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Q&A: Sean Foley on what he would (and would not) do differently with Tiger Woods



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Even the briefest conversations with Sean Foley are inspiring, to say nothing of enlightening. Politics, history, literature, golf, life—it’s all on the table. After an amazing year—Foley’s longtime student Justin Rose ascended to World No. 1 for the first time; Cameron Champ emerged as the most exciting young player in golf; and 2016 Masters champ Danny Willett returned to the winner’s circle under Foley’s guidance—we caught up with the man who looks at golf and coaching just a little bit differently than everyone else.

LUKE KERR-DINEEN: Justin and Tiger—two No. 1s on your coaching résumé. We’re impressed.

SEAN FOLEY: Look, I’m only as good as my guys are. Take Rosie—he’s something else, man. He’s amazing. His golf IQ is off the charts. When he gets going he gets into this beautiful Rosie place. When he’s there it almost brings tears to my eyes, because it’s just so beautiful. I’ve learned a ton from him. I’ve probably learned more from Justin than he has from me.

LKD: Like what?

SF: Like the way he practices. I think the reason that we think golf is so mental is that we practice so poorly. Let’s say you and I go out to the range right now, ahead of our round. It only takes us a few swings before we start reaching for our 7-irons. We’re probably gonna find a favorable angle where the wind will help us. It may all be done unconsciously, but we’re going to aim at one target and hit 100 balls at it. Then it’s off to the first tee, where we’ll need to hit driver with the wind off the left, then chip-draw a 9-iron to a back-left pin. But we’ve just been standing on the range working on positions. With mostly a 7-iron. No wonder most golfers walk off 18 saying, “I can’t take it from the range to the course.” Of course you can’t! You’re not practicing for it!

LKD: Danny Willett came to you injured and in the midst of a terrible slump, and he credited you for his recent comeback victory at the DP World Tour Championship Dubai. How did you guys build your way back?

SF: Danny was in this place where he was better than everyone as a junior golfer, then as an amateur golfer, then as a pro, then he wins the Masters. So he gets to the pinnacle of his career, has two sons and is trying to be a present father when he starts to struggle with his game, then gets injured. Danny may have had a couple of bad tournaments, but he never really had a bad stretch. I told him, “Okay dude, there’s no quick way out of this. I don’t know how long it’s gonna take, but you need to trust me. We’ll get there. We just gotta peel the onion back. You’ve added layers to this that are unnecessary and you’re confusing yourself. You’re still that guy. You’re still Danny Willett.”

LKD: It’s interesting that you have Danny and Justin working on very different things in their swings. It kind of defies what critics say about your so-called “methods.”

SF: I feel like my critics don’t even really know what I teach. To be honest with you, my students don’t even know half the time. I remember last year when I was working with Si Woo Kim and then started with Danny—back-to-back lessons with the weakest and strongest grips you’ll ever see. Twenty years ago, one of those guys would’ve gotten destroyed. But I’m not trying to get anyone to fit a “model.” I don’t have methods. I have principles. I’m there to observe what’s going on and to build a blueprint with the player that’s unique. I was asked a while back what I’m working on with Rosie. I said, “Well, I have Andy Plummer in his backswing, Mac [O’Grady] in transition and Chuck Cook through the ball.” He found it refreshing. I was like, “Bro, I didn’t come up with any of this!”

Foley builds a unique blueprint for each of his players. For Justin Rose it’s… 1. A balanced setup with his weight centered over the ball. 2. An Andy Plummer–inspired backswing, with his hand path moving deeper and more around his torso. 3. A transition of his weight onto his lead foot. 4. A full rotation and extension of the torso through the ball.

LKD: Cameron Champ is the hottest thing in golf right now. You’ve coached him up the ranks. What do you see in his potential?

SF: To Cam, I’m a mentor and a big brother. We talk about politics, we talk about history, we talk about music, we talk about diet, we talk about hydration, we talk about what time to turn off your phone. I tell him, “Don’t ever read anything about yourself, because look—you’re on fire right now, and as soon as you’re not they’re gonna write more articles.” I’ve been through it myself. It’s special when you take young players like Cam and help them develop, but he has to keep learning. Right now, the single greatest thing that we’ll ever get accomplished in team Cameron Champ is getting him to actually eat something on a golf course.

LKD: I have to ask you about Tiger. How do you look back on the madness of those years?

