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Reviewing the Sean Foley era of Tiger Woods' career

Tiger has sacked his swing coach Sean Foley, who can now commiserate with Butch Harmon and Hank Haney. Under Foley, Tiger shot back to No. 1 in the world but went four seasons without a major. Here's a timeline of the Foley redesign era of Tiger's career.

At the 2010 PGA Championship, Tiger Woods, coming off a split with longtime coach Hank Haney, sought the guidance of Sean Foley. It had been a tumultuous year for Tiger to say the least. Off the course, his personal life unraveled thanks to his much-publicized infidelity scandal. On the course, Tiger barely resembled the dominant player we once knew.

Seeking the opinion of a new voice, Tiger began to work with Foley on the Whistling Straits range. Foley eventually became his full-time coach. It has been four years since they were first spotted together and now their relationship is over. Let's take a look back at their ride together over the last four years.


Shortly after the Players Championship in May, Tiger Woods parted ways with Hank Haney. Haney had been Woods' coach for six years and the two were quite successful, winning six majors. After a summer without a coach, Woods was spotted with Sean Foley, although not in an official capacity yet, as the season wound down. The duo spent the rest of 2010 rebuilding Tiger's swing. His best finish was at the unofficial Chevron World Challenge, where he lost in a playoff.


2011 might have been the most disappointing year of the Woods-Foley relationship. As Woods continued to rework his swing, he struggled dramatically on the course. He wasn't a factor at tournaments he normally dominated like the Farmers Insurance Open and the Arnold Palmer Invitation, finishing tied for 44th and tied for 24th, respectively.

At the 2011 Masters, it looked like Tiger may have turned a corner. His T4 finish was his best of the season, but Woods injured himself in the process. An awkward, twisting shot from underneath the famed Eisenhower Tree sidelined Woods for most of the summer.


(Photo via Jamie Squire)

When he returned in August of 2011, the results were underwhelming. He finished tied for 37th at the Bridgestone Invitational (another Tiger favorite) and missed the cut at the PGA Championship.

Woods finally broke through in December when he won the Chevron World Challenge. It was his first victory since 2009 and his first with Sean Foley, albeit an unofficial victory with a limited field. For all intents and purposes, he was still winless on Tour with Foley.


It was more of the same to start 2012 for Tiger. His form was average up until the final round of the Honda Classic. During that final round, Woods made a strong run at eventual champion Rory McIlroy and shot a 62. The crowds roared as Woods came into the house and put a scare in McIlroy. It was the first real sign of life from Tiger in a year or so on Tour. This was the first signal that things might finally get back on track for a golfer who had fallen to No. 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings.

But, as is a common theme of the Sean Foley era, Woods hurt himself again, this one an Achilles injury at Doral, and missed a couple of weeks before playing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

But the API at Bay Hill was the breakthrough he and Sean Foley had been waiting for. Tiger clinched his first official win since the 2009 BMW Championship. Woods went on to win two more times and stayed healthy for the remainder of 2012.


As 2012 flipped to 2013, there was a renewed enthusiasm among Tiger Woods fans. It appeared he had turned a corner and had full command over his motion under the Foley redesign. Woods won four times before June, the quickest he had ever won four PGA Tour events in a season. Unfortunately for Tiger, he hurt himself again. This time an elbow injury bothered Woods, flaring up most notably at the U.S. Open, where he was never a factor.

The elbow issue stunted his early season momentum but Woods went on to win once more in 2013, again at the Bridgestone Invitational, one of those few venues he's owned his entire career. It was his eighth official win with Sean Foley as his coach.

During the fall of 2013, we may have seen a harbinger to the end of the Woods-Foley relationship. As the FedEx Cup playoffs opened, Tiger began to experience back pain. At The Barclays just one year ago, Woods said the back was bothering him because he slept on a soft hotel mattress. But by Sunday, he was collapsing to the ground in pain after making a swing.


Despite that pain, he stilled finished in second place.

It was something he fought through for the rest of 2013, noticeably hobbling again during the Presidents Cup. At the time, it appeared that an offseason of rest would be enough to heal Woods' back. After the Presidents Cup in October, Woods took it easy on his back, only playing in his own limited field World Challenge event.

This was the most successful year for Woods and Foley -- he won five times and rocketed back to No. 1 in the world. But the injuries continued to be a concern, and this back problem down the stretch was particularly troubling. People began to question Tiger's rebuilt swing, and what effect it might be having on his back. Was Foley the cause of Tiger's back trouble? The speculation began in the fall of 2013.


This year has been one of the worst seasons of Tiger's career. In three official events to start the season, Woods finished with Missed Cut-Did Not Finish and a T25. He also suddenly withdrew during his Sunday round at the Honda Classic, this year's first sign of the back trouble that would result in a completely lost summer.

Woods announced in late March that he would finally have surgery to fix a pinched nerve. The surgery caused him to miss his first ever Masters, in addition to the U.S. Open.

When he finally did return, the results were either n/a or terrible by Tiger's standards. He went MC, T69, WD and MC. The withdrawal came at the Bridgestone Invitational, where Woods again "jarred" his back. He played the PGA Championship despite the fact that he obviously wasn't close to healthy.

Shortly after missing the cut at the PGA Championship, Woods took his name out of consideration for the Ryder Cup, which effectively ended his season. The next time we will see Woods competitively will be in December, as he's once again committed to play in the World Challenge, which benefits his foundation.


So after four eventful years of working together, Woods and Foley have split up. It would be hard to call their relationship a failure. Eight wins in a four-year span is a fantastic stretch for just about any golfer on the planet. But this is Tiger Woods we are talking about. We all know he wants to pass Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major wins. He started working with Foley in an attempt to close that margin and stay healthy while doing so. He came up empty and was constantly injured. The injuries will remain a cloud over the Woods-Foley years. By my count, Woods was injured four times in four years and repeatedly missed the tournaments where he makes hay. The speculation will logically point to Foley's swing as at least part of the cause of the back trouble. It's an intriguing chicken-or-the-egg debate that most recently popped up at the PGA. Did the type of swing Foley created cause the back trouble, or did Tiger's poor health inhibit his ability to actually work on the swing that could win consistently?

Fair or not, the lack of major wins and numerous injuries are likely to be Sean Foley's legacy when it comes to Tiger Woods, not an eighth career win at Firestone or Bay Hill.