December 3 2013
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM Equipment Insider
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy dominated the Nike Golf headlines in 2013 — and rightfully so. Following an eight-shot win at the 2012 PGA Champonship, McIlroy made the jump from Titleist to Nike at the beginning of the year and became one of the highest paid athletes in the process.
For McIlroy, the year was about finding a comfort level with his new equipment. The world No. 6 struggled with his game early on, leading many to question if his new equipment was the culprit. McIlroy spent most of the year reiterating that the problems stemmed from swing issues and a lack of confidence, before salvaging the year with come-from-behind win over Adam Scott at the Australian Open with Nike's soon-to-be-released Covert 2.0 driver and 2014 RZN ball in the bag.
McIlroy made a few equipment changes throughout the year that made headlines, but it was his decision to switch to a VR_S prototype driver at The Open Championship that ended up being the big story for the two-time major winner.
The pear-shaped driver, which ended up being the impetus behind VR_S Covert 2.0, became one of the most talked about equipment stories of the year when McIlroy and Tiger Woods put prototype versions in play at Muirfield.
Woods had already added Nike's VR_S Covert 5-wood at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and VR_S Covert 3-wood at the Masters before adding the Covert driver at the season's third major.
As expected, Woods' equipment changes also moved the needle throughout the year. For a player who rarely tinkers with his equipment — before this year he was using a Nike SasQuatch 2 5-wood from 2007 — Woods made wholesale changes to a number of clubs in his bag.
From McIlroy's equipment switch to Tiger's changes, Nike's year centered around the two biggest names in golf. Expect that trend to continue in 2014.
Equipment released on TOUR: Nike VR_S Covert (driver, fairway woods, hybrids, irons); VR_S Covert Tour (driver, fairway woods, hybrids); VR_S Forged (irons); VR Forged Pro Combo (irons); VR Pro Forged (wedges); 20XI (ball); One RZN (ball); Nike Method (putters)
PGA TOUR winners (2013): Russell Henley (Sony Open in Hawaii); Tiger Woods (Farmers Insurance Open, WGC-Cadillac Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational, The Players Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational); Scott Brown (Puerto Rico Open);
VR_S Covert raises eyebrows: Nike's VR_S Covert driver burst onto the scene in January as the most distinctive club in company history. The driver featured an eye-popping red crown, separate face angle and loft settings, and a large cavity in the sole that created a cavity-back effect with perimeter weighting.
The goal behind the new design? Create a driver with the accuracy of a cavity-back iron. Players quickly bought into the new driver hype, as McIlroy, Nick Watney, Kyle Stanley and other Nike athletes put the driver in play at the start of the 2013 season.
The evolution of VR_S Covert: Through constant feedback with its TOUR staff, Nike released a couple of VR_S Covert prototype drivers midway through the season. McIlroy opted for a pear-shaped version, at the British Open, that allowed him to eliminate drives going right; the prototype also lacked a weight screw in the sole that was part of the Covert Tour model he'd been playing.
Of course, McIlroy wasn't the only player to offer suggestions on improving the design. Woods switched to similar pear-shaped Covert performance head at The Open Championship and had the driver in the bag for his win at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
The pear-shaped head on the prototype models — both version appeared on the USGA's list of conforming driver heads prior to McIlroy and Woods switching, leading some to believe the drivers were built specifically for Nike Golf's biggest names — became the impetus behind the new Covert 2.0 driver that McIlroy used to win the Australian Open.
Woods' wholesale changes: For a player who rarely messes with his equipment, 2013 ended up being a year of major changes for Tiger Woods.
The 14-time major winner finally let go of his SasQuatch 2 5-wood at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, switching to a VR_S Covert 5-wood. The changes continued in April at the Masters, as Woods added a Covert 3-wood, before adding a prototype Covert driver at The Open Championship.
Hot start: It didn't take Henley long to make his mark on the PGA TOUR. The rookie won in his first start, setting the record for the lowest total score — 24-under 256 — at the Sony Open.
In the process, Henley became the first player on the PGA TOUR to win with Nike’s new 20XI X golf ball that featured a larger RZN core than its predecessor.
BUY HERE: Nike Golf equipment