SF: I love Tiger, man, and I look back on that time with a lot of gratitude, but it’s such a dangerous thing to say to yourself, “If I could do it again…” I mean, if Hitler hadn’t attacked Russia, would we be speaking German today? Well, he did and we’re not. Who cares? Did some of the stuff we do put Tiger’s back under too much stress? Maybe. Was that on purpose? No, but during that same time we got Stephen Ames, Justin Rose and Danny Willett all out of serious back pain. Hindsight’s useless. I don’t really reflect. The goal is to maintain where we are, which is the present.

LKD: I guess I probably shouldn’t ask what’s next, then. But any final thoughts on the journey that has brought you to this point?

SF: I’ve met a few people who climbed Mount Everest. I asked them, “Knowing what you know now would you have done it again if you knew what it was gonna be like?” They’re like, “Are you kidding me? Of course not! I almost lost my toes, and my fingers, and almost died six times, and couldn’t breathe, and had all these insane thoughts in my head!” I’ve been teaching golf for more than half my life. It’s crazy. But if I visited my younger self and said, “Okay, Sean, here’s the deal: You’re gonna get to this point by 2019. Here’s what it all looks like,” I’d have never started. But when you’re in it—really in it— you learn to love and appreciate the struggle. I don’t learn anything on vacation. Adversity and struggle is where wisdom comes from. And wisdom’s everything. You have to go through it to get to it.

Q&A: Sean Foley on what he would (and would not) do differently with Tiger Woods was originally posted at by Luke Kerr-Dineen

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PHOTOS: What's in the bag at the Genesis Open



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PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — If the Genesis Open was a movie, it’d be a blockbuster filled with A-list talent. Tiger Woods leads a loaded field that includes, among others, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson. With most of the big names in professional golf at Riviera Country Club, equipment editor Jonathan Wall is on site providing a running equipment gallery of what players are using, as well as any new gear that surfaces on Tour this week.

Keep checking this story over the next few days as additional photos are added.


PHOTOS: What's in the bag at the Genesis Open was originally posted at by Jonathan Wall

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Golf’s New Rules: Few Players Know Them, Fewer Understand Them – The New York Times




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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am never fails to rattle Darius Rucker’s nerves. This year though, Rucker, the three-time Grammy Award winning musician, had more to fret about than hitting a spectator or getting in the way of his pro partner, Kenny Perry.

“Now you’re scared that somebody’s going to come call a rules violation on you with something that you don’t know about anything,” Rucker said before the tournament began last week.

The pros are just as worried. The United States Golf Association and the R&A revised the sport’s rule book to simplify the game and speed up the pace of play. But so far the changes, which took effect at the start of 2019, have been harder to follow than a game of Simon Says.

In the few weeks since the modifications took effect, players have repeatedly sought guidance from the nearest rules official, their caddies or pieces of paper tucked inside their golf bags, undermining for now, at least, the stated intention of making things simpler and faster.

And it’s adding an extra bit of hesitancy to the pros’ trip through the course. During a rain-sodden second round at Pebble Beach on Friday, Hunter Mahan was forced to consult a tournament-issued rules sheet before touching his ball. “We thought we knew what the rule was,” Mahan said, “but there’s no clarity, so having an official or actually having it written down is the only true clarification.”

One of the new rules lowered the height from which players make a drop: it is now from the knees, rather than the shoulders, a change that the former men’s world No. 1 Adam Scott described as awkward. Whenever he bends over or squats with the ball, he can’t help but imagine rules officials assigned to monitor potential rules violations squinting at their screens, scrutinizing his release down to the inch.

“They’ve just written more gray areas into the game that were not necessary,” said Scott, who won’t make a drop without asking his caddie or a nearby official if he has the height right.

Even those enforcing the rules have been confused about how to interpret them. During the second round of the Phoenix Open earlier this month, Denny McCarthy was assessed a two-stroke penalty under Rule 10.2b(4), a new regulation that prohibits caddies from standing behind players as they line up for their shots.

ImageA rules official closely observed as Bryson DeChambeau lined up a putt during the Sony Open in Hawaii last week.CreditKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

While McCarthy took a few practice swings, his caddie stood behind him. McCarthy stepped away before hitting the shot, and when he came back to the ball and set his stance, his caddie was standing off to the side. The next day, the PGA Tour announced that it had rescinded the penalty after reviewing McCarthy’s actions, and his score of 67 became a 65.

