MIAMI, Fla. — Tiger Woods continued to overhaul his swing during a Wednesday morning practice round at Doral, and coach Sean Foley had his ear.
The two men marched the fairways at the Blue Monster in lockstep, chatting constantly during the nine-hole session. Foley frequently unsheathed a camera to film Woods’s swings, many of which produced staggeringly wayward shots. If it’s true that you practice how you play, then it appears unlikely Woods will end his winless drought this week at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
On the 18th, Tiger’s final hole of the day, Woods yanked back-to-back tee shots into the lake — after the first he smiled, after the second he remained stone-faced — before pushing a third tee ball into the right rough. In a scene that played out numerous times throughout the morning, Foley then showed Woods some images from his camera, Tiger nodded several times, and the two men headed down the fairway together.
Woods played by himself Wednesday morning, but he was joined inside the ropes by his agent Mark Steinberg, his P.R. man Glenn Greenspan, and Nike golf manager Rick Nichols, who was likely interested in the performance of a new wedge with which Woods was tinkering.
After the inconsistent nine holes, Woods hit the range for about 45 minutes then went off to face the microphones at his scheduled press conference.
Woods, currently the fifth-ranked player in the world, will open play on Thursday alongside No. 4 Graeme McDowell and No. 6 Phil Mickelson — a magnetic group that’s sure to attract a large chunk of Doral’s galleries and television cameras. During his press conference, Woods appeared pleased to be paired with Mickelson to start the tournament.
‘It will be fun — it just doesn’t happen,” Woods said. “Bones [Mickelson’s caddie Jim Mackay] and I were on the golf course today trying to remember the last time it happened in a non-major and he thought it was ’98.”
Although he’s plummeted five spots in the standings since last fall, Woods said he derives no extra motivation from his slumping world rank.
“It’s a process, and it’s about winning golf tournaments, and I haven’t done that. There’s no reason for me to be up there at the top,” Woods said. “You have to win golf tournaments, and you have to do it consistently. Lee [Westwood] did it. Martin [Kaymer]’s done it, and that’s what it takes.”
In the meantime, Woods said he is enjoying Foley’s unorthodox methods as the coach continues to orchestrate Tiger’s swing overhaul.
“It’s knowledge of ball-flight, knowledge of numbers,” Woods said. “Also, he’s a very well-read person. He’s very philosophical and well-rounded, and I think that’s something we pick each other’s brains on — not just golf but just life, and it’s been good.”
It’s not philosophical, but here are a couple of quick numbers: In Woods’s Wednesday presser, he said the word “process” three times and “fun” four times. You can expect Thursday’s round with Mickelson and McDowell to be packed with plenty of each.