Tiger Woods’ swing coach Sean Foley didn’t hold back in his criticism of Bubba Watson when he appeared on an Irish talk radio show on Tuesday evening.
The outspoken Canadian was asked by Dublin-based Newstalk’s Off The Ball programme about 32-year old Watson’s recent criticism of Woods and the left-hander’s belief that “Tiger is going the wrong way” with his swing changes and becoming too embroiled in the mental side of the game.
In a wide-ranging interview in which he displayed little love for the media, Foley said: “He has the right to his own opinion but you probably shouldn’t make comments about a guy who has won 69 more times than you and you are virtually the same age. You know what I mean?”
Denying that he was angered by what Watson said, Foley added: “I wouldn’t say angry. I would just say, bud, you won three times the last 10 months, I am really pleased for you. You have worked hard and I think it is a great thing that you are playing so well. But why do you feel the need that you have to get the attention? What’s the use in making that comment?
“Let the guy do what he’s doing and you do what you’re doing and it will be fine. There is absolutely zero need for him to make that comment. But you know, Bubba loves the camera anyway so, I mean, whatever.”
Foley denied that he tried to “bash” Woods’ former coach Hank Haney and railed at what he perceives to be a “lack of respect” for Woods in the media since his fall from grace.
“The guy’s name alone has brought like $600 million to charity,” Foley said.
He also added that despite Tiger’s negative public image, Woods is “a good guy” as well as “a good Dad” and “a nice man.”
Q Butch Harmon was very complimentary about Tiger’s swing at Augusta and he was asked to compare it with the Tiger he worked with and he said he couldn’t make that comparison because amongst other things, Tiger has a very different body now. Is that was you were alluding to? He can’t swing the club the way he wants to. He has to look for another way?
100 Percent. But is a good friend of mine and I am working with what I have. And it is the difference between working with a 19-year old and a 35-year old. We’ve had four knee surgeries, some issues with both ankles. Tiger works out like a professional and working out is great and you will get fit from it, but you will also have breakdown. Think about how many balls he has hit by the time he is 35. There is no way to do it without injury.
So it took me a little while to understand what he could and couldn’t do and I feel like now that we are at is we are headed in a nice direction. I saw at Augusta him playing the game more than plain swinging and people said he should have just done that from the start. Well he couldn’t. He was hitting the ball so far out to the right and left that he couldn’t. He had to be technical for a while so he could build some proper moving patterns and from there, when he is able to free it up…..
But the thing that upsets me about the whole Tiger situation is that we are talking about a guy who when he came on tour they were playing for a $69 million purse and I think this year they are playing for $292 million dollars.
So the lack of respect he has got through everything he has been through, and obviously he did what he did and that’s fine, I’m not to judge him. If I am to look in the mirror at myself I have enough things that I have to deal with with myself. You know, it’s just been amazing. The fall from grace and how the media has treated him and how it has all went (sic). The guy’s name alone has brought like $600 million to charity.
So they only paint one side of the picture. They keep taking about his swing and talking about his swing but on the weekend at Augusta he hit 31 of 36 greens and 24 of 28 fairways so, he is definitely headed in the right direction and when he starts putting a little bit better he is the greatest player ever. You can’t hold him back. I don’t think it matters who coaches him, as soon as he gets used to their style, he is Tiger Woods.
Q Is the lack of respect purely a media thing? Some players on tour saw Tiger’s fall as maybe their chance to have a bit of a go at him. As recently as before the Masters, Ian Poulter was saying that there is no way that Tiger is going to be anywhere near the top 5. Those are the kinds of things that people wouldn’t have said about Tiger Woods before hand…
Q Not only Poulter. Even Rory McIlroy has talked before that he wouldn’t be too worried about playing Tiger Woods in the Ryder Cup. Have I taken that up wrong?
No, I don’t think you are picking that up wrong. You have to remember that by the time you guys read it someone might have put a spin on it. It’s obvious that Rory respects Tiger a great deal and he wants to beat him. That’s why he is playing the game. It’s to compete.
I mean, Bubba Watson says two days ago that Tiger is going the wrong way with his game and he’s getting too technical. Bubba is like, ‘I just go out and hit it, I don’t have a coach, I don’t know anything about my swing, I just go out and hit.’ He has the right to his own opinion but you probably shouldn’t make comments about a guy who has won 69 more times than you and you are virtually the same age. You know what I mean?
Q So you are angry about what Bubba Watson said?
I wouldn’t say angry. I would just say, bud, you won three times the last 10 months, I am really pleased for you. You have worked hard and I think it is a great thing that you are playing so well. But why do you feel the need that you have to get the attention? What’s the use in making that comment? Let the guy do what he’s doing and you do what you’re doing and it will be fine. There is absolutely zero need for him to make that comment. But you know, Bubba loves the camera anyway so, I mean, whatever.
