March 11, 2019
By Andrew Tursky, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods wins THE PLAYERS Championship 2001
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida -- In March of 2001, then-Titleist staffer Tiger Woods won THE PLAYERS Championship by one stroke over Vijay Singh. While the most notable shot of the tournament occurred with his putter – you know, the “better than most” putt – it’s Woods’ wedge that’s displayed on The Champions’ Clubs wall in the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse.
Of course, the Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS “Tiger Woods” prototype he used to make the "better than most" putt still resides in Woods’ golf bag in 2019, and the stories behind that putter are well-documented. There is less known about Woods’ Titleist Vokey wedges that he used to win the 2001 PLAYERS Championship, and complete the Tiger Slam less than a month later, however.
For the low-down on Woods’ custom-made Titleist Vokey wedges, PGATOUR.COM caught up with the designer of the wedges: legendary craftsman Bob Vokey.
As Vokey explained, Woods used two Titleist Vokey 200-series wedges -- a 258-08 sand wedge and a 260-06 lob wedge -- during his tenure as a Titleist staffer. Vokey says he “lightly touched the heel” of each wedge for a slight bit of heel relief, and that Woods “liked a certain radius” of the leading edges.
Woods’ 58-degree wedge, which originally had 8 degrees of bounce on it, was no ordinary 58-degree wedge. According to Vokey, Woods liked the look of a 58-degree wedge, but he had it bent to 56 degrees, since playing a 58- and 60-degree wedge left too small of a yardage gap. Bending the wedge 2-degrees strong gave the wedge 6 degrees of bounce rather than 8, though. Comparatively speaking, 6 degrees is not a lot of bounce for a sand wedge. Knowing this, Vokey cautioned Woods that the low-bounce sand wedge might “grab” the turf too much, and Woods ultimately made the proper adjustments.
“When you take a 58-08 and bend it to 56 degrees, you lose 2 degrees of bounce,” Vokey told PGATOUR.COM. “I [told Woods], ‘It might have a tendency to grab on you a little bit, especially on shots where you’re greenside and you’re not generating club head speed. The little touchy-feely shots might grab on you.’ And I remember it was at Firestone, and there was one shot, I remember seeing it on TV, he came up way short because it grabbed on him … he ended up winning the tournament. I mentioned it to him later, and he said, ‘Once I knew that [it grabbed], I knew how to hit the shot.’ Then after that it [stayed] in the bag.”
Before his 2000 U.S. Open victory, according to Vokey, Woods also switched his wedge shafts from True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 shafts that he previously played throughout his entire bag (except the putter), to the S400 version; Vokey himself prompted the shaft change.
“He got a little bit more feel [from the S400s],” Vokey said. “He felt his feel was better on the touchy-feely shots, and he got good elevation from the bunker. I said [to Woods], ‘Well did you ever try [an S400]?’ And as soon as he tried one, he went to it.”
Further showcasing Woods’ sensitivity to wedge shafts, Vokey tells an unbelievable story:
“I remember one tournament, it was most remarkable … he picked up a wedge and [Woods] said, ‘It doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel like mine. Something doesn’t feel right.’ So I checked the specs against his original gamer, and everything matched. So there’s only one thing it could be. It’s got to be the shaft. Sometimes shafts are butt-heavy or tip heavy, it just happens. So I took out the old shaft and put in a new shaft and he said, “That’s it. It’s perfect.”
Next time you’re in the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse, check out The Champions’ Club wall, and you can see one of Woods’ custom Titleist Vokey wedges for yourself. Now you’ll know the story behind it.