This is what separates good players from great players, says Sean Foley

Sean Foley has coached some of the best golfers in the world.

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In Tiger Woods and Justin Rose, GOLF Top 100 Teacher Sean Foley has helped two of his students rise to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and he’s helped countless other players along the way. He also runs a junior academy down in Florida, so, naturally, he gets asked a lot of questions from players, media, parents and fans about what the secret is to making the ‘next’ Tiger.

Enter We took the opportunity during a recent CDW Digital Roundtable to pitch one of those questions to Foley. We’re happy we did, too, because what followed was an insightful answer from Foley explaining the key quality which separates the very best players — in every sport — from the rest.

“They call Tiger Woods the chosen one, but Tiger chose to be the one,” Foley says.

“Of course he had great athletic ability and mobility, he was strong enough and fast enough, but I watched Lebron [James] the other day. He’s worth a billion dollars, he’s one of the top five players of all time, and he went up for a rebound like his child was falling out of a window. Michael Jordan was the same; Wayne Gretzky; Tom Brady, winning his [seventh] Super Bowl and saying he still keeps the receipts of all the negative things everybody has ever said about him. It’s incredible how we think that level of success is driven by pure confidence but really it’s also driven by insecurity. The idea that we need to be that competitive because winning matters that much.”

Needing to win vs. Wanting to win

Foley went onto explain that the best players channel an underlying insecurity into their competitive streak; using it as fuel which transforms their desire to win into a need to win.

“It comes down to a guy who’s been given all these physical gifts, but he’s manifested them through so much really, really, really hard work. They wanted it so bad they were going to get there one way or another,” he says. “People say you helped Justin Rose get to No. 1 in the world and okay, that’s a fair point, but at the same time I couldn’t do it for Hunter Mahan, or Sean O’Hair, or Stephen Ames, or any of the rest of them because [Rose] didn’t just want it more than them, he needed it. And that’s it, right? I’ll go to some pretty far lengths for something I want, but I’ll do anything for something I need.”


Luke Kerr-Dineen Contributor

Luke Kerr-Dineen is the Game Improvement Editor at GOLF Magazine and In his role he oversees the brand’s game improvement content spanning instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s multimedia platforms.

An alumni of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina–Beaufort golf team, where he helped them to No. 1 in the national NAIA rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue his Masters degree in Journalism from Columbia University. His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek and The Daily Beast.