Woods, Foley share blame in Tiger's troubles

By Rex HoggardAugust 25, 2014, 4:40 pm

The Sean Foley era with Tiger Woods is over.

In a statement released Monday on his website Woods explained, “I'd like to thank Sean for his help as my coach and for his friendship. Sean is one of the outstanding coaches in golf today, and I know he will continue to be successful with the players working with him. With my next tournament not until my World Challenge event at Isleworth in Orlando, this is the right time to end our professional relationship.”

If the recent level of chatter and vitriol was any indication, the Canadian coach should have been sent packing long ago and a persona non grata sign posted on Tiger’s compound in South Florida.

Depending on whom you asked, Foley’s swing philosophies had made Woods too technical, too susceptible to injury, too venerable to the wild miss and too inconsistent.

The debate seemed to reach a crescendo at the PGA Championship, where Woods’ closed another injury-plagued season with back-to-back rounds of 74 to miss the cut. Less than a week later he removed his name from consideration for this year’s Ryder Cup to nurse an ongoing back issue.

“I think it’s technical and the technical is bleeding into the physical,” Brandel Chamblee said during Golf Channel’s “Live From” broadcast at the PGA.

Even one of Foley’s former students, Parker McLachlin, joined the conversation when he tweeted, “Dear Tiger, Please turn off your brain and leave Foley on the range. You’ll stop missing it both ways. Sincerely, A player who’s been there.”

For most the debate will start and stop at the win column. Since Woods began working with Foley in August 2010 the former world No. 1 has won eight times on the PGA Tour and failed to add to his major total. Statistically, that’s eight wins in 56 events, a 14 percent winning clip.

By comparison, Woods won 33 percent of his Tour starts during his roughly five years with Hank Haney, who Foley replaced.

Lost in that numerical calling card, however, is the nuanced reality that the Woods Foley had to work with was not the same player Haney, or Butch Harmon before him, made history with.

In the parts of five seasons Woods and Foley worked together Tiger played a full calendar, or at least what is considered a full calendar for Tiger, just twice (in 2012 and 2013). Not coincidentally he won eight times over those two seasons and his 11th PGA Tour Player of the Year Award in ’13.

In response to Chamblee’s take on Foley’s techniques, fellow Golf Channel analyst Frank Nobilo seemed to touch on the central dynamic to the Woods-Foley relationship – “There are two questions. There is a swing question and an injury question and you can’t answer one without answering the other,” he said.

The litany of injuries that have befallen Woods in recent years could keep an orthopedic surgeon in business for a lifetime. In 2010, Woods suffered from an inflamed facet joint in his neck, in ’11 he endured a left Achilles strain and he reinjured that area in ’12. Also in ’11 he sprained his left MCL and this year he had surgery on his back for a pinched nerve.

The coup d’etat seemed to arrive at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational when Woods was again sidelined midway through his final round by an ailing back.

Whether Foley’s teachings are your brand of vodka, and the idea that his swing philosophy may have caused Woods’ ongoing medical issues is a debate that will surely not die with Monday’s announcement, really doesn’t matter. What matters are the facts.

The Tiger that arrived at Foley’s doorstep was damaged goods.

Perhaps the best measure of Woods’ health is what he commonly refers to as his explosiveness. In practical terms that is his swing speed, which reached an astounding 124.63 mph in 2008, the year he won his last major.

That number has fallen off to an all-time low of 115.63 mph this season after dropping below 120 mph for the first time in his career in 2010 and ’11. Even in 2013 you can track the correlation between injury and explosiveness. Through The Players, where he won the fourth of five titles last year, Woods’ swing speed hovered just under 120 mph (119.26) before dropping off to a season-ending average of 118.30 mph.

We are not doctors nor do we play them on TV, but there is no mistaking the connection between a healthy Tiger Woods and his ability to compete at the highest level, regardless of swing coach.

“In Sean’s defense, I had the easiest job in my 10 years. Tiger was the healthiest,” said Harmon, whose tenure as Woods’ swing coach lasted from August 1993 to August 2002.

“Sean had the hardest job. Tiger was going through knee surgeries and everything going on off the course. Sean had great success. He has nothing to hang his head about. I called him and left him a message and told him that. I told him he worked his tail for this guy.”

In retrospect maybe the Woods-Foley partnership was never going to be perfect. Tiger wants a lot of information and Sean had a lot of information to give. The truth is Tiger was never able to give Foley 100 percent because of his physical limitations.

Woods has said in the past that, as a general rule, he tosses out 90 percent of what a swing coach tells him and may keep 5 percent. In the final analysis that seems about right, let’s give Foley 5 percent of the blame and 5 percent of the credit.

Anything more or less would be ignoring the facts.

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.