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Lee Westwood, instructor Sean Foley part ways

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When he arrived at Riviera Country Club for the Northern Trust Open earlier this week, Lee Westwood did so as a man without a teacher. The tour veteran confirmed that he and instructor Sean Foley terminated their teacher/student relationship at the end of last year.

The pair had been working together since last year’s Open Championship, where Westwood finished third. After that point, however, Westwood didn’t finish inside the top 25 of any tournament on the PGA Tour for the remainder of the 2013 season.

Westwood began the 2014 wraparound season with three consecutive made cuts in November and December, including a tie for third at the Franklin Templeton Shootout. He’s fared much worse once the “Serious Season” began, however, finishing tied for 47th at the Farmers Insurance Open and missing the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

“I just wanted to work on swing positions and stuff like that a bit more,” Westwood told Golfweek. “I didn’t feel like Sean coached like that, so it didn’t really fit what I wanted to do.”

Much is embedded in Westwood’s statement. Without placing blame on either party, given Foley’s methodology and Westwood’s apparent learnings style, it’s clear why the two were ill-suited to work together. But a decline in Westwood’s game occurred long before he decided to work with Foley.

The 40-year-old famously took the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Rankings from Tiger Woods in October 2010, and was ranked as high as No. 8 in the OWGR as recently as February 2013. He’s currently ranked No. 33 in the OWGR.

On the bright side for Foley, his stable still includes Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan. He’s also freed up a roster spot for the top golfers who seem to be lining up to work with him. Last year, Foley turned down a chance to coach Luke Donald due to time constraints, which resulted in Donald decision to work with instructor Chuck Cook, who also coaches Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley.

Westwood, for his part, had worked with Pete Cowen up until the 2012 PGA Championship where the golfer missed the cut. But his rank of 168th in the PGA Tour’s Strokes-Gained putting statistic implies that he might be better off searching for a putting guru than a swing coach.

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23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Joe

    Feb 18, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    The fact that Lee fought his way back from the brink tells me all I need to know about his character. I give him tons of credit for that. I have seen interviews with Foley, and to me, he comes across as flakey. I don’t appreciate guys that act like they are thinking on a different level from everyone else.

  2. Pooch

    Feb 16, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    I think Lee Westwood is still one of the great golfers we have.If he could find a great short game teacher even Dave Pelz maybe he could close out the big tournaments he has missed.
    I don’t like what Foley has done to Tigers swing.I watched Tiger on the tee box and he looked so stiff and mechanical. The fluidity he once had is gone.I still think Foley’s swing puts a lot of pressure on Tiger’s knee.
    I don’t think Butch teaches a system but teaches the game of golf.
    I don’t want to see Tiger go back to any of his former teachers but take it upon himself to fix the problems and just swing the club like he used to.

    • Jack Nash

      Feb 17, 2014 at 12:41 pm

      Tiger Went to Foley because of his coaching success yes, but mostly because his former teachers although successfull couldn’t help him with his bad knee. Foley’s technique allows Tiger to swing pain free. Unfortunately swing like he did for over 30 years it has taken its toll. Also when you have habits engrained over that period of time they’re a lot harder to break. Harmon and Haney did little other than be around for all his Majors. They got their pound of flesh. I think Tigers looking to a healthy future and an ongoing attack on Jacks record.

  3. cgasucks

    Feb 16, 2014 at 8:42 am

    I must be living under a rock…I didn’t know Westy was working with Foley in the first place!

  4. Matthew Carter

    Feb 15, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    To each his own.
    Good luck Lee!

  5. Square

    Feb 14, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    One of my favorites. I root for him when he’s in the majors. Seems like a super nice person with a funny wit. Go get one with it Lee!

  6. tom stickney

    Feb 14, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Hope Lee finds his way; love to see him win a major or two…sometimes coaches and players don’t mesh. Not anyone’s fault- it just didn’t work

  7. yo!

    Feb 14, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    There are as many opinions about the golf swing as there are golfers. It comes down to people believing what they want to believe. Then they look to find someone who believe likewise.

