QA with Sean Foley

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2010, 2:29 am

Much attention has been given to Sean Foley working with Tiger Woods at this year's PGA Championship. Golf Channel producer Scott Rude had a chance to speak with Foley at Colonial in May, offering a chance to learn more about Woods' potential swing coach.

Did you grow up emulating Butch Harmon, Hank Haney, David Leadbetter?

SF: Yeah, I read their books and what not, but I still think in generations there’s going to be differences. So, if you look at Copernicus, he told the Church that the Earth actually revolves around the sun. Well, we now have guys with Hubble telescopes that have found 400 galaxies since then. His point, he was the pioneer in shifting the paradigm, as I believe Lead (better) was. In my search for answers, I look into mathematics, geometry,(and) physics which I still believe are superficial to the biomechanics of human movement, so to speak – so philosophy, looking at psychology, all of those types of things. Society is always pointing the finger at the effect, but the reason we have trouble ridding the golf swing or issues is because we don’t recognize the cause as much, you know?

Tiger Woods & Sean Foley
Sean Foley has gained greater public recognition this week working with Tiger Woods. (Getty Images)
What is the key to getting someone better at something?

SF: I think everything is causal. Everything concurs with one another. Everything is everything. I could watch a successful lawyer who’s extremely successful at what he does and learn more about what I do. Also, with the golf swing, to this day, I still don’t know what’s right, but I have a pretty good idea of what’s wrong. It’s more of trying to get people, especially Tour players to stop doing the wrong things and allowing them to be their instinctive, genius selves.

Why are the instructors on the PGA Tour out here? Is it mostly good marketing or are they truly better at relaying the necessary elements for an improved golf game?

SF: I took an algebra class one year and failed it. The next year, I made an A. Well, the teacher got through to me. They were teaching me the same ideas, but one teacher understood that I needed extra time and for it to be (explained) differently. You’re not going to help everyone because not everyone can relate to one another. That’s why the world is in the state that it is. We don’t all get along. From that standpoint with myself, empirical, conceptual, and kinesthetic learners, I’m very successful with. I struggle with visual learners and evenly highly kinesthetic learners. If they don’t want to understand the concept or why things are wrong then – and I’ve done this – then I’ll say that this teacher here will really be able to help you move forward.

How did you get your break on Tour?

SF: Stephen Ames was my first client. We really worked well together. And then Sean (O'Hair) and Hunter (Mahan) started to work with me, then Parker (McLachlin) and Justin (Rose). It all worked out very well. But there are 10 to 12 players that I’ve talked to that I’ve declined helping them because I knew I wouldn’t be helping them very much. I could in fact hurt them. And you have to recognize that.

Why do we have instructors more famous than their players?

SF: The fact of the matter is, that I charge my players a marginal percentage of what they earn. So, I understand what my worth is. They are the talent. I’m just there to guide them, answer their questions and I don’t have all of the answers. I always try to get the answer. Sometimes it’s not just showing them videos when it’s not going right. It’s actually keeping the videos from where it’s really good and then recognizing where they were in their life from an energy level, if they were being optimistic or pessimistic. Everything is everything. It all equates to that. It’s not just about being on plane and having the right clubface position. When I was younger, I thought, “look, if I can get people to swing this way, they wouldn’t even need a sports psychologist.' But, through the intricacies of the brain and duality of ego and fear that we go through, I’ve come to learn that it’s not just about that.

We hear both sides of the fence with players crediting their coaches. Some say their coaches are monumental. Some consider them more as cheerleaders.

SF: It depends on the person. Some people are very independent. Some people are very dependent. One is not right or wrong. Again, this is non-duality, shades of gray. But the aspect is that I try to give them a better understanding not how to play golf – I never talk about that because they are much better players than I am – so just give them an understanding that the ball goes left because of that, the ball goes right because of that. If you have limited mobility and internal rotation in your lead leg, you get this. If your glutes don’t fire, you’ll get this. If you’re dehydrated, this will be a function too because we’re all bio-electric, right? It’s more answering their questions, but not for a second. I know when I’ve helped and I appreciate that, but I can also remember four or five times when my players were going really good and rather than recognizing on Sunday afternoon when they’re about to tee off that they were just a little tense or whatever, I actually gave them a full lesson on the range. They shot 77 that day and I took a lot of responsibility for that. So, it’s about knowing when to come in and say the right things, but more so always not saying the wrong thing.

