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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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.

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.