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The top-10 biggest equipment changes of Tiger Woods’ career

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No golfer’s equipment changes have been followed as closely, or with more scrutiny, than Tiger Woods. For some reason it just matters to us when he makes a change, and it influences the golf equipment world’s buying habits, too.

In his upcoming start in the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, Woods is expected to make some major equipment changes. After an extended period away from the game, and with Nike exiting the equipment business, Woods’ final decisions on golf equipment have been a frequent topic of conversation. The video below from a Sunday practice round for the event, however, all but confirms he will be using a TaylorMade M2 driver.

Related: Woods to use a Bridgestone B330S golf ball at the Hero

In honor of his return and expected equipment changes this week, we reminisce on the top-10 biggest equipment changes of Woods’ career.

10) A brief experiment

post-94483-12658975850954_thumb

Woods with a TaylorMade R510 driver in 2003.

If Woods tees it up with a TaylorMade M2 driver at the Hero Challenge, it won’t be the first time he’s put a TaylorMade driver in play in competition. At the 2003 Deutsche Bank SAP Open in Germany, he used a TaylorMade R510 driver (7.5 degrees). Being that it lasted for only that week, it’s certainly one of the most surprising equipment changes Tiger ever made.

9) Swoosh in, Titleist “T” out

TigerTitleistIrons

Tiger’s Titleist 681T irons, Vokey 200 Series wedges (58 and 60 degrees) and Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS putter.

When you think of Tiger in his prime, surely you think of 2000-2001. And here’s a look into his bag during that period. He was bagging Titleist “T” irons (the T stood for Tour, not “Tiger,” which was the cause of much confusion). Woods eventually moved on from the T’s, however, when Nike cooked up these beauties: the Nike Forged Blades.

TigerWoodsBladeIronsTW

Woods’ Nike Forged Blade irons.

Ask GolfWRXers what the best blade iron ever made was (join the discussion here), and someone will eventually mention (as easyyy did) the Nike Forged Blades that replaced Tiger’s Titleist irons. He went on to win a slew of majors with the swoosh-stamped irons, using variations of the Nike Forged Blades until he switched to the VR Forged irons in 2009.

Related: The Top-10 Best Nike Equipment Ever Made

8) Tiger drops the Titleist 975D driver

Tiger Woods of the US watches his tee shot on the

Tiger with a Titleist 975D driver (7.5 degrees) with a True Temper Dynamic Gold steel shaft

Not only was Tiger bagging Titleist irons in 2000-2001, but he also played Titleist’s 975D (7.5 degrees) through his most dominant years. He switched to a Nike driver in 2002, which he used to win the Masters and U.S. Open that year. He returned to the 975D in 2003, searching for more fairways, but like his one-week switch to a TaylorMade driver, it was just a brief experiment.

7) The Victory Reds, made to order

TigerWoodsVRBlades

Tiger’s VR Forged irons. He used them during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Woods was initially reluctant to switch into the VR (Victory Red) Forged irons from the Nike Forged Blades that he used previously, despite the fact the new VR irons were developed with heavy input from Woods himself. He switched following his 14th major victory (and his left knee surgery), although conspiracy theorists claimed he never actually gamed the retail versions of the irons he designed. That would be a bit odd given they were designed for him, but just add it to the swirling conspiracies regarding Tiger and his golf equipment.

6) Tiger goes to Vapor, sends off Nike

Tiger with Nike's VR Forged irons at the 2009 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Tiger with Nike’s VR Forged irons at the 2009 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

In late 2010, Woods switched from Nike’s VR Forged irons to the company’s VR Pro irons, which are the irons we expect him to use this week at the Hero. He used the VR Pro irons to win five times in 2013, which made his switch to Nike’s Vapor Pro irons in late 2014 all the more shocking.

Tiger Woods' VR Pro Irons.

Woods’ VR Pro Irons He used them from 2010-2014.

The Vapor Pro irons used what Nike called a “Modern Muscle Geometry” that moved weight toward the toe of the irons. According to Nike, it centered the sweet spot of the irons to improve performance… and they had a lime green swoosh.

TigerVaporIrons

The Nike Vapor Pro irons Woods last used on the PGA Tour.

The Vapor Pro irons were the final blade irons Nike released as a hard goods company, and Tiger never won a golf tournament with them in the bag.

5) A step down from steel

PGA TOUR - 2001 Buick Classic

Woods last used Titleist’s 975D driver in 2003.

See all those “steps” in Tiger’s driver shaft in the picture above? He was one of the last professional golfers to switch to a graphite shaft in his driver. The one that stuck was a Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana Blueboard shaft, which is likely the first time you ever heard the Diamana name. We bet it’s not the last you’ve heard of Diamana either, as it remains one of the most popular shafts in golf today.

You can thank Tiger, at least in part, for the popularization of ultra-expensive, after-market graphite shafts.

4) Shaft switch-up

PGA Championship - Round Two

Woods used Graphite Design’s Tour AD-DI 7X shaft from 2010 to 2013.