Q You had a well publicised spat with Hank Haney, Tiger Woods’ previous coach. Talking about what Tiger had been doing as making no sense to you and he hit back through Twitter. Was that an unwelcome distraction for you with what you are trying to do with Tiger Woods?
With all my guys, I am going to defend them. That’s what coaches do in all sports. They’ll take the pressure off. I remember a few years ago, the Lakers weren’t playing good and Phil Jackson took the blame even though we might know that they might not have been showing up at practice and they might not have been working that hard or they might have been having too much fun. He deflected the attention onto himself and the fact is that I am here to stand up for all my guys.
All I said was that I didn’t understand what they were trying to do. I didn’t understand why you got the grip so weak, why you started the face to the right so much, why you clockwise rotate the left arm so much to the point that the face is so far open now.
If you are trying to hit a fade and the face is so open, you will fade it. But it is going to start 40 yards right before it fades. So I just said I didn’t understand what they were working on.
To be honest with you, I didn’t look at that as a bash. The fact of the matter is that under Hank’s watch, Tiger won a lot of tournaments and a lot of majors and I may not be able to say that one day. At the end of the day, all the guys I coach are playing 72 holes, going through doubt, fear, elation, frustration. I am not doing any of that. I sit there on the range with them.
So coaches aren’t really as important as the media makes us. We get too much credit when players play well and we get too much criticism when players play bad. There is nothing I can do about it if my guy goes out on the course and never commits to one single shot.
Q You are not afraid to be brash, shake things up and take people on. Is that a fair assessment?
Everything you would know about me until now would be something you read so I am going to be true to myself. People say, you are so outspoken. I say look, we are living in a world with racism, financial crisis, hunger. I think everyone is underspoken. There are problems we need to talk about.
So I guess when I come out and say some of the things that I do in a kind of a censored industry, it makes it look like I am so radical but it wasn’t anything different to anyone in any other business or doctors or anything like that.
So it’s how people take it and how people spin it. I walked with a guy yesterday 36 holes and when we got done he is like, ‘Man you are the complete opposite of every article I have read about you.’ And I am like, ‘That’s generally the case.’
Q You have just split with Sean O’Hair. Are there any personal issues or is that just a personal decision between you guys?
It was Sean’s decision. I love Sean O’Hair. He is such a talent and he’s a great kid. He has been through so much in his life as a young kid and to get to where he has got to is very impressive. We worked for 33 months together and I think we amassed about $10 million in earnings.
Not so long ago at this tournament we got to 12th in the world and it just hasn’t been working lately, for whatever reason. I have to take partial responsibility, he does what I am telling him. But you are very lucky in life if you have one or two or three relationships that last the extent of your life and this is the same as anything else.
Sometimes people have heard your voice for too long and it doesn’t have as much substance any more. There’s a number of reasons why players aren’t playing well and sometimes it’s coaching and sometimes it’s the caddie or whatever. I wish Sean all the best in the future and it’s been mutually beneficial for both of us in our lives to have met each other and we will continue to be friends. I will cheer for Sean louder than anyone.
Q With a guy like Tiger Woods, is there something different about his personality compared to the other golfers that might be part of the key to why he has been so successful over the years?
100 percent. His ability to focus and concentrate is just unbelievable. Sometimes when we are on the range back at Isleworth and he is hitting balls and I am watching him, I think sometimes he doesn’t realise I am there anymore. His ability to get into that almost trance-like state is brilliant.
What happens is, when you have a lot of things that go on in your life, all the thoughts you have in your brain are all fighting for attention. It is tough to focus when you are going through a divorce and a situation like that.
Anyone who has been divorced, whether or not it has been shown in front of the whole world, or it’s just known in their neighbourhood, it is tough to be clear when you go to work. There are other things in there. As time goes on we will see that clarity get stronger and stronger and stronger.
If you look at some of the putts he has made in the past, it’s like he has taken every ounce of will and character and integrity and just made that thing go in the hole. I think the greats can do that. Look at Jordan, all those shots that he made to win the game. Most of the other guys in that team, they never wanted the ball and he craved the ball, ‘give it to me, give it to me.’ He wanted it.
Tiger is a good guy. He is a good dad and he is a nice man and obviously you are only going to see on TV or what you read when he is at work. People always say, Tiger isn’t signing autographs. Well it’s basically dangerous when he tries to. You see the little kids up in the front and these old men basically step over them and push them out of the way to get his autograph.
Q Is he still angry with himself for not winning the Masters when he put himself in with a shout?
I don’t know. We see Tiger once in a while on TV and he’ll get pissed off or upset or whatever. But he’s got a really short memory for stuff like that.