how energy transfers through one proper way. There’s other ways, but you generally get injured doing it because of the manipulation that comes. I think you have to be able to identify the geometry ... You can be a successful man as long as you can let people understand that you’re not the only reason for it. What has always happened in my life is that I get an idea, and then it manifests itself like cells deeper and deeper and deeper until it gets to the most complex point and wake up, and it’s simple now.

Getty Images

The Tiger comeback just got real on Friday

By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 1:11 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Slow play was a big storyline on the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing, but not so much anymore.

Not with Tiger Woods speeding things up Friday at the Honda Classic.

Not with Woods thumping the gas pedal around PGA National’s Champion Course, suddenly looking as if he is racing way ahead of schedule in his return to the game.

The narrative wondrously started to turn here.

It turned from wondering at week’s start if Woods could make the cut here, after missing it last week at the Genesis Open. His game was too wild for Riviera, where a second-round 76 left him looking lost with the Masters just six weeks away.

It turned in head-spinning fashion Friday with Woods climbing the leaderboard in tough conditions to get himself into weekend contention with a 1-over-par 71.

He is just four shots off the lead.

“I’d be shocked if he’s not there Sunday with a chance to win,” said Brandt Snedeker, who played alongside Woods in the first two rounds. “He’s close to playing some really, really good golf.”

Just a few short months ago, so many of us were wondering if Woods was close to washed up.

“He’s only going to improve,” Snedeker said. “The more time he has, as the weather gets warmer, he’ll feel better and be able to practice more.”

Snedeker has had a front-row seat for this speedy Tiger turnaround. He played the third round with Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open last month. That was Woods’ first PGA Tour start in a year.

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

How much improvement did Snedeker see from that Torrey Pines experience?

“It was kind of what I expected – significantly improved,” Snedeker said. “His iron game is way better. His driver is way better. I don’t’ see it going backward from here.”

This was the hope packed into Friday’s new narrative.

“I’m right there in the ballgame,” Woods said. “I really played well today. I played well all day today.”

Tiger sent a jolt through PGA National when his name hit the top 10 of the leaderboard. He didn’t do it with a charge. He did it battling a brutish course in wintry, blustery winds, on “scratchy” and “dicey” greens that made par a good score.

When Woods holed a 25-foot putt at the ninth to move into red numbers at 1 under overall and within three shots of the lead, a roar shook across the Champion Course.

“It got a little loud, which was cool to see,” Snedeker said. “It’s great to have that energy and vibe back.”

Woods sent fans scampering to get into position, blasting a 361-yard drive at the 10th, cutting the corner. He had them buzzing when he stuck his approach to 9 feet for another birdie chance to get within two of the lead.

“I thought if he makes it, this place will go nuts, and he could get it going like he used to,” Snedeker said.

Woods missed, but with the leaders falling back to him on this grueling day, he stuck his approach at the 12th to 10 feet to give himself a chance to move within a shot of the lead.

It’s another putt that could have turned PGA National upside down, but Woods missed that.

“It really is hard to make birdies,” he said. “At least I found it hard. It was hard to get the ball close, even if the ball is in the fairway, it's still very difficult to get the ball close, with the wind blowing as hard as it is. It’s hard to make putts out here.”

Patton Kizzire, a two-time PGA Tour winner who won just last month at the Sony Open, could attest to how tough the test at Honda has become. He played alongside Woods this week for the first time in his career. He shot 78 Friday and missed the cut.

Kizzire had a close-up look at what suddenly seems possible for Woods again.

“He’s figuring it out,” Kizzire said. “He hit some nice shots and rolled in some nice putts. It was pretty impressive.”

Woods could not hide his excitement in getting himself in the weekend hunt, but his expectations remain tempered in this comeback. He knows the daily referendums his game is subject to, how we can all make the highs too high and the lows too low.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Woods said.

Woods lost a tee shot in a bush at the second hole and made bogey. He hit his tee shot in the water at the 15th and made double bogey. He three-putted the 16th to make bogey. He knows this course can derail a player’s plans in a hurry, but he knows his game is quickly coming around.

“I’m right there where I can win a golf tournament,” Woods said. “Four back on this golf course with 36 holes to go, I mean, anybody can win this golf tournament right now. It’s wide open.’”

Woods hit his shot of the day at the 17th to right his game after the struggles at the 15th and 16th. He did so in front of the Goslings Bear Trap Party Pavilion, cutting a 5-iron to 12 feet. It was the hardest hole on the course Friday, with nearly one of every three players rinsing a shot in the water there. Woods made birdie there to ignite an explosion of cheers.  He got a standing ovation.

“I was telling you guys, I love Riviera, I just don't play well there,” Woods said. “So here we are, we're back at a golf course I know and I play well here.”

So here we are, on the precipice of something special again?

Woods seems in a hurry to find out.

Getty Images

List, Lovemark lead; Tiger four back at Honda

By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 12:41 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Even with a tee shot into the water for another double bogey, Tiger Woods could see the big picture in the Honda Classic.

He was four shots out of the lead going into the weekend.

Luke List delivered a round not many others found possible in such difficult conditions Friday, a 4-under 66 that gave him a share of the lead with Jamie Lovemark (69). They were at 3-under 137, the highest score to lead at the halfway point of the Honda Classic since it moved to PGA National in 2007.

So bunched were the scores that Woods was four shots out of the lead and four shots from last place among the 76 players who made the cut at 5-over 145. More importantly, he only had 13 players in front of him.

''This is a difficult golf course right now,'' Woods said. ''Making pars is a good thing. I've done that, and I'm right there with a chance.''

