Tiger Woods and Sean Foley’s relationship just wasn’t a good fit.
That was the consensus of both Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee and NBC Sports analyst Johnny Miller during a conference call previewing the networks’ coverage of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. The question was inevitably raised given Woods’ announcement of the high-profile “breakup” Monday.
“It sounds disparaging to Sean but it shouldn’t,” Chamblee said, pointing to Foley’s success with former charges Stephen Ames, Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan, the latter of whom skyrocketed in playoff standings after his win at Barclays on Sunday. “I liken Woods to being a football team, and if Foley were the coach he would have been fired a long time ago.”
Woods will now have some time to figure out exactly what his next move is, whether that be hiring a new coach or getting back to basics, as Miller suggested.
“Tiger is looking for too much,” Miller said. “He just needs to go play golf.”
Woods announced he was taking a prolonged leave from the game to rest his ailing back after he failed to make the cut at the PGA Championship at Valhalla. He won’t return until December, when he plays at his own event, the World Challenge.
Chamblee said it might be a while until golf has the sort of excitement Woods once brought to the game, especially if he needs to work on yet another swing.
“This is going to require another swing change for Tiger,” said Chamblee. “So that’s going to require a sort of incubation period that will slow golf down for a little bit.”
So is the answer another coach for the ailing Woods?
Not necessarily, said Miller. “[Woods] knows enough to tell most coaches what to do. He’s still got the short game. …He just needs to work on his longer shots.”
Chamblee said that players used to find confidence in solitude when not employing a swing coach, something he thinks is absent from the Tour today. He talked about Woods’ swing in the early 2000s as an example, when Woods watched footage of the 1997 Masters and pinpointed 10 things he wanted to work on before calling up then-coach Butch Harmon.
“I don’t know that this helicopter teacher, this constant hovering, well-intentioned, well-informed constant teaching is doing the player a great service,” Chamblee said.
Both Miller and Chamblee noted the irony with which Woods has been talking about getting stronger and “more explosive.” For an older golfer, the analysts said, it’s finesse and not force that will make him successful.
“It’s going to have to be somebody with enough gravitas to convince [Tiger] that all of this work he’s doing in the gym has made him so big and thick at the top that there’s no way he could ever go back to swinging anywhere near the way he used to,” said Chamblee.
Added Miller: “Forget about explosive…he’s about 15 years late on that.”
Explosive Moves Up the Leaderboard
If Hunter Mahan’s FedEx Cup standings climb after just one event are any indication of what’s to come for the rest of the playoffs, golf enthusiasts everywhere are in for an exciting few weeks as the playoffs continue Friday with Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston.
Miller, who will be in the booth at TPC Boston, said the straightforward, trick-free course is great for a competitive field. Mahan goes into the second event of the playoffs in first place, shooting up from where he started at 62nd.
Chamblee said that move showed just how volatile the FedEx Cup playoffs can be. Stuart Appleby also soared from 98th to 19th (79 spots) in the standings after finishing T-2 at Barclays with Cameron Tringale (up 51 spots) and Jason Day (up 27 spots). The FedEx Cup could, literally, be anyone’s game.
Henrik Stenson is the defending FedEx Cup champ, and only one player has won the 8-year-old tournament twice — Tiger Woods. But another previously winner could have a shot, if he can keep from crumbling on Sundays.
Following Furyk (and Fowler)
Jim Furyk, who won the FedEx Cup in 2010, has had a “maddening season,” according to Chamblee. Furyk has gone 0-8 in tournaments where he has held the lead (or was tied for it) after 54 holes this year. For Chamblee and Miller, that qualifies as a could-be-surprise for this tournament. Furyk currently sits in sixth place in the FedEx standings.
“What [Furyk’s] doing this year is nothing short of amazing,” Miller said. “But it’s such a hard thing to get your arms around how a guy could play so well to get into position on Sunday and be a completely different player on Sunday.”
Chamblee also looped Rickie Fowler into the “Golfers With Maddening Seasons” category. The 25-year-old finished top five in all four majors this year, but didn’t walk away with any hardware.
“What would not be a surprise is Rory McIlroy winning the FedEx Cup,” said Chamblee. “But that consistency, both [Fowler’s] and Furyk’s, has been one of the great story lines of the year. I’m looking for both of those players to have a chance and go forward and win.”
However, Miller added that getting close and not closing the deal can take a toll on a player.
“Furyk has had all his chances and Rickie only has the one win,” Miller said. “When you have chances of winning and you don't do it, you almost become slightly psycho.”