Sean Foley Talks Tiger Woods & Philosophy

by Jeff Skinner

So the mood on the PGA Tour will certainly change this week as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will be making their PGA Tour debut at The Farmers Insurance Open.  Excuse me, but doesn’t this tournament name evoke images of farmers showing off their prized cattle at the county fair?  County fair or not, the PGA Tour moves into high gear on Thursday at Torrey Pines.  If you need further convincing about the significance of  The Farmers, CBS opens its golf broadcasting season when the coverage moves from The Golf Channel to CBS for Saturday and Sunday.  Without a doubt when Tiger and Phil play there is always some more buzz surrounding a tournament.

Tiger will be unveiling his “new swing” after an off season spent with new coach Sean Foley.  Foley had a presence on tour before Tiger as he coached Sean O’Hair and Hunter Mahan among others but his profile has exploded now that he counts Tiger as one of his stable of students.  There is much more to Foley than just his thoughts on the golf swing.   He isn’t only concerned with the physicality of the golf swing.  Yes biomechanics, physics and geometry are part of Foley’s Pillars of Golf Instruction but so are philosophy and life experience.  He’s part swing coach and physiologist but he is also part philosopher and life coach.  He deals with what’s between the ears as much as he does with setup and swing plane.

Farrell Evans asks Foley some questions in Golf.com and true to his nature Foley gives him some frank and philosophical answers.  Foley says he isn’t really concerned with what others think of him or his techniques, “I could care less what people say.”

His says his coaching role models are John Wooden and Phil Jackson.  It may be that Wooden connection that keeps Foley concerned with the player in an overall sense and not just his golf swing.  He prefers not to be called a golf instructor bit rather a coach.  When Foley was asked about setting goals for his players he turns quite Zen:” What I want for all the players that I work with is for them to be content and at peace with the adversity that they go through on the course. I’m very much a co-pilot. I’m not going to say to any one of my players that it’s my way or the highway.”

Foley thinks that some players and coaches may have forgotten how lucky they are to be living such a privileged life. “There can be a little bit of entitlement. Some of the guys have forgotten how fortunate they are to do what they do for a living. Another thing that bugs me are the coaches who believe that they are more important than the players. They think that they are the actual talent. I’m paid a percentage of what the player earns, and that percentage in most cases is lower than the caddies. So I know my place in how I help my players. I’ve had times where a player has gone out and absolutely missed the cut by doing what I tell them. In most cases these guys were on the PGA Tour before we started coaching them. So as far as the development is concerned, they were 95 percent to their potential when we got to them.”

If you think you can’t afford a lesson with Foley your wrong.  The real problem is trying to get him to spend an hour with hackers like us.  He’s pretty busy with Tiger and the boys. “The highest I’ve ever charged for an hour lesson was $250. I’m giving a golf lesson. A lawyer can charge a $1,000 an hour because they are saving a corporation millions. I know there are people who are working as hard as me or harder for $14 an hour.”

Sean Foley will certainly be in the spotlight this year as Tiger tries to get his game back and resume his march towards Jack Nicklaus’ record of eighteen majors.  If Tiger wins and regains his form Foley may be called a genius.  If Tiger struggles and fails to win soon, Foley will take some heat.  Either way Foley couldn’t care less.


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