Sean Foley isn't Tiger Woods' swing coach ... yet

Woods' pattern suggests Foley to be his next tutor

August 12, 2010|By Jeff Shain, Tribune newspapers

This is how the relationship began with Hank Haney too.

Recently divorced from his swing coach, Tiger Woods tries going it alone with limited success. Eventually, a new guy starts turning up during Woods' practice rounds — his playing partner's swing coach.

Nothing going on. Really. He's the other guy's coach. OK, maybe the occasional once-over from a second set of eyes. Then months later, formal confirmation arrives via fan letter or blog post.

Somewhere on this timeline now stands Sean Foley, who just happens to coach two of the PGA Tour's four multiple winners this year, Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan.

The Orlando-based instructor walked Whistling Straits' front nine Tuesday with Woods, Mahan and Sean O' Hair, another golfer under his tutelage. Foley wound up holding a video camera to record Woods' swing. They laughed and joked down several fairways.

According to Woods, the relationship is purely friendly. Nothing that might resemble a tryout.

"He was watching Hunter and Sean," Woods explained. "I did ask him to film a couple (swings). I would like to take a look at it, which I did. So I'm headed in the right direction."

Hey, when you're coming off a next-to-last finish in a no-cut event, there isn't much room to go farther down.

More to the point, Woods and Foley were together at The Players Championship three months ago, joined again by Mahan and O'Hair for a dawn's-early-light practice round. And this was before Haney severed ties with golf's No. 1 attraction.

Woods did acknowledge this week that working with Foley was "a possibility — but there are a lot of other coaches out there as well that would be a possibility."

None of which, by the way, turns up at those early practice rounds. And with his home base at Orange County National, Foley would be just a short drive from the Isleworth range in Windermere, Fla.

Now flash back to about seven years ago. Woods and Butch Harmon have drifted apart, a slow separation as the golfer first attempted to manage his own swing.

His practice partner in those days was Mark O'Meara, the "older brother" who helped Woods navigate the PGA Tour waters early in his career. O'Meara was a 20-year student of Haney.

It was no surprise, then, to see Haney drop by on the dawn patrol. By the time the 2004 Masters rolled around, word was that Haney had picked up Woods as a client. But Woods' public stance remained independent.

It wasn't until the end of the year that Woods confirmed his work with Haney — a casual name-drop in his Web newsletter.

On that pace, Foley would be confirmed around next year's Masters. Bet it happens sooner.

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