Sean Foley denies rumors of links to Tiger Woods

The Nike Connection? Sean Foley appears to be Tiger Woods new swing coach.

The rumor du jour was that Canadian swing coach Sean Foley was about to ink a deal with Tiger Woods, a rumor my sources said had significant legs. The talk was that Tiger Woods will be letting longtime swing coach Hank Haney go and will announce that Foley, the Canadian swing coach who only a few years ago was teaching juniors, would take over the role. I have a source very close to Foley that confirmed a deal was in the works and being looked at by IMG, who represent Tiger. The source says Woods began talking to Foley last fall at the Presidents Cup and the two have been in regular contact since.

What’s the word from Foley? “No comment,” he said by e-mail only a few minutes ago. This may be the first time he’s ever been at a loss for words. I also assume if there was no truth to the rumor he’d simply say it isn’t true. I think the “no comment” speaks volumes.

Update: Foley read G4G and decided to elaborate this evening through email, throwing cold water on the rumor, and saying that most of the media covering this story haven’t even contacted him. He said: “I am telling you straight that I have had no discussion with tiger at all about coaching and don’t want to imply anything else simple as that. I didn’t realize that ‘no comment’ would create such speculation as all of these news agencies have already created enough on their own without even contacting me at all.”

All of this is fascinating, considering Foley’s remarks about Woods in 2007, not long after he took over as coach for Stephen Ames:

I think I could inspire him to do amazing things, given his money and intellect, Foley told the Globe’s Lorne Rubenstein when speaking of Woods. I dont see why I should paint a small picture for myself. I believe it will happen.

At the time I thought Foley was a dreamer. Turns out he was always a dreamer — and my impression was spot on. Could these dreams still come true? Foley is frenetic when you speak with him, using big expressions for big concepts. One of my favourite Foley stories comes from Chris Neale, the executive pro at Copper Creek. Foley was working for Neale at Glen Abbey more than a decade ago during a Canadian Open. All the pros were instructed to stay away from the PGA Tour pros, but Foley was like a kid before Christmas. Neale says one of his pros walked into his office on the Tuesday that week and was told he had a problem. “I immediately knew it was Sean,” he says.

Neale walked down to the range and found Foley sitting on an overturned range bucket directly in front of Davis Love III. The pair were talking very animatedly. Love turned to Neale as he approached: “This kid knows a lot about the golf swing.”

Neale nodded and told Sean he was needed elsewhere. It would take almost a decade, but Foley eventually linked with Stephen Ames, and now has a wide stable of players.

Here’s part of our conversationfrom last year on Ames:

There’s no doubt Sean Foley loves to talk. He’s fascinated by the golf swing and by interacting with the best golfers in the world. Though most pundits in the U.S. are still only vaguely aware of him, Ames’ win “ as well as the recent success of O’Hair “ is making Foley hard to ignore. If he continues to progress, Foley will soon be considered among the elite teachers in golf. He’s likely there now “ it is just not recognized. Throughout it all, he understands the fundamental element of his success — he’s not creating great golfers, he’s just making them great more often.
“It isn’t really a function of how good I am,” he says. “It is a question of how good they are “ they just don’t realize it. It is already there. They knew they were capable of it “ but I try to make them do it once every two weeks instead of once every five months.”

Golf blogger Stephanie Wei has her take on the story, as does Jeff Rude.

Update (Friday, May 7): Foley spent some time talking to Lorne Rubenstein at the Globelast night in an apparent attempt to set the record straight. While Rubenstein doesn’t actually reference G4G, I think it is clear who Foley is talking about here:

Its typical media stuff, Foley said. They write whatever reality they want to create. Ive said Ëœno comment to anybody who has asked me about this. The same people I say this to write blogs that Im going to work with Tiger.

Foley told me a few years ago that one of his main goals was to work with Woods, and that he felt that would happen one day.

Who knows what will happen? Foley asked Thursday night. Id like to work with Tiger if I got a chance, sure. Is there an interest? Absolutely there is. But again, theres been no discussion at all at this point.

Foley was understandably not happy that some writers have all but concluded hes about to work with Woods, and that hes been instructed not to say anything. International Management Group in Toronto represents Foley. IMGs head office is in Cleveland. IMG also represents Woods.

Foley said that hes not been instructed to say nothing about working, or not working, with Woods. One writer even said he had news from an insider in Foleys camp that hes on the cusp of working with Woods.

I didnt even know I have a camp, Foley said. That would mean hes talked to my wife. Shes my camp.

Foley works with a lot of pros and others in the industry. He sounds naive in saying he doesn’t have a group that supports and works with him. For the record, I’ve met his wife. Nice lady. Let’s say my insider was very close to the situation. But Foley has denied that he’s spoken to Woods about coaching him and that should end this rumor — one that I didn’t start, I’ll add. One would have to think given Woods’ reclusive nature, if there was any truth to the rumor than he couldn’t have been thrilled about this info getting out ahead of an actual commitment.

The Hamilton Spectator actually credits me on this story — though writer Garry McKay suggests my source was in IMG, which I never suggested.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently a columnist with and Ontario Golf, and a contributing writer to ScoreGolf, his blog, Going for the Green, was launched in 2004.

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Very interesting story Rob. Will have to see if this turns out to be true or not. It does seem strange that given Tiger’s missed cut last week that there was no Hank Hany at the Players Championship all week as Tiger prepared. One would have thought Tiger would have Hank around for sure.

    The only question marks, as the media keeps telling us is exaclty how strong is Tiger mentally and how much is Tiger’s personal life (the scandal, reported pending divorce) distracting him from focusing on his golf game? Probably more than we all think. He maybe the best player ever but he is afterall human.

    Be very interesting to see what develops on this story……

  • RT – at the time that TW switched to HH, he was in his bromance with O’Meara. When his eye wandered, there was Hank.

    Now, he seems to be very tight with O’Hair – remember he stuck around to congratulate him at Quail Hollow last year – very un-Tigerlike. If his eye wanders now, he sees Foley.

  • It will be interesting is this is true as I would love to see Tiger in a S&T method like Sean.

    If Tiger understood the golf swing more he could be extremely dangerous.

    Sean Foley is an outstanding coach and has learned from the best.

  • Rob, sean o’hair has elements of ben hogan. Why is it that when people see someone centred and on plane it is stack and tilt. They are just teaching what some instructors have known along. Sean Foley has not learned from the best he is the best and history will prove that. Interesting how little success the players that do stack and tilt have. Axley gone from PGA, Badds gone, Dean Wilson lost card, Tom Scherrer lost card, Mike Weir gone. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid.

  • I had not read this article before and the fact that Tiger was “picking” Sean’s brain at the PGA is very telling. I guess this is why Hank Haney was so upset even though he told the media (and Tiger went along with his explanation) that his relationship with Tiger was dysfunctional (although I saw him happily in Tiger’s company watching sports). Notice, Tiger has not commented/reacted to this article and I doubt ever will. Both he and Hank Haney knows what happened and Tiger is not talking (or texting – he has learned his lesson and paid dearly for texting) and will not talk in public about it. I find that Tiger let’s others do the talking and reacts very conservatively. When he returns to winning tournaments (AND HE WILL) I will just smile and have my cup of tea. Tiger has to make sure he goes with a coach who will honour confidences, otherwise, who can you trust.

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