Foley swings into action

Coach changing Woods' entire release pattern

March 17, 2011|By Jeff Shain

The way Tiger Woods sees it, the makeover is no more radical than a baseball player showing up with a new batting stance. Hands high, hands low. Upright or hunched, open stance or closed.

Same instrument, different style.

Cal Ripken Jr.'s many stances never endured such scrutiny whenever he went 1-for-14 in a weekend. Then again, the insight Woods offered last week had the effect of hearing David Ortiz was being converted to a singles hitter.

"I have to change everything," Woods said in one of his more unguarded revelations. "It's the whole release pattern."

In other words, Woods' work with Sean Foley isn't merely changing his swing in the classic sense. This is ingraining a new motor pattern that goes through the entire bag — driver to putter.

"How I release the putter, how I release the short game, how I release irons, drivers — they're all related," Woods said. "You just can't have one swing (for one segment) and then have another — they're all interrelated."

As one might imagine, this came as a bit of news to former coaches Hank Haney and Butch Harmon.

Queried by a reporter via Twitter, Haney said he never tinkered with Woods' masterful short game but for one exception — long bunker shots in which the approach is similar to the full swing.

Harmon, who got Woods before he turned pro and thus had a greater chance to mold the prodigy's game, also found the top-to-bottom revamp a surprise. And like anyone else watching Friday's play at the TPC Blue Monster, he did a double-take when Woods hit a snipe-hook and a 3-wood popup in the same round.

"This is Tiger Woods," Harmon said during a cameo in the NBC booth. "This isn't somebody on the Nationwide Tour that's just trying to get a card. This is the greatest player that ever lived. I think it just shows you that he's still a work in progress."

By and large, Harmon has been careful to measure his comments since he and Woods parted ways several years ago. Foley and Haney are still working on that.

Foley, in a Q&A with Golf.com last week, opined there was "nothing about what (Woods) was doing in his previous swing that made any sense to me." Later on, he said Haney "built most of his career around Tiger."

It didn't take long for word to get back to Haney, who spends a lot of free time taking questions from Twitter followers. Haney let a few speak for him, re-tweeting such lines as "Sean Foley = clueless" and "Maybe Foley should stop talking until Tiger wins 6 more majors under him!"

A Sunday 66 by Woods, lifting him to his first top-10 since the U.S. Open, helped calm the white noise. A flare-up, though, might be a snipe-hook away.

jshain@tribune.com

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