Mahan, Rose defend swing coach Foley

By Jason SobelAugust 25, 2014, 2:30 pm

PARAMUS, N.J. – Sean Foley's pupils call him more than just a swing instructor.

He's part-mental guru, part-biomechanical engineer, part-motivational speaker and part-confidante all rolled into one slick-haired, tattooed, camera-wielding hipster package.

For the past four years, he also played another role – scapegoat. When Tiger Woods struggled, it was often blamed on Foley's teachings; when he prospered, it was often said that it happened in spite of him.

With Monday’s announcement that Woods is officially splitting with Foley to move in a different direction going forward, essentially he’s adding his name to the list of those who have labeled the coach a scapegoat during their time working together.

It might be perfect timing for Woods to make this switch, considering he’s still nursing a back injury and will be able to start anew when he returns to the range. There is some irony, however, in the fact that the announcement comes just one day after another Foley student, Hunter Mahan, claimed the title at The Barclays, which comes not far off the heels of yet another, Justin Rose, winning twice this summer.

As luck or coincidence or maybe intuition would have it, at Ridgewood Country Club this past week, I asked both of those players for their reactions to the ever-growing sentiment that Foley was the cause of Woods’ on-course travails.

“It's comical,” Mahan stated flatly. “It frustrates me and kind of angers me a little bit. But you know, that's the world we live in and that's just kind of the way things are, and Foley is better for it because he can handle a guy like Tiger – a lot comes with that and I think he's done a pretty good job of containing himself and not letting it bother him. He just does his job every day and does it better than anyone.”

Rose was more diplomatic, but no less adamant in his view that Foley has shouldered too much of the blame over the past half-decade.

“It’s difficult to hear,” he said, “because I put a lot of trust in him with my game and I believe in his abilities to help me with my game.”

To be certain, there were a few separate criticisms from the masses in play here.

One is that Foley’s teachings have led to a technically inferior swing for Woods. If he’d had enough attempts, Tiger would have ranked 168th on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy this season, finding the fairway just 55.10 percent of the time. Is that an indictment of Foley or do the statistics of Mahan and Rose – who rank eighth and 74th, respectively, in total driving – prove that more blame should have been placed on the student than the teacher?

“You look at Tiger driving a golf ball and you look at Hunter Mahan driving a golf ball and to be honest, you look at how I drive the golf ball, it’s not like Sean’s missing a trick,” Rose explained. “It’s not like he doesn’t understand something, like his players can’t drive the golf ball. Some coaches have a certain method and their players hit six to eight [degrees] down on the driver and their players are never going to be great drivers of the golf ball. Sean doesn’t preach a method. From that perspective, I believe that he makes the appropriate fix for me. I work on the opposite things that Tiger works on. He’s trying to do the best job with each man from what he’s got to work with.”

Another major criticism is that Foley’s method caused undue pressure on Woods’ lower back, an injury which has plagued him for much of the past year, leading to him taking a second extended absence two weeks ago that will keep him out of competition until December.

“I think with Tiger,” Rose continued, “they’ve had to work around a lot of things. It’s probably very frustrating for Tiger and it’s probably very frustrating for Sean. … There are definitely moves that Sean is trying to get out of there that are compromising his health.”

And then there’s the constant criticism that Woods’ swing simply isn’t as good as it once was. That it pales in comparison with that of 2000, when he won three major championships and rarely ever hit one awry.

It’s this appraisal which so often leads to conjecture about why he left Butch Harmon’s camp in the first place and whether they could ever reunite once again.

“People say, ‘Oh, Butch 2000 – just go back to that.’ Unfortunately, it’s not possible, biomechanically and speed and wear and tear,” explained Rose. “I’m sure Tiger would love to do that; I’m sure there are many aspects of that Sean would love to recreate.”

“People have no idea who Sean Foley is and what he's doing,” Mahan said, “and obviously no one knows Tiger, so you're not going to get anything there. Most of the people haven't made any sort of effort to get to know Sean and understand what he's trying to do.”

For the past four years, Woods made that effort. He bought into Foley’s swing theories; he tried to listen, tried to make it work for him.

The results were mixed. Last year, he won five times; this year, even when he wasn’t injured, his game was a shell of its former self.

By officially cutting ties with Foley, he is essentially professing what so many others have claimed during this period: The instructor was the reason for his problems.

That might be true, but it shouldn’t serve as a full indictment of Foley’s skills as an instructor. The full picture must also include the resumes of two other high-profile players who have won this summer while crediting him – and while also empathetic to the constant criticism he’s received.

“I find it hard to see him criticized, because I believe a lot in him,” Rose said. “He’s a great guy and he’s sensitive. He takes it well and doesn’t take it too personally, but it’s difficult to hear when you’re giving it 100 percent.”

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.