Brandel Chamblee did it. Rocco Mediate did it. Lee Trevino, Bubba Watson, and countless armchair quarterbacks did it.
They all either criticized Tiger Woods for seeking out Sean Foley’s tutelage, or criticized Foley for “messing up” Tiger.
Chamblee has been one of Foley’s most vocal critics, starting as early as March of last year. For the record, Tiger had worked with Foley for all of seven months up to that point.
Mediate opined right before the Frys.com Open in October that Tiger’s swing and motion were “all wrong.” Trevino and Watson wondered what Tiger was doing with a swing coach in the first place, saying he should be more self-reliant.
Beyond the obvious discourse between critics and subjects, there lies a deeper concern for us as golf teaching professionals. The unspoken school of thought is that if we are not getting instant, positive results from our students, then we must be going down the wrong path.
Seriously? So, since Tiger wasn’t dominating world golf again by last March, Chamblee started blasting Foley. His criticisms continued for months (and since I don’t watch Golf Channel 24/7, I don’t know if he’s said anything negative about Foley recently). Foley dismisses his critics as saying they really don’t know what’s going on, and he’s right.
Making major changes in a golf swing takes time – a lot of time. Nick Faldo said it took two years before his changes made under David Leadbetter became automatic. Tiger is swinging much differently under Foley than he was under Hank Haney, so I think we could qualify this as a major swing change, too. The results are coming. Since the Frys.com Open, Tiger has played very good golf, usually throwing in one bad round out of four, which prevented him from winning several times.
Going back to the implications for teaching professionals, we have a hard enough time convincing our students to be patient while making changes without the likes of Chamblee clamoring for instant results. Golfers who hear Trevino and Watson might think that, hey, I don’t need a swing coach.
If you ask Tiger about working with Foley, you will probably find someone who is very happy with his progress and who understand the “process,” as Tiger has been saying. If arguably the greatest talent to ever play the game seeks out coaching and is willing to take over a year before he sees improvement, shouldn’t all golfers take a page from his book?
Review written by Mark Harman, USGTF National Course Director