December 02, 2014
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM
- Tiger Woods rolled out his new gear on Wednesday morning at Isleworth. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
When Tiger Woods makes his return to competitive golf this week at the Hero World Challenge, he'll do so with new Nike Vapor clubs in the bag.
Woods, who has typically been slow to make equipment changes, will put a Nike Vapor Speed prototype driver, Vapor Speed fairway woods (3- and 5-wood) and Vapor Pro blade irons in play at Isleworth Golf & Country Club. He will also switch to Nike's RZN Black ball.
While Woods won't officially put the clubs and ball in play for the first time in competition until Thursday, he was spotted using a Vapor Speed prototype driver on Monday at the TW Charity Playoffs. Compared to the off-the-rack Vapor Speed driver, Woods' prototype features a slightly smaller profile — 420cc instead of 460cc — and non-adjustable hosel he's always preferred.
The driver still has Nike's Covert Cavity Back design and a re-engineered Compression Channel that was last seen on Nike's VR Pro driver lineup a few years ago. The channel on the sole of the driver improves the spring-like effect across the entire face, especially on off-center hits.
The Compression Channel was positioned closer to the leading edge and is wider in the heel and toe to improve forgiveness and generate higher ball speeds on shots that don't hit the center of the face.
Along with the new driver, Woods will swap his VRS Covert 3-wood and 5-wood for the new Vapor Speed.
Feedback from Woods led to a larger face profile and refinements to the chassis, including a tighter leading edge.
Vapor Speed has a 25 percent larger footprint with a lower and deeper center of gravity than previous Nike fairway wood models. The low CG promotes a high launch and low spin.
The non-adjustable fairway wood features the same re-designed Compression Channel and FlyBeam-reinforced Covert Cavity Back design as the Vapor Pro driver.
Woods will also switch to a set of Nike Vapor Pro blade irons, although it's not yet known if he'll stick with his usual 3-iron through pitching wedge setup. Similar to Nike's Vapor metalwoods, Woods played a major role in the development of the Vapor Pro blade.
Woods' Nike VR Pro Blade irons were actually the impetus behind the design. Nike engineers studied the wear patterns on Woods' irons over the years and noticed the impact pattern was slightly towards the heel of the club.
To shift the wear pattern more towards the center of the face, Woods and Nike engineers collaborated on a design that was kept under wraps for several years until the Vapor iron launch in Augusta.
Woods' VR Pro Blade irons actually feature tungsten plugs in the back of the head that are positioned closer towards the toe to offset the weight of the hosel and move the hitting area to the center of the club face.
“Years back when we tested the parts with adjusted weighting, I immediately noticed a more balanced feel and more consistent performance,” Woods said earlier this year at a Nike-sponsored media event in New York.
Nike's Vapor Pro, the company's first blade offering in more than three years, doesn't have tungsten plugs in the head. However, it does follow the same basic design principles with more weight positioned out towards the toe to move the CG towards the center of the face.
Woods was actually close to putting a set in play earlier this year before a back injury forced him to have a surgery and miss almost four months.
"We were close to having a set right for me earlier this year," Woods said. "About this time last year, we started tinkering around with this stuff. Then, earlier this year, I was getting close to it and then my back went out and I wound up having surgery. When I came back, I was on a limited ball count, so I could not do the testing I would normally do. So I said I would just go out with my old stuff and play it that way."
The switch to Nike's RZN Black ball likely won't receive the same fanfare as the club changes, but it could be the most important switch for Woods, especially when you consider he played the One Tour D model for five years.
The four-piece ball RZN Black is Nike's lowest spinning model and features the company's resin Speedlock core technology. The interlocking core design -- the core’s surface is similar to that of a waffle iron -- interconnects with the compression layer to form a more cohesive bond that delivers more energy through impact.
Woods began testing Nike's mid-spinning RZN Platinum over a year ago but saw improved ball speeds most recently with RZN Black, which ultimately led to the change.
The only holdouts that remain from Woods' previous bag setup are his Nike VR Pro wedges (56 and 60 degrees) and Method 001 putter.
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