  8. pk20152

    Feb 14, 2014 at 6:27 am

    Lee can change clubs, balls, instructors, fitness trainers, whatever… he just doesn’t have it between the ears to win a major. He’s this generations Colin Montgomerie

  9. David Dorans

    Feb 14, 2014 at 3:18 am

    I can assure everyone that he will not be returning to Pete Cowens stable either. There was a very sour ending to that relationship in the way Lee went about his business. Let’s just say that when he back tracked to Pete, asked for his help, and offered big money he got a not to polite two word answer! So as a result, look for him to be joining Mike Walker, who worked alongside Pete for many years……….Heard it here first………

  10. Progolfer

    Feb 13, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Good move Westy. As a professional golfer myself, I can’t understand how guys work with Sean Foley or any instructor that makes guys fit a mold or theory based on preference (another is Hank Haney). Instructors like Butch Harmon– who like to make very small changes and maintain an individual’s general motion– always seem the best to me. If you’re working on stuff that’s going to make you worse for a long time, it’s usually not the best way to go…

    • Setter02

      Feb 13, 2014 at 9:20 pm

      So Woods, Mahan, Rose have cookie cutter swings… EVERY golf coach/instructor has a theory, EVERY ONE… And no professional golfer in the world or history of the game can make quick changes to something that has been beaten into creating who and what they are as a player currently.

      This is more grasping at straws as his clock is ticking. He needs to make putts, stats don’t lie, especially when the sample size is so great.

      • Kammer

        Feb 13, 2014 at 10:54 pm

        wow, you are the king/queen of blanket statements.

        BUTCH’S theory is to work with the golfer’s natural MOTION.

        • Progolfer

          Feb 14, 2014 at 12:06 am

          Setter02,

          I just don’t see the point of messing too much with what has gotten a player to a high level, otherwise that player becomes too technical and no longer plays golf, but thinks golf. Westwood’s strength was ball-striking and as soon as he joined Foley, he started to miss more. Westwood FINALLY got the putter working (based on a simple tip from Ian Baker-Finch telling him to relax over the ball, not a technical tip) at the British Open last year and if he didn’t start working with Foley at that point, he would’ve dominated that event and won his first major. He started thinking about his swing, and under pressure he crumbled and wasn’t his usual self.

          You’re absolutely right that every instructor has a theory, but I don’t think an instructor should force the player to just focus on hitting “perfect” positions. Too much of today’s instruction is focused on making perfect swings and not on the art of hitting shots. The players that last the longest and PLAY the best had very unique swings– i.e. Trevino, Couples, Jones, Nicklaus, and Palmer to name a few– and owned their own swings. Every human being has a different physiology and anatomy and it’s illogical to make one size fit all.

          Golf has gotten far too technical and has moved away from poetry and art to science and making everybody a robot.

          Kammer,

          You nailed it on the head.

          • Christian

            Feb 14, 2014 at 2:49 am

            That’s a funny comment, esp. the part about Foley wanting his players to hit certain positions. Neverless from above i read that Westwood said

            “I just wanted to work on swing positions and stuff like that a bit more,” Westwood told Golfweek. “I didn’t feel like Sean coached like that, …”

          • Progolfer

            Feb 14, 2014 at 6:48 pm

            Christian, I think you were overlooking my point.

            I was speaking in generalities when I wrote, “… I don’t think an instructor should force the player to just focus on hitting ‘perfect’ positions.” Lee Westwood obviously wants to work more on swing positions (as he said), but if you know more about Foley (which I’m assuming readers do) you will find that he basically teaches Stack & Tilt– which is more geared towards maintaining certain spine angles and body angles throughout the swing– which I was referring to when I wrote, “Every human being has a different physiology and anatomy and it’s illogical to make one size fit all.” Westwood just wants to work on simple club positions, not spine angles and body positions and setup angles.

            I hope this helps clarify my comments.