Everyone talks on the PGA Tour about who’s teaching whom. Why?

SF: I would imagine that it’s like why people see the same orthopedic surgeon. There’s always the illusion, because at the end of the day, no one really knows what you’re talking about with your player. It’s just human society. A guy plays well one week and says he’s been working with these guys and the next week those (teachers) are extremely busy. But it doesn’t mean if they see 30 (players), that all 30 will be successful. It just depends. It’s like: I’m married to my wife. I dated a lot of women, but she’s the one I wanted to marry or the one that wanted to marry me. So, that’s kind of how it is. In that relationship, there has to be a point of ethics and values and morals. I could be bold, some say obnoxious. I could be loud. But one of my players could be insular and not say much, but when we talk about the true things in life, that truly matter, we’re very similar. So, all of those have to come into play.

Where did you grow up?

SF: I was born in Scarboro, Ontario which is outside Toronto. My Dad is Scottish. My Mom is west Indian. She’s from Gianna. They met in Montreal. We moved to Wilmington, Del., when I was six. My dad worked for DuPont. I went out to San Fran when I was seven, L.A. when I was about 10, Vancouver at 14, back to Toronto at 15. So, we were moving.

How would you describe your family dynamic?

SF: My dad had a tough go with his dad growing up in Scotland. My mom wasn’t that close with her parents. So, rather than repeating the cycle, they made a permanent indent. When it comes down to my dad, people compliment me all the time about the type of person I am. I say, “look this isn’t original.” My parents were cool because they didn’t really ever talk or condemn and judge. I’ve never heard my mom say a bad thing about a person and I’ve never heard my dad complain in 35 years. So, they never told us how to be. We just watched their actions. There are the walkers and talkers, and they were that way.

Would you say that your parents have been your biggest influence?

SF: I’ve never been interested, ever since I was little, in what other people had to say. I have my own sort of idea of what it was all about. I’m very empathetic to the human condition before my dad said that it was possible. And, I’ve always been the same person. Regardless of whatever happens in golf, nothing will ever change that because the key thing is to recognize your identity and who you are and be fine with that. You can’t be everything for everyone. People are going to criticize you. But most people that have criticized me haven’t ever had lunch with me, so I can’t really get upset about that because they’re criticizing an illusion they’re creating through their own perception. I’m fine with that.

What would you say has been the key turning point in your life?

SF: I think I got into an identity crisis as a kid because I tried to do everything for everyone because it was tough being the new kid in school. So you would be something for people so they’d accept you. I learned that at an early age that that’s no way to be. It doesn’t provide you with any peace. I went to a historically black university where the campus was 90 percent African American and that was very interesting because that was the first time I recognized racism. I don’t mean with myself but being in the south coming from a liberal, very intellectual Canadian family, I didn’t think that type of stuff existed. Because I couldn’t believe that at a menial level that people were devolving to the point that someone would look at someone or their skin color or their financial status and use that to determine who that person was – that would be the label instead of who that person is. So, that was massive. And, in that, I found my identity. The fact was that I had to become my own best friend. And, that as I treated people, I needed to treat myself the same way. That was huge. I went from self critical and self judgmental to kind of recognizing life as an experience and as a journey that doesn’t need to be recognized by a label. It’s just observation.

How did you get into golf instruction?

SF: I started playing golf when I was 10 and I was very interested. I’ve always been very scientific minded; my dad was a chemist. I loved the golf swing and read about (Ben) Hogan and Moe Norman. I was really interested in the ball strikers. I’d watch golf with my dad. At 13, I went to the Canadian Open and I saw David Leadbetter on the range with Nick Faldo and I pretty much knew at that point that that’s what I wanted to do. I never really dreamed of playing on the PGA Tour or even teaching on the Tour. I just really liked what David Leadbetter was doing. I thought that was extremely cool.

What is your current philosophy with the golf swing?

SF: There’s not one way to do it. There’s only one way to generate power. Kinetically and how energy transfers through one proper way. There’s other ways, but you generally get injured doing it because of the manipulation that comes. I think you have to be able to identify the geometry ... You can be a successful man as long as you can let people understand that you’re not the only reason for it. What has always happened in my life is that I get an idea, and then it manifests itself like cells deeper and deeper and deeper until it gets to the most complex point and wake up, and it’s simple now.

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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  

Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos

On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open

Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)

Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."

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McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.