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Nicklaus Turns To Foley to Prepare For Masters Return on 25th Anniversary of 1986 Win

Jack Nicklaus prepares for an appearance at next week's Masters with Canadian swing coach Sean Foley (left). (Photo courtesy I. Andrew Media)

According to various news sources, Canadian swing coach to the stars Sean Foley is working with legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus to prep him for one final Masters tournament, despite the former green jacket winner saying he was done playing at Augusta. He last played The Masters in 2005.

Nicklaus’ appearance at the event comes on the 25th anniversary of his last win at Augusta. Nicklaus talked to the Associated Press about the decision this morning.

“I felt I couldn’t be competitive [at The Masters],” Nicklaus said, when asked why he stopped playing . “But I’ve been working with Sean and I’ve really found my swing again.

“I liked some of the things he had to say about my golf swing and where I needed to go,” Nicklaus added. “I like the direction because I was able to hit some of the shots I used to be able to hit feel-wise. When you get that kind of contact again, it’s good. I still want to pick his brain. I don’t really have all of his whole concept yet. But I would like to get to know him more before I fully get into it.”

 Nicklaus, who has had a hip replaced more than a decade ago, was introduced to Foley by Tiger Woods, who has been working with the Canadian since last year’s PGA Championship.

Nicklaus said he had a discussion earlier this year with son Jackie, who caddied for the Golden Bear at his 1986 Masters win. It was Jackie who convinced him to tee it up at Augusta one more time.

“I’m not going there to win, but I feel that I can still be competitive and have a lot of fun out there with Jackie,” said Nicklaus.

Foley told ScoreGolf’s Bob Weeks that he’s spent the last few weeks either working with Woods or Nicklaus, adding the Golden Bear is hitting the ball longer than he was in his prime.

“With age, Jack’s swing has changed,” Foley told Weeks via e-mail. “But with my knowledge of biomechanics, I’ve helped Jack reverse the aging process. If he takes the club more from the inside while limiting the use of his legs, I know we can get Jack to the point where he can be competitive. He’s put a lot of time into it.”

Foley says he’s thrilled to be working with Nicklaus, and is learning as well as instructing the golf legend.

“Everything concurs with one another —  everything is everything,” Foley said. “I could watch a successful lawyer who’s extremely successful at what he does and learn more about what I do. Also, with the golf swing, to this day, I still don’t know what’s right, but I have a pretty good idea of what’s wrong. It’s more of trying to get people, especially Tour players to stop doing the wrong things and allowing them to be their instinctive, genius selves. There’s no bigger genius than Nicklaus. He’s the talent. I’m just there to guide him, answer his questions and I don’t have all of the answers. I always try to get the answer. Sometimes it’s not just showing him videos when it’s not going right. It’s actually keeping the videos from where it’s really good and then recognizing where he was in his life from an energy level, if he was being optimistic or pessimistic. Everything is everything.”

Asked if the time spent with Nicklaus and Woods would take away from his other students, namely Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose, Foley said it wouldn’t be an issue.

“My wife does my scheduling and Jack is near Orlando, so I make it work,” said the diminutive swing coach. “Tiger only spends a limited time with me. So fitting in time with Jack isn’t really an issue.”

Foley said as a past Masters winner, Nicklaus doesn’t have to notify the tournament that he intends to play. But Nicklaus isn’t going to Augusta in a ceremonial capacity. He has served as an honourary starter in the past. Foley said he didn’t have a sense of how Nicklaus might perform at the tournament. “I don’t like to talk about expectations,” Foley said. “I’m more about goals and I think Jack just didn’t want to embarrass himself.”

Nicklaus said he’s made significant strides while working with Foley despite having largely given up competitive golf.

“I only ever enter a golf tournament with the goal of doing my best, playing the course and seeing what happens,” Nicklaus said. “Augusta is a special place to me and this is a celebration of my past successes there.”

Nicklaus added that more than anything, Foley has changed his perspective on his career and life.

“Working with Sean is really refreshing because he is an intellectual and is so well read that you can’t help but enjoy the time you spend with him,” Nicklaus said. “We’ve been working hard, but it has been fun at the same time.”

Foley said he was excited by Nicklaus returning for the tournament, and wasn’t worried about his critics.

“Look, I’m a Canadian who at 19 was a white kid at an all-black university,” said Foley, who played college golf at Tennessee State. “This couldn’t even be called criticism what I’m going through now. This is much bigger than that.”

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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 Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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