    • Drew

      Feb 14, 2014 at 4:46 am

      Agree about Foley, but don’t lump Haney into that category. I actually think Tiger’s best swing was with Haney circa 06, 07. Tiger lipped out a put for a 62 in a major in 07. His swing was beautiful then. Heck, it was pretty darn solid in 2009, too. He won six majors with Haney.

      Haney doesn’t teach a method like Foley. Haney, like Leadbetter and Butch, learned all their stuff from John Jacobs, which is allowing ball flight dictate what to fix. And swinging on plane. Haney’s first instruction book is one of the best ones a golfer can own, and I own about all of them.

      Foley teaches a single-plane, robotic, driving range, S&T swing that mangles the wedge game. His swing may work for some, but it’s way too driving range oriented for me, and doesn’t transfer well to the course, where you have to hit from uneven lies, from the rough, and hit pitch shots.

    • Jack Nash

      Feb 17, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      Haney and Harmon did nothing to take the pressure off Tigers left knee. They didnt know how. That’s why Tiger went to Foley. His is more than a technical style. There’s also a philisophical style.

      • Joe

        Feb 18, 2014 at 8:37 pm

        I’ve heard that for a couple of years now, but still cannot think of another single player that has worked with either Haney or Harman, that has had constant knee issues.

  11. Does

    Feb 13, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    Ben,

    top 3 finishes in 5 majors doesn’t mean you are awful at putting. Or are in need of help at all.

    • Ben Alberstadt

      Feb 13, 2014 at 6:59 pm

      Would have had a couple wins in majors if not for the putter.

  12. Willy

    Feb 13, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    Good. As a Westwood fan, I wasn’t thrilled he went to Foley. But, he knows best. He’s gotta make a living!

  13. RumtumTim

    Feb 13, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Love those little digs at the end that you so like to do.

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Tour Photo Galleries

10 interesting photos from the 2020 Players Championship

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2020 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

The field this week featured the best golfers in the world, including Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, and more.

Rory McIlroy enters the tournament as the defending champion, looking hoist the crystal again.

Check out all our galleries below, along with highlights from TPC Sawgrass.

General Galleries

Special Galleries

Bettinardi’s St. Patrick’s Day covers  

Brand-new Srixon 745 in Keegan’s bag

Roger Sloan’s custom Cameron

Mizuno JPX 919 Hot Metal irons spotted in Nick Watney’s bag 

Joel Dahmen with a battle-worn hybrid

Fresh eggs for Patrick Reed…

Justin Rose continues to tweak his equipment

Carlos Ortiz looks to be picking up some supplies to mark the end of his driveway…

Jordan Spieth with a Vokey WedgeWorks Proto 60T in the bag

Kiradech Aphibarnrat with lead tape and stamping on cavity-back irons. Solid! 

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GolfWRX Spotted: Justin Rose with mixed bag at Arnold Palmer Invitational

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It’s not very often we get breaking equipment news this time of year on the PGA Tour schedule, but this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, one of the highest-profile players on tour, Justin Rose, was spotted testing multiple brands of clubs throughout his entire bag.

It started last week at the Honda Classic when Rose put a TaylorMade SIM driver with Mitsubishi Kuro Kage in play. As of today’s first round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rose has a mixed set including TaylorMade, Cobra, and Titleist clubs, along with an Axis1 putter.

Here are the details of Rose’s equipment:

Driver: TaylorMade SIM (10.5 degrees @ 8.5)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 70 TX

3-wood: TaylorMade SIM Max (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 80 TX

5-wood: Cobra SpeedZone Tour (16.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 80 X

Irons: TaylorMade P730 (4-PW)
Shafts: Project X 6.5

Wedges: TaylorMade MG2 (52, 56 degrees), Titleist Vokey Design Prototype K Grind (60 degrees)
Shafts: Project X 6.5 (52, 56), Proto Hi-Rev 135X (60)

Putter: Axis1 Rose
Grip: Flat Cat Svelte

Ball: TaylorMade TP5 ‘19 (No. 1)

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Equipment

Inside look: Callaway Jaws MD5 wedges on tour…6 months after launch

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Callaway Jaws MD5 wedges hit professional golf tours months ago. We reported on the launch extensively (see our videos later in the article) with deep coverage on the PGA Tour and at retail. As with any new offering, and especially for the gearheads on GolfWRX, it’s the tour chatter that drives us. What the pros do, play, and think is always a driving force.

