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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Should Tiger Do Now?

Since the announcement Monday morning that Tiger and Sean Foley were "ending their professional relationship," the golf world has been abuzz. It seems everybody is ready to solve this little dilemma for the Big Cat. I also have an idea, which I'll get to in a minute, but first let me get you up-to-speed on the official bits.

Tiger and Foley

Monday morning this little announcement popped up at tigerwoods.com:
Tiger Woods said today he will no longer be working with Sean Foley.

"I'd like to thank Sean for his help as my coach and for his friendship," Woods said. "Sean is one of the outstanding coaches in golf today, and I know he will continue to be successful with the players working with him. With my next tournament not until my World Challenge event at Isleworth in Orlando, this is the right time to end our professional relationship."

"My time spent with Tiger is one of the highlights of my career so far, and I am appreciative of the many experiences we shared together," Foley said. "It was a lifelong ambition of mine to teach the best player of all time in our sport. I am both grateful for the things we had the opportunity to learn from one another, as well as the enduring friendship we have built. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him."

"Presently, I do not have a coach, and there is no timetable for hiring one," added Woods.
There are a couple of important things to note here. One is that Tiger chose to announce this during a period when he said he won't be playing golf -- if you heard Gary Williams talking to Tiger on Morning Drive last week, you heard Tiger say he won't even be swinging a club for a month or so. That means he has plenty of time to pick another coach.

The second thing is that Sean actually has a quote of his own in this announcement on Tiger's website. That's not something you'd expect to see with Tiger and other teachers, so this is apparently a very amicable split.

Although the summaries of Tiger's record with Foley don't look as impressive in comparison with Butch or Haney, I don't think it's all that bad when you consider Tiger's injuries. Officially, Tiger had 8 wins in 55 starts (that doesn't count the 2011 World Challenge win) -- 3 in 2012 and 5 in 2013. Those aren't minor wins, folks:
  • Arnold Palmer Invitational: 2
  • Memorial Tournament:1
  • Quicken Loans (AT&T) National: 1
  • Farmers Insurance Open: 1
  • WGCs: 2
  • THE PLAYERS: 1
He also had a number of Top5 finishes, including 2 in majors before the back became a big issue in 2013. I think THE PLAYERS win is being undervalued, as Tiger had only one of those under the combined efforts of Butch and Haney. That's a tough course for Tiger... but he got that win before the back became a major issue.

And injury was definitely a major issue. Between Achilles tendon and back problems, Tiger was only healthy about half of his time with Foley. That certainly affected their results. The two never really had a chance to see just what they could do, a thought that Butch Harmon echoed in his comments to Tim Rosaforte Monday.

As you might expect, paddypower.com immediately had a betting page for Tiger's next teacher. You should take this page with a whole shaker full of salt, as Butch Harmon (who already said he and Tiger wouldn't be working together) is even odds while Tiger's ex, Elin, is 500-to-1 and Tiger's mom is 300-to-1. These are odds to be his next swing instructor? Puh-leeze!

Clearly there's already a lot of debate about who Tiger's next coach should be. Some media folks say Tiger should go solo while others have their own favorite suggestions.

Well, here's mine.

I don't think Tiger will need months to make a change. On this blog I focus on fundamentals because that's what makes or breaks a swing, and Tiger has solid fundamentals. While each of his coaches have had different swing theories, the fundamentals remain basically the same between them all, so we aren't looking at a long time to make useful swing changes -- especially if he has a few months uninterrupted by tournaments to focus on them.

I like the idea of Tiger avoiding a new swing coach... but I don't think he should go it on his own. I think he should get together with Steve Stricker and the two of them spend some practice time together. I think it would benefit BOTH of them. Here's what I'm thinking:

Tiger doesn't need a new swing; he just needs to simplify the one he has. Steve's swing was in a much worse condition than Tiger's has ever been, but Steve simplified his so much that he doesn't even need much practice to keep it sharp. This is perfect for Tiger, who needs a swing that won't require as much practice and therefore won't stress his back nearly as much. Plus he would immediately get better with the driver.

Likewise, I think Steve would benefit from seeing how Tiger strategizes his way around a course using "Steve's swing." Steve has been able to get into position to win a major but hasn't been able to get over the hump. I think Tiger could teach him some new tricks that just might help him do it.

Tim Rosaforte said he talked to John Cook on Monday, and Cook said he thought all Tiger really needed was someone to talk to on the practice range and serve as an extra set of eyes. Yes, I think Steve Stricker would fill the bill perfectly...

Plus think of all the putting practice Tiger would get! Are you listening, Tiger?

Sometimes I'm so smart I amaze myself. ;-)

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