Sean Foley answered the phone early Saturday afternoon just minutes after learning that one of his former pupils, Tiger Woods, had officially announced a working relationship with swing instructor Chris Como.
When asked what advice he would offer to Woods’ new coach, Foley likened it to being asked for child-rearing guidance by first-time expectant parents.
“There’s no way you could explain it,” he told GolfChannel.com. “Until you go through it, there’s no way to explain it.”
In other words? Welcome to the jungle, Chris Como.
A Texas-based instructor who has worked with PGA Tour members Aaron Baddeley, Trevor Immelman and Richard Lee, Como will now find himself in one of golf’s most scrutinized roles. Like Foley, Hank Haney and Butch Harmon before him, he will undoubtedly shoulder too much of the blame when Woods struggles and too much of the credit when he succeeds.
That might be the downside of working with the game’s most polarizing player, but as Foley reminisced, there are more advantages than disadvantages to the position.
“My advice is to just enjoy the ride,” he offered. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. I would stay true to myself, focus on my player and not really pay attention to everything else around it. I was able to do that and professionally it was four years of an unbelievable learning experience. I got to sit behind who I think is the greatest player of all time and work with him.”
If Como is indeed seeking advice at some point, Woods’ most recent instructor will be a willing participant.
Foley said he’s known the fellow instructor for about five years and if there’s a further common bond, it comes in each focusing on the biomechanics of the golf swing.
“He’s a lovely guy, a sweetheart of a person,” said Foley, who had already sent him a congratulatory text message. “He’s also very, very bright.”
Even so, the nature of the job will present specific challenges that didn’t come with any of his other clients.
“He’ll have to get used to the period of being more recognized and being known,” Foley advised. “It’s going to be a great learning experience for him. No one wants to see Tiger do better than I do. I hope the two of them will have great relationship.”
Whereas Haney napalmed the bridge between himself and Woods by writing a salacious book detailing their relationship, Foley insists that his four years on the job were justifiably rewarding and remains steadfast in his support for his past client.
Now he’s one of the very few who will understand what it’s like when Como is inevitably hailed as a hero if Woods returns to past glory or criticized as a goat if he fails to live up to those hefty expectations.
“You’re going to go through some good times and bad times,” explained Foley. “That’s par for the course with everybody. He’s a good guy and great to work for, always very grateful. Chris will get to see what I saw, which is much different than how he’s been painted. He’s very classy to work for, never puts the blame on anyone but himself. He’s very much a professional and it shows on his record.”
Como will now find all of that out for himself. He already knows the golf swing and understands working with touring professionals. But nothing so far will have prepared him for the constant scrutiny he’ll be under as Woods’ instructor.
If he doesn’t believe it, he can always ask his last one. Foley will be happy to offer some advice, even though, as he said, “There’s no way you could explain it.”