However…

Personally, I have always been fascinated by the aftermath of a launch. What are the reactions and tweaks that are made once the shine has worn off?  It’s not uncommon for players to need to warm up to a new product before it ultimately finds its way into the bag permanently.

When Jaws hit the scene, it integrated quite quickly, and that is saying a lot. The MD4 was a very successful wedge line on tour and at retail. It was a huge initial launch and one Callaway was happy with as a solid portion of its staff put Jaws in play straight away.

In my conversations with tour staff and techs, spin and lower ball flight has been a recurring theme. In the case of the Tour, being able to flight a wedge down and not have it float, while maintaining maximum spin, is a weapon. Imagine being at Honda last week and knowing you can hit a knee-high fastball with a 58-degree wedge and trust the ball will stay down, not skip, and will stop dead in its tracks. On tour, its the speed of the stop that is valuable, not ripping it backward—that is typically only fun for TV. Golf these days is more like darts and less like billiards.

As to be expected, the grinds on all Callaway wedges are tour favorites. It’s pretty simple to fall in love with something that comes ought of the mind of Roger Cleveland, who has been the driving force in putting Callaway consistently at the No. 2 most-played wedge on Tour.

But how has the MD5  really done thus far?

Let’s be clear, most guys don’t make switches late-summer or fall (when MD5 was launched on tour). The season is too far down the river and the coming winter gives them quiet time to really test. Also, when you work through the California swing, a good portion of the higher-ranked staff only poke their heads out once or twice. This doesn’t mean the guys on the truck aren’t building new products, but a good portion of it is for winter testing, emergency backups, etc.

But now we hit the Florida swing. The Masters is a month away. The world’s best start to show up consistently, the playing surfaces change from the West Coast to the East Coast, and all of these guys are in full attack mode. Any real testing or guesswork is pretty much done, and it’s time to get going. This is the time when you can actually see if a product has staying power.

The question is since Jaws hit the scene, what have the pros learned, what adjustments have been made to dial them in, and ultimately, is this wedge line a success? I wanted to tackle this question from two different perspectives: from the reps on tour and two young staff players that have them in play.

In this case, there is the guy on the Callaway tour trailer who is in charge of wedges, Simon Wood, and young tour staffers Akshay Bhatia and Min Woo Lee.

Three unique perspectives—and also perspectives that give us an honest look at the performance and popularity of a “new” wedge on Tour.

I talk with Simon Wood quite a bit. He’s a good as they get in this category, having worked for years in Europe and on the U.S. tour. His knowledge is extensive and even more importantly, he is ridiculously honest. If the product is solid and he believes in it, he will tell you. If he goes quiet, there’s that too.

I caught up with him on a day off and this was the update he gave:

Wunder: It seems MD5 came out of the gates quickly and never really slowed down, are you surprised at the response?

Wood: Not at all. Truth is, these players are very particular about what makes it in or out of the bag. A new club has to do something better than the old one and do all the things they liked about the old one. The Jaws really spins. This is a unique groove system, and I’ve noticed the players like it for two main reasons 1) They can keep the trajectory down on the high lofts 2) they can be a bit more aggressive because of the amount of spin these wedges offer. Out on tour that’s a big deal.

Wunder: What percentage of staff (25+players on U.S. Tours) are in the MD5 across the board?

Wood: I’d say close to 50 percent, which is a good number considering how many good options are out there.

Wunder: Now that we are in the Florida swing, are you having to do anything special to adjust to the new grass and conditions?

Wood: No its the opposite actually. I think with the grooves being as good as they are and the number of options we have grind wise, we on the truck are doing less tweaking and grinding to wedges. That’s a sign one the R&D team did a great job with this design and two that our players trust our product enough to let their creativity take over.

