By John Schwarb and Zak Kozuchowski, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods’ sartorial trademark has always been the Sunday red shirt. This week at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, the attire attention has shifted south – to his shoes.
Normally golf shoes aren’t a focal point unless they have a standout color (such as Kris Blanks’ red dogs at the RBC Canadian Open), but for a 71-time PGA TOUR winner recovering from leg and Achilles issues, they’re a point of emphasis.
Woods’ Nike Free prototype shoes, the product of nearly a year of design work between Woods and Nike, are described by the company as boasting “a ‘natural motion’ technology that is designed to mimic and conform to the natural motion of the foot, coupled with the protection and traction of a lightweight performance shoe.”
“It was nice to try and get something that I felt comfortable in,” Woods said Tuesday during his pre-tournament press conference at Firestone. “The Free technology is something that I wear every day, and some of the things, some of the aspects, I love training in it, I love running in it, lifting in it, so why can't I play golf in it.
“So eventually we got together and created this shoe, and walking out there on the golf course, it felt good to feel my foot activated, something that I hadn't felt in a long time. That felt very good, so the whole chain was activated, something that I'd always felt off the golf course but not on the golf course.”
There’s no metal on the bottom of the shoe, just rubber and soft cleats, which is a change for Woods. Metal cleats have been fading away on TOUR but Woods is a spike loyalist – or at least he was until this week.
Nike has not said when or if Woods’ shoe would be available to the public, though a big week at Firestone or next week at the PGA Championship would likely answer that.
MORE TIGER: A lot is new for Woods this week. In addition to the new caddie and shoes, he’s got a new putter in the bag.
Woods has been spotted playing his practice rounds with a Nike Method 001, a PING-Anser style putter that he first debuted at the 2010 British Open. That was the first time Woods benched his Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS, a putter that he used to win 13 of his 14 career major championships.
Woods cited the Method’s firmer face for the switch, saying it would help him get putts to the hole on St. Andrews’ slower greens. By Sunday, however, he returned to his trusty Cameron.
Since then, Woods had been using a toe-down Nike Method mid mallet putter (similar to the Method 005), which has a radically different design from the Newport 2 and the Method 001 that is currently in the bag.
So, while Woods is making a putter change this week, it’s actually a return to the style of putter that has brought him his most success in his career.
VERY OLD SCHOOL: Bob Estes, last a winner on the PGA TOUR in 2002, nearly broke the drought Sunday at The Greenbrier Classic only to lose in a playoff. Had he won it would have been the first title in quite a while for a Titleist Bulls Eye blade (pictured).
There are far more Bulls Eye-shaped putters at miniature golf courses than at TOUR events nowadays. The more preferred sticks from the Titleist arsenal, of course, are Scotty Camerons – like the Del Mar prototype used by Bill Haas (the other Greenbrier playoff runner-up) and the 009 wielded by Scott Stallings (the winner).
OOPS: Golf World shared the story about Stuart Appleby’s Callaway logo balls, which ended up on sale at The Greenbrier instead of in the Aussie’s bag. The company made 112 dozen balls with the player’s usual apple-bee logo, but Appleby thought the logo was too big.