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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Fleetwood, with his fancy umbrella, fires 65 on Day 2

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 12:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood looked like an Open rookie when he set out on Friday under gray skies and a cold, steady rain.

Because the Englishman doesn’t have an equipment sponsor he made a quick turn through the merchandise tent for an umbrella – but at least he didn’t have to pay for it.

“We stole it,” he laughed when asked about his Open-brand umbrella. “We got one given for free, actually. We didn't steal it. We don't always carry an umbrella. So it just so happens this week that we've got a nice Open Championship [umbrella]. It looked quite nice, the yellow and the course.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

It was Fleetwood’s only rookie move on Day 2 at Carnoustie, posting a flawless 65 to move into an early tie for second place at 5 under par.

Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, a 9-under 63 he shot last fall during the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, but given Friday’s conditions and the difficulty of this course during The Open, his 65 on Friday might have been better.

“It's not a course record, but it's pretty good,” said Fleetwood, who was stroke behind leader Zach Johnson. “If you went out, you wouldn't really fancy being 6 under out there. So I think that's a good indication of how good it was.”

It was a dramatic turnaround for Fleetwood on Friday. He said he struggled with his ball-striking, specifically his tee shots, on Day 1, but he was able to turn things around with an hour-long session on the range following his opening round.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.