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Foley vs. Haney

Written by Charlie Epps on 01 April 2011.

Current and former teacher air dirty laundry while Tiger tries to find his 'A' game again

Why do the greatest players in the world need teachers? I know one thing, I'm glad they do. My responsibility as a teacher to two-time major champion Angel Cabrera is to be there when he needs me. I'm kind of like a doctor. You only go see the doctor when you're sick. But as his teacher, I try to memorize what Angel does when he's playing well. So when he does get sick, I know the correct medicine to give him, whether it's an adjustment in his set up or a right thought at the right time.

Angel has always told me to never invent anything. If I see something, he just wants me to tell him. This type of relationship has worked pretty well. A little TLC goes a long ways with a golf swing.

Headed into the Masters, there has been a lot reported on the public spat between Tiger Woods' current coach, Sean Foley, and one of his previous coaches, Hank Haney. Foley made some public comments about Haney—Foley called him "unprofessional"—and called into question Haney's teachings to Woods.

Haney responded with a barrage of comments on Twitter, including, "Sean Foley = clueless," and "He is sure he has the answers and no one else does."

People have asked me if I'd like to teach Tiger Woods? The answer is no. He's not my type of person. From the sidelines, however, it's interesting to see the egos getting involved between Foley and Haney.

On the other side of the coin, Butch Harmon, who taught Tiger for 10 years and oversaw his transition from amateur golf to the PGA Tour, took the high road after Tiger fired him after all those years together. Butch didn't share any of his behind-the-scenes experiences with Tiger. He took it like a man and didn't air any of the dirty laundry with the media.

I don't think it serves any purpose for Foley to criticize Haney. After all, Hank coached Tiger to 32 wins and six major championships. Tiger won 44 percent of the tournaments in which he played with Haney. But Foley's criticism hurt Hank's feelings, so he is going to defend his territory.

It's interesting to note that you never heard Nicklaus or Palmer criticize anybody. The great ones leave well enough alone. Of course, there is locker room talk, but that's different from going on the record with reporters.

With all the talk of the teachers, it comes down to Tiger hitting the shots and making (or missing) the putts. There comes a time in a golfer's life when you're just not as good as you once were or will ever be again.

A player that comes to mind is Arnold Palmer. His last major championship was 1964. Tom Watson, after winning five British Opens in a short time, went nine years before he ever won a tournament again. Nick Faldo's last victory was the 1997 L.A. Open. Nick suffered from too much thought, and maybe that's what is going to bring down Tiger.

Going into the Masters, you want to have your mind set on what you're going to do. Tiger doesn't seem 100 percent committed to his swing. He's getting there, though. What compounds the issue is that no one is afraid of the Big Bad Wolf anymore.

The other golfers know what's going on in Tiger's mind. Grahame McDowell took Tiger down in a playoff at Tiger's tournament (the 2010 Chevron World Challenge). Grahame won not because of who was or wasn't teaching Tiger; the talented Irishman just wasn't afraid of Woods the way so many others were in the past. Will Tiger and Foley get on the same page and make it work? We shall see.

Bottom line, I'm glad great athletes need help. I've certainly enjoyed the relationship with all of my students, from the beginners to my daughters to the 2009 Masters champion. The world always needs good teachers.