Somewhat lost in the turbulence created by the alignment rule in the men’s game is the fact that the change was seen as directed at the L.P.G.A., where caddies lining up players had been more common. Brittany Lincicome, an eight-time L.P.G.A. tour winner and two-time major champion, said she was glad “it wasn’t one of us” who became the rule’s first victim.

After the caddie-alignment episode with McCarthy, and several similar situations involving other players, the U.S.G.A. and the R&A issued a clarification: If players reset their stances after their caddies have surveyed a shot, there is no penalty.

“Going in, we knew there were certain things that were going to come up that you’d say, ‘We’re not sure we contemplated this or the intention was never to have this outcome,’” Mike Davis, the chief executive of the U.S.G.A. told the Global Golf Post. He added, “All in all, in terms of how they’re being perceive around the globe, it’s very positive.”

That wasn’t the case for Rickie Fowler, who took dead aim at the caddie-alignment rule during the Phoenix Open. “You’re talking about growing the game and making things play faster and whatnot,” he said, “but that’s not growing the game.”

Adding to Fowler’s exasperation was a run-in with one of the rule book’s unchanged regulations on the Sunday of the tournament. He took a two-stroke penalty for hitting a shot into the water, then absorbed another one-stroke penalty after his ball rolled back into the hazard several seconds after he walked toward the green to survey his chip.

After carding a triple bogey, Fowler, in a show of gallows humor, petitioned the rules official, Slugger White, for a rules modification.

Fowler hung on to win, but Tony Finau, who watched the round unfold on television after missing the cut, saw the gravity in Fowler’s joking.

“As I watched that transpire, I couldn’t help but think, ‘This is not what the integrity of the game is about,’” Finau said. “He didn’t do anything for that ball to move.”

One player’s mishap is another’s teachable moment. An L.P.G.A. rules official disseminated the video of Fowler playing the hole, noting that he could have avoided the second penalty by making his first two drops, then using a tee to mark the spot where he intended to place the ball. After surveying his shot, he could have then replaced the tee with his ball before taking his shot.


Rickie Fowler criticized the updated caddie-alignment rule during the Phoenix Open last month, saying it wouldn’t help with “growing the game.”CreditMichael Reaves/Getty Images

Breaking up the sequence of drop-drop-place like that was illuminating to Lincicome: “I didn’t even know that was a thing,” she said.

Another new wrinkle on the course this year is using the flagstick as a backboard on putts; to speed up play, golfers can leave the pin in no matter where they are on the course, including the green. Anticipating the outcome, Bryson DeChambeau said last year, “The U.S.G.A.’s going to have to go back on that one, like, ‘No! We made the hole bigger!’”

It sure has seemed that way to Scott, who ranked 165th on tour in 2018 in strokes-gained putting. Putting with the flagstick in the hole, he is ranked No. 26. “To be honest,” Scott said, “it almost changes the whole aim of the game. It’s to hit the pin, not hole the putt.”

He added, “It takes speed out of your head so much. It even takes some reading of the green out.”

DeChambeau has a point. The game’s governing bodies might be eager to simplify the rules, but their intent was never to make the game easier.

And, in the end, have they really simplified anything?

When Scott looks at the remaining layers of rules as well as the lingering and newfound confusion, he, like Fowler, wonders how it is growing the game. Imagine picking up an unfamiliar board game, he said, and opening the box to find 84 pages of rules. Would you bother playing it?

Now picture the same game, with only five or six rules to learn to start out. Which version would you find more appealing?

“Let’s have all the rules on the back of the scorecard for people to get into the game of golf,” Scott said, adding, “And then as you get playing more you can maybe learn some finer points of this very complex game.”

Though Jay Monahan, the P.G.A. commissioner, said last week that he felt proud of how quickly and nimbly the alignment rule confusion was addressed, Scott disagreed.

“We haven’t had a lot of changes in golf in the history of the game , and we’ve had a lot recently — rules changing weekly in some cases — and it’s crazy,” Scott said.

He added, “I think we’re becoming the laughingstock.”

Golf’s New Rules: Few Players Know Them, Fewer Understand Them - The New York Times was originally posted at by

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Kuchar's Caddie Controversy




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February 12, 2019


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