Remember how we established that Tiger has supreme influence on the golf equipment world? Here’s another example. Before Tiger switched to Graphite Design’s Tour AD-DI 6X shaft in 2010, the company was mostly hanging its hat on the YS-series shafts. Today, the Tour AD series is available in more than a dozen models, and one of the most popular aftermarket shaft lines.

3) The putter before “the putter”

tiger-woods-scotty-cameron

Tiger’s Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS putter.

Arguably golf’s most famous putter is Tiger Woods’ Newport 2 GSS Scotty Cameron, which Tiger used to win 13 of his 14 major championships.

Tiger Woods

Woods used a Scotty Cameron Newport Teryllium TEi3 putter to win the 1997 Masters.

But before that, Tiger employed a Newport Teryllium TEi3 putter from Scotty (a.k.a. “the one with the dots”), which was most notably in his bag to win the 1997 Masters.

2) Tiger tees up the swoosh

2011 Emirates Australian Open - Day 2

Woods’ Nike Tour Accuracy TW golf ball.

Tiger switched from Titleist’s Professional 90 (a wound golf ball) to a Nike Tour Accuracy golf ball in 2000 (a solid-core golf ball), and promptly won his next four majors… no big deal. Then in 2001, Nike released a Nike Tour Accuracy TW (and DD, for “David Duval”), capitalizing on the success of its two biggest stars.

Had he never teed up a Nike golf ball, this moment in sports history would have looked a bit different; and Nike would have been robbed of the ultimate advertisement for a product.

Some believe that Woods’ switch to a solid-core golf ball aided his runaway success in 2000-2001, as most Tour players were still playing wound golf balls at the time (Titleist’s Pro V1 wasn’t released to Tour players until October 2000).

1) The end of an era

PGA Championship - Final Round

Tiger with a Nike Method 001 putter.

After winning nearly every trophy available in the golf world with the Scotty Cameron Newport 2 previously mentioned, Tiger switched a new putter in 2010, the Nike Method 001. Many thought he would never switch, so it was huge news even to casual golf fans.

Tiger hasn’t won a major with the Method, but he did reel off five wins in 2013 to win PGA Player of the Year with it in the bag. Rumor has it, we might see the Scotty back in the bag at the Hero. Does it have any more magic left in it?

Surely we missed something on this list. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Tom

    Dec 1, 2016 at 11:29 am

    puttin a lot of emphasis on one club…. not the guy using it.

  2. Daniel

    Nov 30, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    The 983K and 905R were the best ever. I never understood why top level pros move on from Titelist.

  3. baudi

    Nov 30, 2016 at 11:55 am

    Don’t forget the very short adventure with the Grafalloy steel tip fairway wood shaft.
    And the bent 3 iron (into a 2I) with a Pxi shaft.
    Nike Forged Blades – super solid heads indeed. Although I remember Tiger’s model being named the Nike Proto. What I do know is the Tom Stites and Tiger took ±9 months to come the final result.

  4. Gene

    Nov 29, 2016 at 11:46 pm

    The big omission was his Titleist pro trajectory (PT) 3 wood which he referred to as, “my baby.” Tiger had a bore through shaft in his which was aftermarket? Had a big cult following and Titleist later reissued with bore through shaft. When he switched to graphite shafted driver he said he needed to switch to a 3 wood with a graphite shaft.(Nike, either sq or ignite)

  5. Tony Rich

    Nov 29, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    Tiger held onto the Vokeys for a while after the 2002 iron switch. It was a year or so later, word was that Vokey
    forged those wedges and Tiger waited until he could match the feel and spin he had with the Voke’s. Would love to see some prototype Tiger SM6 blacks in his bag.

  6. Azman Long Hamid

    Nov 29, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    The influence that he made to the golf industry is astounding, but I bet you he could actually play with any brand of equipment and still get away with it base on talent and skill that he has.

  7. Markallister

    Nov 29, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    best driver ever: titleist 975j

  8. Tyler Brown

    Nov 29, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    That 58 Vokey was bent to 56* with 6* of bounce. The 260.06/260.08 were great grinds from vokey. I think he won the 1997 Masters playing Cleveland 588 TG’s in 56 and 60.

  9. Chunkie Buck

    Nov 29, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    Ahhhhh…..the 975D! Fond memories! That thing resembles a modern day 5 wood!

  10. Yervag

    Nov 29, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Shoes?

  11. Justwellsy

    Nov 29, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Great article, really enjoyed this. In my mind, if he regains his confidence with the Cameron back in the bag, everything else will fall into place. He was never an accurate driver of the golf ball and still dominated, so I don’t think he needs that part of his game. Especially since he’ll be nowhere near the top in driving distance these days.

  12. ooffa

    Nov 29, 2016 at 11:16 am

    Did they all fit in his trunk

  13. carlsheen

    Nov 29, 2016 at 10:45 am

    love this. The biggest was his putter change leaving the cameron. It was the last to go and for a reason. He was a monster with that cameron.

