‘I think I over-coached him’: Sean Foley reflects on his years with Tiger Woods

Over the course of his legendary career, Tiger Woods has only worked with a handful of golf coaches in an official capacity: Butch Harmon, Hank Haney, Sean Foley and Chris Como.

While Woods’ most prolific years were under Harmon and Haney’s tutelage, Woods won eight times between 2010 and 2014 with Foley at his side, though none of those victories added to his major championship tally.

In an appearance on this week’s episode of Off Course with Claude Harmon, which was conducted in front of a live audience at GOLF’s Top 100 Teacher Summit at Pinehurst, Foley reflected on his years with Woods, and detailed what he would do differently if he had the chance.

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“I would say, at that time, I was still too methodological,” Foley said. “I think my original players that I met on Tour, it was perfect for all of them. And I think that what happened was, I underestimated — I was too arrogant — I underestimated really the state that he was in, period. I mean, he went from a deity to a punchline overnight. He won five of his last six tournaments in 2009 and came back and by middle of 2010, he couldn’t break par. But nothing changed. Still had the same swing, same putting, same chipping. Still had Hank coaching him.

“So I think that that really shows that when you go from being invincible to visible, it’s really difficult,” Foley continued. “And so I think I over-coached him in the sense that I thought a lot of the issues were technical, more so than where they’re at. But that being said, I could say that about everyone I’ve coached. You don’t get it right all the time. I wake up often from 3 to 3:15 in the morning. I’m not sure why I do, but I think it has to do with probably someone that I didn’t help, and my brain understands. I don’t know, but it happens quite often, actually. I do fall asleep again, but it’s there. It’s got to be golf-related.”

Foley and Woods parted ways in 2014.

“We’re still very close, and I think I was there for him at a time where everyone was leaving his world and I was coming into it,” Foley concluded. “And I was coming into Desert Storm, literally. And I knew, too, I was going to be compared to everything he had done at 22 years old. So I kind of understood it was going to be difficult. But I was there for him, I defended him, I loved him, I did my job as a coach. But, I mean I think it’s irresponsible to think, if you could do it again. Everyone’s a genius when they can do it again. I probably would have done it differently.”

For more from Foley, including the impressive way Woods warms up with his short irons, and how Lydia Ko managed to regain her world-beating form, check out the full interview below.

Jessica Marksbury
Golf.com

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on GOLF.com.