Tiger Woods puts extra distance between himself and Foley
Just as Woods has been opting for more 3-woods and 2-irons this week, he's also been leaving extra yardage between himself and swing coach Sean Foley. While Foley has been working with his other students -- Hunter Mahan, Justin Rose and Stephen Ames -- before their tee times, the sharply dressed golf guru has been conspicuously absent from the driving range each day when Tiger has arrived to warm up.
"All these guys have different requirements," Foley says. "Hunter plays his best when he's jovial, and Rosie's the same. Tiger likes to get into a concentrated state."
"The key of Buddhism is for the teacher to make himself obsolete to the student," Foley says. That Tiger is no longer requesting his services before tee time, like he did some at this year's Masters where he finished T-40, is encouraging to both. "That we're only working on technique after his rounds shows how much further ahead he is in the process," Foley says.
Like keeping the headcover on his driver, it's easy to admire the simple confidence of the strategy. Woods has drawn criticism from some about "over-tinkering" with his swing, and this move to get ready alone feels like a shift back to the basics of a clear mind. The best athlete in the world needing to rely, to believe, in nobody other than himself.
However, Woods' solo warm-up sessions, especially after Saturday's 75 (+5), can raise other questions. In his heyday, Tiger always warmed-up with either Hank Haney or Butch Harmon standing by. Still major-less under his tutelage, is it possible Woods doesn't trust Foley to the same degree he trusted his past teachers? Or is it that Tiger wishes to avoid the exhibition and ingloriousness of being physically instructed during this tough stage in his life? Or is it as Foley suggests? That they are so far along that Woods doesn't need help with the little things.
The only thing that's clear is that Woods is still searching for the solution to the problem that has plagued him his entire career, and which indeed plagues so many golfers, and that is how to take your range game to the first tee. The highlight reel of Woods' poor performances on first holes at major championships lives in inverse to the many times he's been clutch down the stretch. He's both lost a ball and hooked one into water on inaugural tee shots at British Opens, and he's had week-long troubles like making three opening double-bogeys at Torrey Pines in 2008. Over a career at Augusta National, his worst scoring average is far and away the first hole.
Tiger has been striping it on the range at the 2012 U.S. Open. "The warm-up was good," Woods said after he released control of the tournament on Saturday. Foley or no Foley, it's the distance over that temporary footbridge that Tiger needs to figure out if he's to win.