Tiger Woods announced he has parted ways with swing coach Sean Foley four years after the two began working together.
"I'd like to thank Sean for his help as my coach and for his friendship," Woods said in a statement Monday. "Sean is one of the outstanding coaches in golf today, and I know he will continue to be successful with the players working with him.
Woods, who is working to build up the muscles in his back following March microdisectomy surgery and is not scheduled to compete again until his World Challenge event at Isleworth in Orlando, Fla. in December, said "this is the right time to end our professional relationship," while adding there is no timetable to hire a new coach.
Foley was Woods' third swing coach, following in the footsteps of Butch Harmon and Hank Haney. While Foley is a noted swing coach for several PGA Tour players and Woods won eight times while working with him, Woods has come under intense scrutiny for his significant swing changes since winning his last major tournament in 2008.
"My time spent with Tiger is one of the highlights of my career so far, and I am appreciative of the many experiences we shared together," Foley said. "It was a lifelong ambition of mine to teach the best player of all time in our sport. I am both grateful for the things we had the opportunity to learn from one another, as well as the enduring friendship we have built. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him."
Woods, 38, underwent surgery March 31, missing The Masters and the U.S. Open. He returned to play at the British Open and PGA Championship, but was not a factor and clearly had to gut through back pain in his second-round at the PGA and withdrew from consideration for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Other PGA Tour players Foley has worked with include Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Sean O'Hair, Stephen Ames and Hunter Mahan, who won the prestigious Barclays tournament on Sunday. A respected swing coach from Canada, Foley has also been criticized for teaching Woods the controversial "stack and tilt" swing concept based on keeping a player's weight centered rather than shifting toward the right foot during the backswing.
In 2013, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee infamously called Woods "over-coached," and many players and analysts have blamed Woods' struggles to maintain his dominance in large part due to the constant tinkering with his swing.
"I think one of the big differences that's very rarely articulated is the fact that while Tiger in his dominance always - for whatever reason - was in this quest to get better, I don't remember Jack (Nicklaus) ever saying that," Paul Azinger said in a conference call before the British Open. "Jack might have made some tweaks and twerks, here and there, minor tweaks and twerks, but Tiger has made astronomical changes in a quest to get better. As a result, Tiger has actually gotten a little bit worse. I think we can all pretty much see that."
Azinger believes Woods has veered too far from the natural swing that made him arguably the best player of all-time. That, along with his high profile divorce and string of significant injuries has robbed Woods of his elite form.
"I think where Tiger has made his mistake is he's dabbled with the fingerprints of his golf swing, not necessarily the fundamentals," Azinger said in July. "I think he's probably the only person that's ever played well who's looked radically different throughout his career. Even the layman golfer can see the difference in Tiger Woods' golf swing. In Tiger's quest to get better, I think he's actually gotten a little bit worse."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun