Ames says Foley has pointed him toward a bunch of writers and philosophers and turned him into a more serious reader. "Really, except for the age difference, he's like a role model for me," says Ames, who is 46. Ames believes that Foley could be an ideal teacher for Woods because he will show him a swing that will not hurt him. "Tiger's swing is so violent, it's no wonder his body is breaking down," Ames says. In a Foley-shaped swing, Ames adds, "the body moves correctly, to where it doesn't hurt."
Of course, the biggest thing in any coach-player relationship lies in the murky waters of personality, in how two people mesh. Ames, compulsively candid, doesn't pretend to know how Woods and Foley would get along. "In Tiger you have one big ego to work with, and that's a tough fish to catch," Ames says. "But the real question is, Could Tiger handle Sean? Actually, you've got two pretty big egos there." Note the mirth in the golfer's voice.
Like a lot of well-known instructors, Foley is an all-world talker, and an interesting one. He's a white, eh-using Canuck who went to a historically black university, Tennessee State, in Nashville to play golf. He stayed five years and majored in philosophy. Along the way he became fascinated by Southern culture, African-American culture, hip-hop, the roots of racism and poverty, the life and times of Martin Luther King Jr. and the spiritual, intellectual and athletic development of children. Talking to him, you get the feeling he won't be baking himself on the practice tee at Orange County National forever.
In the meantime he's thoroughly devoted to making good players better. Enter Woods. Or maybe not. Foley isn't convinced Woods needs him or anyone else. He predicts Woods will win 23 or more majors even if he never sees another swing coach. "Eighty-five to 90 percent of Tiger's swing is completely Tiger Woods," Foley says. "The teacher's job is to let Tiger be himself over the ball and learn to answer his own questions. If Tiger learned more from the teacher than the teacher learned from Tiger, then the teacher probably wasn't asking the right questions. You're talking about the Jimi Hendrix of golf. You're talking about Bill Gates. You're talking about genius." Foley can give you entertaining lists of favorite authors (Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky), movies (Forrest Gump, Platoon), musicians (Stevie Wonder, Guru of Gang Starr), poets (Maya Angelou, Lao Tzu) and golf courses (St. Andrews, the Magnolia course at the Walt Disney Golf Resort). But there are gaps in his education. He has, for instance, no favorite video games. Tiger could help him there. Like all real teachers, Foley knows the art of teaching is a two-way street.
SI Golf+ ranked the top candidates to become Woods's next instructor. Here are the top contenders ranked in order of their odds of getting the job.
Philosophy: Just win, baby while protecting my knee, my neck and my Achilles.
Client: Tiger Woods.
Pros: Woods is a natural, and he knows the evolution of his body and golf swing better than anyone; video analysis is easier than ever.
Cons: A second set of eyes is needed to help detect what he can't always see, even with a camera.
Philosophy: Take into account everything from physics to geometry to physiology to psychology to biomechanics to help a player.
Clients: Stephen Ames, Hunter Mahan, Sean O'Hair.
Pros: He's a Woods contemporary and Nike endorser with an interest in fitness, and he works with two of Tiger's good buds, Mahan and O'Hair.
Cons: Woods will demand to be Foley's top dog, which could split his loyalties.
Philosophy: Emphasize the fundamentals of the swing.
Client: Jay Haas.
Pros: A friend, he hails from a family of famous instructors, and he's a recovering alcoholic who could understand Tiger on another level.
Cons: Has never been in the limelight and he's Butch's brother, which might be too close for comfort.
Philosophy: Employ a flat, around-the-body, one-plane swing.
Client: Mark O'Meara.
Pros: He knows Tiger's swing, he has a good relationship with him and Woods did win 31 tournaments on his watch.
Cons: Tiger said he wanted to own his swing. Post Hank, he may have buyer's remorse.
Philosophy: Mix physical abilities with swing fundamentals.
Client: Zach Johnson
Pros: Tour experienced, he has a reputation as a guy who can help without forcing a player to conform to his theories.
Cons: He may not be high-profile enough, and even if he is, a busy academy may keep him home.
Philosophy:Focus on the big muscles in the body to improve consistency.
Clients: Robert Gamez, Oliver Wilson
Pros: High-energy proponent of the Leadbetter system; he worked with many top players when Lord Lead was absent.
Cons: He's a system teacher, and Tiger may balk at pairing with another method guy after Haney.
Philosophy: Match solid fundamentals with body sizes and swing types.
Clients: Bart Bryant, D.A. Points, Y.E. Yang.
Pros: Former Tour player and David Leadbetter protÃ©gÃ© works with a large stable of pros in Orlando.
Cons: Thriving teaching business would make it difficult for Mogg to be at Tiger's beck and call.
Philosophy: Let your body and natural tendencies determine your swing.
Clients: Paul Azinger, Loren Roberts.
Pros: Suttie, 63, has a doctorate in education (emphasis on biomechanics) and offers a cerebral, scientific approach.
Cons: Suttie is not in search of notoriety, and his grandfatherly style might not gel with Tiger's personality.
Philosophy: Control the ball with a shorter, tighter swing.
Clients: Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman.
Pros: Worked with Woods during his greatest years 1994 through 2002 when he won three straight U.S. Ams and eight majors.
Cons: Butch likes the limelight, and Tiger already fired him once. Plus, Harmon does work with Mickelson.