Wunder: Any surprise grinds that are popping up more often?

Wood: It’s not a surprise because we knew it was good, but the low bounce W has been a hit thus far. Lots of guys testing and gaming that one.

I then went on to chat with Callaway staffers Min Woo Lee (winning WITB, podcast link below) and Akshay Bhatia on their experience with Jaws. This perspective was interesting because Akshay is young, he’s fighting for a place to play this summer, and he’s still learning the nuances of playing as a professional. Min just recently won in Australia and has enough time under his belt now to understand a real asset over something he’s still trying to make work.

Point is: pressure is high on both of these kids, and the last thing either wants to struggle with is their wedges.

Wunder: You were an early adopter of the MD5 last fall, have you noticed any significant improvement over your previous gamers?

Bhatia: Trust is the biggest one. I love the shape of these wedges and just knowing that Roger and Phil have an influence on the wedges you are playing gives me so much confidence. From a performance standpoint, I like the variety in grinds the MD5 offers. Anywhere I play I have an option, whether it be X in soft conditions or C for the firmer turf.

Wunder: With the aggressive grooves of the MD5, what shots have you gained that you didn’t have before?

Bhatia: Definitely the off-speed/three-quarter shots with some spin. These wedges really keep the ball down and it’s a bonus when I know I can take something off of a shot and the ball will stay down and hold its line into the wind.

Wunder: And your current set up is?

Bhatia: Currently, I’m in the Jaws MD5 50S, 54S bent to 55, and the 60C or X depending on the conditions (KBS $Taper 130X shafts in black with Iomic grips) with some heel and toe relief in the X. I also like to mess around wit the PM Grind 60 if I’m looking for a different look.

Young Callaway staffer Min Woo Lee, who recently triumphed at the European Tour’s Vic Open, has this to say

Wunder: What ball flight differences do you see in Jaws over the past wedge set?

MWL: Overall the same. I like to pick my trajectory. So if I didn’t like it,  I wouldn’t have put it in my bag…need to have every shot at my disposal.

Wunder: Do you do any extra grinding to your S?

MWL: Just in the 60, there is a little leading edge relief ground in. Prevents it from digging and gives me a bit more ability to be aggressive into it.

Wunder: Are there any other grinds you tried?

MWL: I tried the low bounce W and really liked, but the S grind has been my go-to for a long time, I know how to play with that one.

Wunder: As far as full shot turf interaction, why do you prefer the S?

MWL: The S is always what I’ve been into looks-wise, nothing else really caught my eye like that grind did. I do pretty good chipping around with it around the greens and we have some history so why mess with a good thing.

Overall, I think the MD5 wedge line has been a success on tour. Let’s be honest, wedges arent drivers, but identifying a popular line over another is quite interesting. These guys can get a TV remote ground into something useable, so when there is a shift across the staff to a new model, it validates that the ideas in it are sound and the wedge performs like it says it will. For larger tour staffs like Callaway has, operating a 50 percent clip for full line use is a really solid number.

Let’s be clear here, Callaway hasn’t made a bad wedge…like ever. From X Forged to the MD line and now into Jaws, Roger and the team know what they are doing. In my experience with these wedges, I will say that the grooves are ridiculously aggressive, and as Bhatia mentioned, there is a grind to satisfy any conditions.

Do most OEMs make solid wedges? The answer is of course they do; they all do. But the advantage that Callaway has over the rest in this category is Roger Cleveland. Having the man who inspired some of the most iconic wedge shapes ever coupled with a superb R&D team yields a combination that will deliver quality and performance time after time.

Here are some pics from the forums of MD5 out on tour now.

Akshay BhatiaFrancesco Molinari
Brendan GraceIsaiah SalindaJ.J. SpaunAlex Noren
Chun An YunHenrik Stenson Matt Wallace 

Si Woo Kim

Check out the videos below to see me and one of our forum members put Jaws MD5 to the test!

 

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