    • The Mad Bomber

      Nov 30, 2016 at 1:03 am

      $$$ is right. That was a shocker.

      • FSUBASEBALL21

        Nov 30, 2016 at 3:01 pm

        Everyone knows PXG is making superior equipment. If your not playing PXG’s your at a disadvantage. PERIOD, end of story.

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Flatstick Focus

Flatstick Focus: Interview with Joe Legendre – Legend Golf Company

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In Episode 26 Glenn is back and we interview the owner of Legend Golf Company, Joe Legendre.

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole Episode 141: The (golf) show must go on!

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Host Michael Williams has breaking news on The PGA Merchandise Show going virtual in 2021 from Marc Simon of PGA Golf Exhibitions. Also features John Buboltz with the latest putters and irons from Argolf.

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Opinion & Analysis

Barney Adams: Ball rollback isn’t the right move to combat “The Golfer of Tomorrow”

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The announcing crew at the 2020 U.S. Open seemed obsessed with “the bombers”—players who drove the ball extreme distances with little regard for the occasional tee shot into the rough. TV has selected Bryson DeChambeau as their representative, given his length and victory.

I thought I’d wait a bit to see what the industry sources had to say. I can’t say it’s unanimous, because I haven’t seen everything, but the theme is: “Get Ready for The Golfer of Tomorrow”

  • 350-yard carry
  • Clubhead speed which tears through the rough allowing the ball to launch high and carry to the green
  • The ‘new’ instructor who teaches distance be it ground up or whatever new method is used
  • Gym sessions producing athletes who look more like football players
  • And last, a whole new shelf of steroids for golf

At the same time the USGA and its organizational allies are planning meetings focusing on not if the ball will be rolled back, but when—clearly, influenced by visual evidence from a great Winged Foot course in our national championship.

Let’s look deeper!

A hypothetical: go back a few months. You are on the planning committee for the U.S. Open to be held at Winged Foot, one of America’s great venues. This year because of COVID-19 there will be no galleries, something never experienced at a USGA major golf event. I repeat, your committee is planning for the U.S. Open. That implies “Open Rough” a term that is significant on its own. You don’t play from Open Rough, you escape…maybe.

The nature of Open Rough is a thick chunky base with long tendrils reaching skyward. These make it very difficult to find your ball in the best of circumstances and when attempting to advance these tendrils wrap themselves around your hosel closing the face, sending your ball deeper into hostile territory. That’s if you can even find it, Open rough has “disappeared” many balls over the years and done so within full view of gallery spectators aiding course marshals. The rule of thumb for competitors has always been to find the most reasonable patch of fairway and get out.

But this is the year of COVID-19. No galleries. Marshals, but relatively few because of no galleries. Now, considering that normal U.S. Open rough will produce many searches where marshals are important, the shortage of them will cause endless searches—which don’t make for great TV viewing. So, a decision is made, cut the rough down so shots can be found. Still in the rough but sitting on the chunky base and very often can be played. A tough call for the purist but an objective economic evaluation leaves no choice.

The announcers regale us with astonishing distances and swing speeds that allow escape from Open Rough that used to be impossible! The golf publications jump on this theme and predict that the Golfer of Tomorrow will be “DeChambeau-like” not sweet swingers but physical hulks rewriting the book on distance strongly influenced by no fear of the rough.

My point here is those publications and instructors, jumping on the “longer and slightly crooked is better” bandwagon have added 2+2 and gotten 5 when using the 2020 U.S. Open as a premise.

DeChambeau is a great and powerful player, however, I don’t think he’s known for his putting. Now I may have dozed off but I don’t remember him being widely praised for his putting. He should have been, it was terrific, probably influenced his score! He is our National Champion, an unsurpassable honor. But his style has me betting that the USGA is working on dates to discuss changing the golf ball, as in making it shorter.

I’m 100% against such a move. Golf is a game where amateurs can go to the same course play the same clubs and given a huge difference in skill achieve some measure of affiliation with the pros. A birdie is a birdie, not a long or short ball birdie. From a business perspective, the overwhelming majority of those golfers financially supporting golf are over 50. And we want them to hit it shorter?

Well, Mr. Adams what would you do? I know zero about golf ball manufacturing, but keeping the distance the same I’d change the dimples to increase curvature—just enough so it doesn’t affect slower swings that much but very high swing speeds so it’s in the player’s head

More thoughts. As an admitted TV viewer, get rid of those yardage books. Fine for practice rounds but when the bell rings it should be player and caddie, not an “on green” conference. What’s next, a staff meeting?

I’ll conclude with a note to the PGA Tour and, importantly, an admonition. To the PGA Tour: The minute a tee goes into the ground on #1 every player is on the clock. Stroke penalties, not fines, will get their attention.

To the rest of the golfing world: Let’s not blindly pursue the Golfer of Tomorrow concept without considerably deeper study.

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