Woods never explained the firing publicly. But his hiring of caddie Joe LaCava in September 2011 is telling. LaCava's skills are highly respected—he was on Fred Couples's bag for years and Dustin Johnson's as well—but he is also incorrigibly easygoing. Woods signaled that he no longer wanted his caddie to act like a bodyguard.
Haney seemed to covet Woods's friendship. Williams prized it. LaCava says he and Foley are "not looking for a friendship. Yet he makes you feel like he's your best buddy."
LaCava stayed at Woods's house for the Honda Classic, and when Woods triumphed at Torrey Pines, he told LaCava, "We won this f------ tournament!" LaCava thought, We didn't win anything.
In the past Woods snapped at caddies and coaches. LaCava says Woods has not blamed him for a bad club choice or read on the green.
Woods now had a coach he trusted, a caddie who simply caddied and a swing that reduced stress on his left knee. His game and his life were coming back. On Sept. 30, 2011—six months after joining Medalist and almost exactly a year after he hired Foley—Woods made five straight birdies on Medalist's back nine en route to a course-record 62.
In November 2011, Woods flew to Australia for the Australian Open and the Presidents Cup. He seemed more at ease than he had been in years. He bantered with people he did not know very well and was in no rush to leave the room.
"Everybody felt really comfortable around him," Cook says. "It hasn't always been that way in these events."
Woods's friend Steve Stricker says, "I think he learned a lot from a couple of years ago: Be more cordial to everybody, respect other people. He is happier with himself. You can see it. Just the way he is treating people is better. It looks like he is working hard at it."
In March 2012, Woods won his first official tournament since the tabloid storm. Now he looks like the best player in the world.
"If Tiger gets to 19 majors, they're going to write amazing articles about me," Foley says. "The fact of the matter is, it has nothing to do with me. I don't have to go out on the course and deal with fear and gallery noise and slow play and figure out where the wind is and what the divot's telling me. I don't have to deal with any of that."