Sean Foley gets a bad rap

By Jason SobelAugust 2, 2011, 11:23 am

Leonardo da Vinci started painting the Mona Lisa in either 1503 or 1504, depending on whom you ask. For a few years, he worked feverishly on perfecting every inch of the artwork. He dabbled; he toiled; he tweaked. And then … he stopped.

The artist moved onto other projects and left the unfinished Mona Lisa to her own thoughts. Days became weeks; weeks became months; months became years. Eventually he got around to working on it again, finally finishing in 1519, shortly before his death. All told, it took some 15 years from beginning to end to complete the painting that now hangs in what Bubba Watson so eloquently refers to as the “museum that starts with an L.”

If da Vinci tried that in today’s need-it-now society, the art community would be in critical outrage. His Twitter followers would revolt; his Facebook friends wouldn’t be very friendly. Hey, it only takes about 15 years to produce a professional athlete from birth to the LPGA. Dude should be able to knock out a painting in one afternoon, right?

Sean Foley may not be modern-day golf instruction’s version of da Vinci, but he does work with the game’s Mona Lisa in Tiger Woods – enigmatic smile and all. Unlike the artist, though, Foley has dealt with criticism from the masses since the very moment he began working on his masterpiece last summer. From the Internet message boards to constant television analysis, the coach has shouldered much of the blame for Woods’ descent from the No. 1-ranked player in the world to 28th right now.

Never mind the fact that Woods was still dealing with emotional issues from a highly publicized personal scandal when they first started working together. Never mind the fact that he has been sidelined due to injuries that until this week have kept him from playing a full tournament since April. Never mind the fact that – and this is important – when Tiger previously overhauled technical parts of his swing, it similarly took him lengthy periods of time to see such changes come to fruition.

In 1998, Woods underwent swing changes with Butch Harmon and won only one title. Six years later, he altered his move with Hank Haney and also prevailed just a single time. In each instance, though, the long-term end result was greater success – either more dominance or more consistency.

The consummation of such efforts with Foley have yet to take place, but the sky isn’t falling nearly as precipitously as common sentiment would have us believe. Since starting to work with his new coach in an official capacity at last year’s PGA Championship, Woods’ results at individual tournaments are as follows: T-28, T-12, T-11, T-15, T-6, 2nd, T-44, T-33, T-10, T-24 and T-4. No, this isn’t the stuff of a world-beater, but it also isn’t inconsistent with previous results while undergoing changes with other instructors.

That hasn’t left Foley exempt from harsh evaluations of his tenure so far.

“I don’t lose sleep over any of it,” he says. “I lose sleep over serious [stuff]. This isn’t serious. If my players were saying it, it would be serious. I just wish there were more facts supporting these opinions.”

Foley understands that any critical analysis of his work begins and ends with the results of the game’s most recognizable figure. If Tiger plays well and his other pupils flounder, he’ll be lauded; if Tiger struggles, but all others achieve success, he’ll still get a bum rap.

How do we know? Because that’s exactly what has taken place over the past year.

Check the records: Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose each won twice last season. Jamie Lovemark started working with him and topped the Nationwide Tour money list. Cindy LaCrosse did, too, and led the LPGA Futures Tour list.

Even his former students still credit Foley for their success. Two months after parting ways with the instructor, Sean O’Hair won the recent Canadian Open and was asked afterward whether he could see the irony in leaving Foley, then winning.

“No,” he said matter-of-factly. “I don't think I'd be here without Sean Foley. Sean really helped me learn about myself and about my game. He took me a long way in a short period of time. I learned a lot with him. It was time to make a change, and really it's that simple. We're still close friends. We still chat quite a bit. You know, in this business nothing's guaranteed. We're always trying to find a way to play better.”

Woods has been mocked for continuous repetitions that working on his game is a “process,” but he’s hardly the first player to make that claim. Surveying a professional’s golf game – and his swing, in particular – should be an enduring and ever-adjusting review, continually open to advancing analysis.

“You don’t show them what to do,” Foley explains of his coaching theory. “You’re instructing people to be their own students. If you keep telling them what to do, they’re not learning.”

It’s a constantly evolving process, one that the deliberate da Vinci could appreciate. Nearly 500 years after his own masterpiece was completed, another one is still very much a work in progress. Like the artist, Sean Foley shouldn’t be evaluated until his work is done.

Getty Images

Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook played a six-hole stretch in 6 under and shot an 8-under 64 in breezy conditions Saturday to take the lead at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook began the run at La Quinta Country Club with birdies on Nos. 4-5, eagled the sixth and added birdies on No. 7 and 9 to make the turn in 6-under 30.

After a bogey on the 10th, he birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 15 and saved par on the 18th with a 20-footer to take a 19-under 197 total into the final round on PGA West's Stadium Course. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player is making his first start in the event. He won at Sea Island in November for his first PGA Tour title.

Fellow former Razorbacks star Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were a stroke back. Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 on the Stadium Course. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. They are both winless on the PGA Tour.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Jon Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium Course to reach 17 under. The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3, Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

Scott Piercy also was two strokes back after a 66 at the Stadium.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, and Harkins shot 68 on the Stadium Course.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium Course to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time.

The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. The Southern California recruit had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over for the week.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine – and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

Getty Images

Mickelson misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

Getty Images

Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Getty Images

LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.