Every day this week, writers and editors from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine will address one pressing question about the PGA Championship in a daily version of PGA Tour Confidential, our weekly roundtable discussion.
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Are Tiger Woods and Sean Foley a good match? Is it too late to help for this week, or does the fact that Tiger sought outside help raise expectations for him at Whistling Straits and beyond?
Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: I’ve known Sean for close to 20 years, and he can certainly get Tiger back on track with his interdisciplinary approach to the golf swing — biomechanics, physics, psychology, etc. But Sean is his own man, much like Butch, so he’s not going to be hen-pecked or worship daily at Tiger’s feet. Having said that, he’s a businessman who could keep his current top clients happy and work Tiger into his schedule.
Tiger has never really been without a teacher, and he’s never, to my knowledge, brought a camera onto a tour driving range. He needs an extra set of eyes to look at him critically. Who knows, Sean might have told Tiger something that triggers a feeling in his swing and gets him going this week. When you see Tiger poking with his swing positions, I think he’s searching for the right sensations, and Sean is a master at helping players make connections between the body and mind. But the putting is in Tiger’s head and in the grave with Earl, who was his son’s greatest putting coach.
Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: It’s good news for Woods to admit that his self-analysis hasn’t been working, and that he’s seeking some help from a coach as talented and knowledgeable as Foley. Raises expectations for Whistling Straits a little, although they couldn’t have been lower. Woods won’t take on Foley full-time though. He just wants someone to talk to whom he can trust. He’s done with the “guru coach” for good.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Too late. This has got to be the world’s worst golf course to suddenly and miraculously find your game.
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: I think Woods-Foley is a good match, but nothing is likely to change this week. Foley is younger than Haney, Harmon and the rest, and already has a stable of good young pros. However, it’s not like he can sprinkle pixie dust over Tiger and get immediate results.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: If Foley is a businessman, as Farrell says, he’ll drop everything for Tiger. Is it a good fit? It can’t hurt. Going solo was never going to last. Tiger is a tinkerer and needs someone to challenge him and keep him engaged. If not Foley, he’ll find someone else.
David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: Foley has proven that he can work with good players like Hunter Mahan and Sean O’Hair and help them win, so he could probably help Tiger too. But the word that I’ve heard around the range is that he is really interested in building the Sean Foley brand, and that’s not something that would sit well with Tiger. His ideal coach would be someone full of knowledge that wants nothing more than to stand in the shadows and be anonymous.
John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: Foley should be able to help Tiger, but I think Percy Boomer would be a better fit. Boomer would tell Tiger to forget about backswing positions and swing plane and get back to feeling the clubhead again. (“I try to teach by the pupil’s sense of feeling,” Boomer says, “rather than his understanding of mechanics.”) Boomer is dead and no longer taking on clients, but Tiger can probably find an old copy of On Learning Golf, published in 1942. If none are available, I’ll lend him mine.
Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: There are a number of positives to Tiger teaming up with Foley, chief being Foley’s belief in himself and swagger. Foley walks and talks like a jock. Reminds me of Pete Rose — all neck and arms and attitude. Tiger could use a little mojo like that in his camp after weeks of slumped shoulders. I also like that Tiger has a similar, if more muscular, body type to Justin Rose, Sean O’Hair and Hunter Mahan, who are all around that 6-foot to 6-foot-3 range, and who all swing the club so beautifully. Not sure how much Tiger can learn in 48 hours with Foley, but I think the union could pay dividends down the road.
Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Only time will tell if it’s a good match. But Tiger’s never, since age 4, been without an instructor at his side, so he’s going to find somebody, and soon.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: It’s up to Tiger and Foley to figure out if it’s a good fit. I think Tiger should already have figured out that going it alone isn’t working for him. Whether it’s Foley or someone else, I think it’s a good idea to get someone to watch and oversee the rebuilding process. You can’t burn down Rome in a day, to misquote the old cliche. His connection to Foley shouldn’t change anyone’s expectations for Tiger at the PGA. A few sessions together probably aren’t going to make a difference. If anyone can do it, Tiger can, but that’s still a big ask.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: To way overstate the severity of the problem, Tiger is like an alcoholic who cannot help himself until he admits he has a problem. If he’s asking Foley for help, that’s a good first step.