By matthew rudy
f you were handicapping the list of potential replacements for Sean Foley as Tiger Woods’ swing coach when their breakup was announced in August, Chris Como would have been lumped into the “field” line at the end.
The Texas-based instructor is well known inside the wonky world of golf biomechanics, but casual observers probably wouldn’t recognise him if he were giving a lesson in the next stall at the range.
That all changed in November when Woods tweeted that he was pleased to have Como consulting on his swing. Suddenly, Como went from
golfdigest. com being a relatively anonymous member of Golf Digest’s Best Young Teachers list—working with tour pros such as Trevor Immelman, Aaron Baddeley and Jamie Lovemark —to the guy in the manager’s seat in the New York Yankees dugout, figuratively speaking.
That Woods didn’t pick a more veteran teacher like Chuck Cook or Claude Harmon III might have surprised some, but Como, 37, has a set of skills that makes him right for the job—at least for now.
For four years Como taught a full schedule at Gleneagles Country Club in Plano, Texas, and on tour while taking classes toward a master’s degree in biomechanics at Texas Woman’s University. At TWU, Como studied under Dr. YoungHoo Kwon, considered one of the foremost experts in golf biomechanics and how athletic motion can lead to injuries.
Kwon and Como published two papers for Sports Biomechanics, a scholarly journal, and are working on new projects.
“Chris has worked really hard ever since I met him,” Kwon says. “And he’s going to play a unique
february 2015 role in connecting the worlds of golf practice and science in the coming years.”
None of that knowledge would have mattered if Como didn’t have the ability to convert tech-speak to tour-speak—and if he didn’t have an entrée into Woods’ tightly insulated world. Enter Notah Begay III. The player- turned- broadcaster is a longtime Woods friend and former teammate at Stanford University. Begay knows Como well from the time they spent together in the Dallas area and thought he could offer the right combination of expertise, inquisitiveness and low-key calm that Woods wanted from a swing advisor. Begay set up a meeting, and it clicked. Como got to work in October when Woods started hitting full shots again after his latest back injury.
“I had this plan in my head of what I wanted my swing to look like, and what I wanted to get out of my body,” Woods says. “I wanted to align myself with somebody who feels the same way. Chris’ view of what my swing should be fits my view of where I should be going.”
Woods added that he was impressed with Como’s eagerness to learn. “To him, it’s not acceptable to not have an answer,” Woods says. “He always wants to find that answer to why something is doing what. One of the reasons he researches as much as he does is to know why.”
Determining the whats and whys in Woods’ swing—which so far seems to centre on reincorporating a looser, freer circa-2000 action—is probably the easiest part of Como’s job description. The bigger challenges will be getting the notoriously fickle Woods to completely buy into the program and managing the megawatt media attention.
Hank Haney knows that world from the inside and the sideline. He started working with Woods in 2004 and was happy to give Foley a turn in the skillet after the 2010 Masters. He believes Woods’ initial description of Como’s role as a “consultant” was intentional, to take pressure off the teacher.
“He’s giving himself room so that if Chris isn’t at a tournament, he doesn’t have to explain himself every time, and the media won’t start saying Chris is going to get fired,” Haney says. “The other part is that Tiger wants to have ownership of what’s going on. When you have a consultant, the consultant isn’t making the ultimate decision. Tiger’s making the calls.”
One thing that probably won’t change from when Haney was on the job is the dearth of specifics about what teacher and player are working on. In Como’s first weeks on duty, he didn’t reveal much more than a few generic platitudes when reporters were within earshot, and he has declined many interview requests.
“I don’t see the advantage to Chris getting quoted in a bunch of articles,” Haney says. “He’s a low-key guy, so I don’t think that’s a big thing for him anyway. He knows that if you stay with Tiger and he wins, you’re going to get more publicity than you ever dreamed of. The best way to stay on the job is to keep a low profile and get results.”
Como is Tiger’s fourth coach in 19 years as a pro.