And he has plenty of company.

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Tommy Fleetwood, who won the Race to Dubai on the European Tour last year, scratched out a 68 and was one shot out of the lead along with Webb Simpson (72), Russell Henley (70) and Rory Sabbatini (69).

Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger each shot 72 and were in a large group at 139. They were among only 10 players remaining under par.

Fleetwood laughed when asked the last time he was at 2 under after 36 holes and only one shot out of the lead.

''Maybe some junior event,'' he said. ''It's good, though. These are the toughest test in golf. Generally, one of the best players prevail at the end of weeks like this. Weeks like this challenge you to the ultimate level. Whether you shoot two 80s or you lead after two rounds, you can see what you need to do and see where your game is. Because this is as hard as it's ever going to get for you.''

The difficulty was primarily from the wind, which blew just as hard in the morning when List shot his 66 as it did in the afternoon. More aggravating to the players are the greens, which are old and bare, firm and crusty. It's a recipe for not making many putts.

Defending champion Rickie Fowler had six bogeys on his front nine and shot 77 to miss the cut.

''It's unfortunate that the greens have changed this much in a year,'' Fowler said. ''They typically get slick and quick on the weekend because they dry out, but at least there's some sort of surface. But like I said, everyone's playing the same greens.''

It looked as though List was playing a different course when he went out with a bogey-free 32 on the back nine, added a pair of birdies on the front nine and then dropped his only shot when he caught an awkward lie in the bunker on the par-3 seventh.

''It's very relentless,'' List said. ''There's not really too many easy holes, but if you hit fairways and go from there, you can make a few birdies out there.''

List and Lovemark, both Californians, have never won on the PGA Tour. This is the third time List has had at least a share of the 36-hole lead, most recently in South Korea at the CJ Cup, where he shot 76-72 on the weekend.

''It's kind of irrelevant because there's going to be 30 guys within a couple shots of the lead,'' List said. ''It's going to be that type of week.''

He was exaggerating – there were 11 players within three shots of the lead.

And there was another guy four shots behind.

Woods brought big energy to a Friday afternoon that already was hopping before he overcame a sluggish start and holed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 9 to make the turn at 1 under for his round, and leaving him two shots out of the lead. Everyone knew it just from listening to the roars.

Woods had his chances, twice missing birdie putts from inside 10 feet at Nos. 10 and 12, sandwiched around a 12-foot par save. His round appeared to come undone when he found the water on the 15th and made double bogey for the second straight day.

Then, he hit out of a fairway bunker, over the water and onto the green at the dangerous 16th hole and faced a 65-foot putt. He misread the speed and the line, so badly that it was similar to a car driving from Chicago to Denver and winding up in Phoenix. A bogey dropped him to 2 over.

The big moment was the 17th hole, 184 waters into the wind and over water. That's where Rory McIlroy made triple bogey earlier in the day that ruined his otherwise solid round of 72, leaving him seven behind. Making it even tougher for Woods is the Brandt Snedeker hit 5-iron before him to about 6 feet. Woods got to the tee and the wind died, meaning 5-iron was too much and 6-iron wouldn't clear the water.

He went with the 5-iron.

''I started that thing pretty far left and hit a pretty big cut in there because I had just too much stick,'' Wood said.

It landed 12 feet below the hole for a birdie putt.

Thomas made 17 pars and a double bogey when he three-putted from 6 feet on No. 16. He felt the same way as Woods.

''I'm in a good spot – really good spot – going into this week,'' Thomas said.

Getty Images

Woods to play with Dufner (12:10 p.m.) in third round

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 12:10 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods will play alongside Jason Dufner in the third round of the Honda Classic.

Woods and Dufner, both at 1-over 141, four shots back, will tee off at 12:10 p.m. ET Saturday at PGA National. They’re in the 10th-to-last group.

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Co-leaders Luke List and Jamie Lovemark will go at 1:40 p.m.

Some of the other late pairings include Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger, who will be playing together for the third consecutive day, at 1 p.m.; Louis Oosthuizen and Thomas Pieters (1:10 p.m.); and Webb Simpson and Russell Henley, in the penultimate group at 1:30 p.m.

Getty Images

Woods doesn't mind 'fun' but brutal 17th hole

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods doesn’t mind the boisterous crowd that surrounds the par-3 17th hole at PGA National.

And why should he?

When the wind died down Friday afternoon, Woods played a “big ol’ cut” with a 5-iron that dropped 12 feet from the cup. He made the putt – one of just nine birdies on the day – and when he walked off the green, the fans gave him a standing ovation.

The scene is expected to be even more raucous Saturday at the Honda Classic, especially with Woods in contention.

There is a Goslings Bear Trap tent just to the right of the tee. The hole has become a hot topic in recent years, after a few players complained that the noise from the nearby crowd was distracting as they tried to play a wind-blown, 190-yard shot over water.

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Woods was asked his thoughts on the party setup after finishing his second-round 71.

“As long as they don’t yell in our golf swings, we’re fine,” he said. “They can be raucous. They are having a great time. It’s fun. They are having a blast, and hopefully we can execute golf shots, but as long as they don’t yell in our golf swings, everything’s cool.”

After the recent Waste Management Phoenix Open, a few players told Woods that fans were trying to time their screams with the players’ downswings.

“There’s really no reason to do that,” Woods said. “I think that most of the people there at 17 are golfers, and they understand how hard a golf shot that is. So they are being respectful, but obviously libations are flowing.”

The 17th played as the most difficult hole on the course Friday, with a 3.74 scoring average and a combined score to par of 104 over. More than a quarter of the tee shots found the water.