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Michael Rosenberg
April 08, 2013
IT'S TIME TO TALK TIGER WOODS, NO? SIX WINS IN HIS LAST 20 EVENTS AND THE RESTORATION OF HIS NO. 1 WORLD RANKING ARE A GOOD PLACE TO START. BUT TIGER'S STALKING BIGGER GAME HERE: MAJORS HISTORY. HERE'S HOW HE GOT TO THAT GOOD PLACE AGAIN
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April 08, 2013

Back (maybe, Just Maybe ...)

IT'S TIME TO TALK TIGER WOODS, NO? SIX WINS IN HIS LAST 20 EVENTS AND THE RESTORATION OF HIS NO. 1 WORLD RANKING ARE A GOOD PLACE TO START. BUT TIGER'S STALKING BIGGER GAME HERE: MAJORS HISTORY. HERE'S HOW HE GOT TO THAT GOOD PLACE AGAIN

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Foley hears people say the golf swing should be simple and says, incredulously, "Keep it simple? How? You're talking about energy systems, velocities and linear speeds.... There is nothing simple about it."

Partly because of the science talk, analysts have accused Foley of trying to turn Woods into a robot. The truth is, of Woods's three professional coaches—Butch Harmon, Haney and Foley—Foley is the most inclined to give Woods space.

Foley sees Woods on the driving range before a round, says, "Hey, bro," and moves on. He senses that Woods wants his space. Foley does not give Woods a pre-shot routine, tell him what clubs to swing in warmups, or discuss equipment. He rarely talks to Woods about putting.

Foley eats lunch with Woods regularly when they work together but estimates they have eaten dinner together twice. He has been to Woods's new mansion in Jupiter but not often. He would rather save time and meet at Woods's new home course, Medalist Golf Club. It's their office. After tournament rounds, whether Woods shoots 65 or 75, their routine is the same.

"We don't go back and work on the things that didn't work that day," Foley says. "We just keep in the system, in the system, in the system, until that is a highly insulated neural circuit, and in time of pressure or distress or whatever, that's what the brain allocates, rather than an old one or an in-between one. It's not about fixes at all."

Translated into English: He wants Woods's swing to hold up under pressure. He gives detailed answers to Wood's questions but doesn't micromanage his swing thoughts.

Cook says that Haney would send Woods "to the first tee with a scroll of stuff [to remember]. It was like he had that quarterback playlist on his arm. I like Hank, and I've known him a long time. [But] the time I spent with them together ... I'm listening and going, Wow, that sounds really complicated to me. I didn't think they needed to be doing that."

Haney says he didn't worry about overloading Woods, because "he always told me, I'll process it. I'll pare it down. Don't hold back." And Haney frequently points out that Woods won 31 of 91 events when they worked together, and six majors in six years. For any player in history that is extraordinary. But how do you compare the incomparable? How can anybody know what Woods would have done from ages 28 to 34 with another instructor?

Before his divorce Woods had always sought the advice of older, wiser men—not just Anselmo, Harmon and Haney but also Mark O'Meara and Cook, Isleworth neighbors who are a generation older. Foley is a peer who doesn't see Woods as a protégé.

Ten months after hiring Foley, Woods made another bold move: He fired his longtime caddie, the brash Kiwi Steve Williams. Williams was both adviser and protector—barking at photographers, glaring at spectators, publicly feuding with Phil Mickelson. Williams and Woods were groomsmen at each other's weddings.

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