(Editor's note: This is part of a series in which GolfChannel.com staff reveal their favorite or personal moments of 2014.)
I have nothing against Sean Foley. I’m sure he’s an excellent teacher. But he and Woods just weren’t working out as an instructor-pupil team. Some of that certainly was attributable to Woods’ injury status over the past few years, but even when Woods proclaimed himself healthy, he was hitting some of the squirrelliest shots I’ve ever seen come off the clubface of a great player.
Yes, there were flashes of success under Foley – three wins in 2012 and five in 2013 – but all of those wins came in events Woods had won before. In other words, those events were well within his comfort zone. In the majors, where you could argue that he should have had a comfort zone, having won more than all but one golfer, he was mostly a nonfactor. Oh, he had four top-10 finishes in majors under Foley, but those were about as satisfying as the New England Patriots winning AFC East titles. For the golfer and the football team, winning it all is the only measure of success.
At his best, Woods was the most electrifying player I ever saw. The chip at 16 at the Masters, the flop shots at the Memorial, the putts against Bob May in the PGA, the 6-iron from the fairway bunker at the Canadian Open – all were unforgettable shots. Composing a list of “Tiger’s 10 Best Shots” (or “Tiger’s 10 Best Shots in the Majors”) is a media staple. Name any other current player you could do that for.
The greatest ongoing storyline in golf is Woods’ pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 professional majors. As someone old enough to have watched both players in their primes, I’m still undecided as to whether I want Woods to pass, or even catch, Nicklaus. But I definitely want the possibility, which means I want Woods to get to 17. I’ll cross the 18-or-more bridge when I come to it.
I don’t believe Woods is done winning majors. He turns 39 today – and that’s not too old to win on the PGA Tour. As long as he can keep his body healthy, especially his knees and shoulders, he should have 32 opportunities to win a major through age 46, which was how old Nicklaus was when he won his final major. And nothing says Woods will stop contending then. After all, Tom Watson almost won a British Open at age 59.
Wood’s window, however, isn’t unlimited, and the older he gets, the likelihood of him winning a major decreases.
I know there’s a large segment of fans who just plain don’t like Woods, who hope he’ll never win again. I understand that. I don’t agree with it, but I understand it. There are Tour players I don’t particularly care for, but I don’t root against them. I root for great golf. It’s the same in all sports. I root for great players to make great plays, under the greatest pressure. In golf, that means during the back nine on Sunday when a major is on the line.
Perhaps Woods ultimately would have meshed with Foley and would have won a major under his third swing coach as a professional. But I saw scant evidence that that was going to happen, and Woods likely did, too. I was especially encouraged when I heard Woods say he might proceed without a swing coach, but then he hired Chris Como to be a swing “consultant,” whatever that means. Perhaps that relationship will lead to more majors, but Como’s background in biomechanics suggests to me that Woods is going to continue playing “golf swing,” not golf. The latter, not the former, has always been his best game. I hope he remembers that.