Posted on: May 12, 2011 3:51 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2011 4:03 pm

Hey, is that actually O'Hair on the leaderboard?

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla . -- There was a slightly unfamiliar name on the leaderboard for most of Thursday morning at the Players Championship, given that it had been months since he'd climbed that high up the pecking order.

It was none other than Sean O'Hair, who has been on the radar lately only for the wrong reasons.

O'Hair got off to a strong start and was 4-under and stationed in the top 10 for a couple of hours before finishing with a 71. Still, given the way he has played lately, it was a huge step forward.

In a move that generated some buzz last week, O'Hair parted ways with swing coach Sean Foley and went back to his former teacher, Steve Dahlby, who helped launch O'Hair career years ago. Foley, of course, has been in the news a bit lately as the man behind Tiger Woods' new swing.

"I feel like I was thinking too much out there," O'Hair said. "I feel like I played golf today and not golf swing. It's nothing against Foley. I just needed something different and more natural for me."

Clearly. O'Hair had missed five straight cuts and hasn't mustered a top-20 all year.

O'Hair has a reputation as a slow player, and it sounds like it relates at least partly to the confusion in his head about how to properly belt a golf ball, which has always been the strongest part of his game. O'Hair is a terrific ball-striker and regarded as a so-so putter at best.

"I'm standing behind the ball [before address], and I can't walk into the ball and hit it," he said of his confusion.

Finishing 1 under isn't anything that had him declaring that his slump is over, but he was certainly in a better mood than he's experienced for months.

"I needed a change of scenery for me," he said.

That would include his caddie, too, sort of. Back on the bag is father-in-law Steve Lucas, who has looped off and on for O'Hair several times over the years, often with solid success.

"It's not permanent," O'Hair said. "He's just trying to help me get back on my feet."

Category: Golf
Posted on: May 11, 2011 9:16 am
Edited on: May 11, 2011 11:16 am

Woods camp fires back over Bubba critique

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Looks like you can’t make fun of Tiger Woods with impunity anymore.

Bubba Watson, who once played dozens of practice rounds with Woods and still considers him a friend, raised eyebrows last week when he said the fading former world No. 1 is going down the wrong road with his myriad swing changes.

For months, players have offered unbridled and honest opinions of Woods -- a topic  that had them walking on eggshells for 15 years, lest they draw his ire -- but Woods and his camp began fighting back this week at the Players Championship.

On an Irish radio show, Woods' new swing coach Sean Foley quickly mounted a counter-assault when asked about the comments from Watson, who has three victories since last fall to climb to No. 11 in the rankings. Appearing on a Dublin talk show to promote his instructional DVD, Foley fired a sarcastic fastball at Watson's noggin. The comments were first reported on the Irish Golf Desk website.

“He has the right to his own opinion but you probably shouldn’t make comments about a guy who has won 69 more times than you and you are virtually the same age," Foley was quoted as saying. "You know what I mean?”

More excerpts from the Canadian coach: "I would just say, 'Bud, you won three times the last 10 months, I am really pleased for you. You have worked hard and I think it is a great thing that you are playing so well. But why do you feel the need that you have to get the attention? What’s the use in making that comment?"

Foley then took a personal shot at Watson, characterizing him as a publicity hound.

“Let the guy do what he’s doing and you do what you’re doing and it will be fine," Foley said. "There is absolutely zero need for him to make that comment. But you know, Bubba loves the camera anyway so, I mean, whatever.”

Watson already realized the nature of last week's off-the-cuff comments about Woods -- he was never asked about Tiger directly before offering the opinion that Woods is too wrapped up in the mental side of the game and swing changes -- long before he arrived at the Players Championship this week.

"I'll just go ahead and say it," Watson said at the Wells Fargo Championship last week. "I think Tiger is going the wrong way. I think he's so mental right now with his swing. Just go out there and play golf. He used to hit shots, used to bomb it, used to do all that stuff. In 2000 and '97 I think he did pretty good. He won the Masters by 48 shots or whatever he won it by. But I think sometimes he gets carried away on that. And a lot of guys do."

On Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass, Watson said he had spoken with Woods' management about the comments to make sure he hadn't napalmed his bridge with Tiger, who dropped to No. 8 in the world this week.

"I just talked to his agent, and I talked to another person in his camp last week and told them that I didn't say anything wrong. I just said my opinion, and the media runs with it," Watson said.

For context, his Woods comments last week were the result of a query about Sean O'Hair and Foley splitting. Watson has never used a swing coach.

