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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Lee Westwood and Sean Foley No Longer an Item

You may have already heard about "the split." When players change teachers, it causes all kinds of buzz in the golf world.

When Westwood and Foley called it quits after 7 months, the speculation began.

Lee Westwood

Randall Mell wrote about it in his GolfTalkCentral column Wednesday, and it got a brief mention on Golf Central. You can read the original article at the link above, but I'd like to spend a few moments on one sentence from Lee:
“I just wanted something else, a new way of teaching.”
I guess that sums up most of the player-instructor changes on Tour -- any tour, for that matter. In the great search for something that will give them an edge, get them out of a funk, or just make them feel better about their games, even the best players in the world will move from a teacher who got them "there" (in Lee's case, that's Pete Cowen, who also teaches Henrik Stenson) to someone who'll give them "something else."

That's not a criticism of Lee Westwood, not by any stretch of the imagination. Lee left Cowen some time back to go it on his own. It was an understandable move -- he'd come so close to winning a major so many times, he probably just thought he was missing something.

I suspect the reason for the Westwood/Foley split is simply a difference in feel. At the risk of oversimplifying things, Foley teaches a modern swing (the legs pull the arms around) while Cowen teaches more of a classic swing (the arms and legs split the effort more evenly) -- a powerful version of the classic swing, but classic technique nonetheless.

Don't misunderstand me. The fundamentals of each swing are basically the same; it's just that the swing feels very different. For example, the bottom of the swing moves to a slightly different place when you change from one to the other. That's because your legs are driving harder in a modern swing than a classic swing. And for a player like Lee Westwood, who's spent thousands of hours working with a teacher who teaches a more classic swing, that can be a hard adjustment to make.

I wouldn't write anything (like personal animosity between Lee and Sean) into this move. But I think it's a good lesson about just how different the teachings of two leading instructors can be. Lee didn't need "something else" so much as he needed "more of the same, only better."

And because of that, I won't be surprised if Lee doesn't consider working with Cowen again. If Stenson's progress hasn't convinced him that Cowen can adapt his teaching, nothing will.

02-18-14 update: GC says that Westwood is now working with Mike Walker, a Cowen protégé.


  1. Westwood might want Cowen but will Cowen want Westwood. He has enough high profile names to keep him busy

  2. A valid question, Derek. But if Cowen thinks he can get him over the top this time, it might be worth the effort just for the publicity.