The biggest rumour this week around the Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and beyond, has been that swing coach Sean Foley is about to start working with Tiger Woods. But Foley, who is from Burlington, Ont. and whose Core Golf Junior Academy is based at the Orange County National Golf Centre in Orlando, where he now lives, quashed the rumour during a phone interview Thursday night from the Players.
"It's very simple," said Foley, 35. "I've had no discussions with Tiger Woods about any coaching. From what I understand he's still working with Hank Haney."
Woods shot two-under-par 70 in the first round of the Players on Thursday, four shots behind co-leaders J.B. Holmes and Robert Allenby. He said earlier in the week that he's still working with Haney. Haney isn't at the tournament but said that Woods has paid him for the next three months.
None of this stopped the rumour about Foley and Woods from spreading wildly. This was mostly because Foley, who works with Stephen Ames of Calgary, along with young stars Hunter Mahan and Sean O'Hair, walked during a practice round Wednesday in a group with Woods. The group consisted of Woods, Mahan and O'Hair.
"It's typical media stuff," Foley said. "They write whatever reality they want to create. I've said 'no comment' to anybody who has asked me about this. The same people I say this to write blogs that I'm going to work with Tiger."
Foley told me a few years ago that one of his main goals was to work with Woods, and that he felt that would happen one day.
"Who knows what will happen?" Foley asked Thursday night. "I'd like to work with Tiger if I got a chance, sure. Is there an interest? Absolutely there is. But again, there's been no discussion at all at this point."
Foley was understandably not happy that some writers have all but concluded he's about to work with Woods, and that he's been instructed not to say anything. International Management Group in Toronto represents Foley. IMG's head office is in Cleveland. IMG also represents Woods.
Foley said that he's not been instructed to say nothing about working, or not working, with Woods. One writer even said he had news from an "insider" in Foley's camp that he's on the cusp of working with Woods.
"I didn't even know I have a camp," Foley said. "That would mean he's talked to my wife. She's my camp."
Bloggers aren't the only people who have been wondering whether Foley is about to work with Woods.
"I had breakfast with Butch Harmon [Thursday]and he asked me if I'm working with Tiger," Foley said of the swing coach, who once worked with Woods. "I said absolutely not. Then I got a message from somebody in England saying Sky Sports was saying I'm working with him."
None of this means that Foley and Woods haven't talked golf. Woods is interested in the art and science of the swing and speaks with a deep knowledge of his subject. I was at a clinic with him in December 2007 in Port St. Lucie, Fla., when I asked him whether he was familiar with the then-new Stack & Tilt approach to the swing.
Woods said he knew about it and that he examines many swing ideas and theories. Just about every PGA Tour player does that. The smartest know what to pay attention to and what to discard.
Certainly Woods is aware of the success players who have been working with Foley have had. Ames, the 2006 Players champion, thinks Foley is the best swing coach in the game. Foley said Ames hit the ball very well while shooting 70 in the opening round Thursday. O'Hair and Mahan also shot 70.
Mahan, 27, has won two PGA Tour events. O'Hair, also 27, has won three times on the tour. They, and Ames, are considered ball-striking machines. Woods has been having trouble with his ball-striking, although he played a more solid first round at the Players.
As for Foley, he's had a chance to observe Woods frequently during practice rounds. Woods and O'Hair in particular have developed a close friendship.
"More than anything I enjoy listening to the perspective of the world's No. 1 player," Foley said.
But he's not working with Woods nor are there any plans afoot for him to do so.
"It's pretty stupid, actually," he said of all the rumours. As for the future, again, Foley said, no plans. End of discussion, for now anyway.Report Typo/Error
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