"I just told him [his management] that, look, you know me. I'm good friends with you," Watson said. "I've been a supporter of you the whole time I've been a pro and have known you. So I'm here for you, but I didn't do anything wrong.

"So yeah, the camp says I'm okay, but I haven't talked to the boss yet."

Woods was not doing cartwheels about the comments when he arrived at the Players Championship on Tuesday, and not just because he has a sore knee.

"That was interesting," Woods said tersely when the comments were broached.

Rest assured that the two will speak in person, Woods said.

"We'll talk," Woods said curtly.

Click here for more of the transcript from the Foley radio interview.

Posted on: March 9, 2011 2:27 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2011 5:12 pm

Short-game tweaks fuel longer Tiger drought, too

DORAL, Fla. -- Of all the unsolicited feedback, be it scathing criticism or outright encouragement, that Tiger Woods has received since attempting his latest swing changes, perhaps the most interesting portion has been missed.

It's in his game's very minutaie, so to speak.

Looking back and applying building-contractor terms, the swing changes made under former teachers Butch Harmon and Hank Haney seemed like kitchen renovations. However, the newly minted Sean Foley process is more akin to a complete, 14-club teardown, right to the cinder-block bones of the short game.

Even when his game was otherwise raggedy during the transitional times working with Haney and Harmon, Woods' short game usually kept him in the ballgame. That hasn't yet been the case this season.

At the Cadillac Championship on Wednesday, Woods attempted to explain why his short game has deteriorated over the past few months -- because, for the first time, that phase of the bag has been completely overhauled, too.

Without getting needlessly technical, Woods said his "release" point under Foley also has changed with chips, pitches and putts, so he's had to start anew from scratch in that regard as well.

At age 35, it was pointed out.

"I changed my entire release and how I did it with Hank," Woods said. "You want to have the same type of swing with the putter all the way up to the driver. It's the same motion just smaller, and the pitch shot is the same."

Of course, the degree to whcih the short game should be affected by an overall swing change is debatable and will surely fuel a few fires in the Internet chat-o-sphere. 

"If I use one swing, if I hit thousands of chip shots and only hit a few hundred balls, well if I'm doing the same release that I used to, that's totally contrary to what I'm doing with the swing," he said.

In other words, whereas his short game was able a stable platform from which to build the rest of his game, it's in transition at the moment, too.

Interestingly, though the rounder and flatter Haney swing was a big departure from the Harmon method, Haney said Wednesday that the only adjustments Woods made in the short game during their six years together was in the former world No. 1's bunker play, because sand shots are more akin to a full swing.

"I never instituted any change to his putting or for that matter his chipping or his pitching," Haney said in an email Wednesday.

Harmon, working this week as an analyst for Sky Sports in Europe, heard about Woods' comprehensive short-game revamp from a reporter. In their years together, Harmon said they often worked on the short game, but not as an extension of the full swing.

"Did he really say that?" Harmon said. "I am surprised to hear that."

Posted on: February 22, 2011 8:32 pm

Foley: Woods not fixed, but figuring it out

MARANA, Ariz. -- Maybe there wasn't a magic moment of reckoning after all. But at this point, gradual improvement is still a sign of progress.

Tiger Woods' new coach actually laughed at the widely reported assertion that his top client had an epiphany last week while working through his new swing changes, though Sean Foley was happy to report that positive steps had been taken.

"I have 10 Eureka moments a day," Foley laughed.

Woods arrived at the Accenture Match Play Championship on Tuesday and played a late practice round, then spend several more minutes after the tuneup on the range, banging balls.

Last week, one of Woods' oldest pals from Orlando, John Cook, mentioned to reporters at a Champions Tour event that Woods had finally pieced the new swing changes together last week and was killing the ball in practice. When former coach Hank Haney read the quotes, he recalled when the light first went on for Woods during their tweaks together, and predited Tiger woild win this week.

Foley deflected the notion that everything had finally coalesced, but did say that Woods has come a long way toward understanding his new swing over the past few days. In particular, Woods has been able to consistently execute a low power-cut shot off the tee.

"He has a better understanding of the swing now, for sure," Foley said.

Woods is a three-time match play champion. He faces Thomas Bjorn in Wednesday's first round. In his last start, Woods blew up in the final round at the Dubai Desert Classic and fell out of contention.

"It's getting better," Woods said Tuesday. "No doubt about it. It was nice and not so nice to have the wind blow in Dubai. I got exposed. I was limited in the shot selections I could hit.

"When the wind didn’t blow I went low."

Category: Golf
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