Equipment Q&A with Tiger Woods: His testing process, switching from Nike to TaylorMade and much more
March 26, 2019
By Andrew Tursky, PGATOUR.COM
- A detailed look at Tiger Woods' new P-7TW TaylorMade irons. (Andrew Tursky/PGA TOUR)
AUSTIN, Texas -- On Monday during the 2019 WGC-Dell Match Play, TaylorMade unveiled it’s new, double-decker TOUR Truck that has taken about a year to design and build, according to the company. It has a retractable second floor that slides up during TOUR events, and down while driving.
On the first level, it has most of the typical things you’d find on a Tour Truck, such as loft and lie machines, frequency meters, a grinding wheel, drawers for shafts and grips, and more. It also now has individual lockers for its staffers, a built-in coffee machine, a gathering area with couches, flat-screen TVS, and Tiger Woods’ favorite feature, a PlayStation 4 game system.
When the second floor slides up, it reveals an upstairs lounge area – Jason Day’s favorite feature – for players to hang out, and for podcasting, meetings, and other exclusive gatherings.
During the reveal of its new state-of-the art TOUR Truck, PGATOUR.COM sat down with Tiger Woods in the upstairs lounge for an exclusive gathering to talk about his golf equipment. During the conversation, PGATOUR.COM discussed with Woods his process for changing (or not changing) equipment, his transition to TaylorMade, why he changes wedges more often with TaylorMade, Mike Taylor and his role in helping with Woods’ new irons, and much more.
Enjoy the full equipment Q&A with Tiger Woods below.
What was you’re first reaction coming [into the new TaylorMade truck]?
Tiger Woods: I didn’t know it was a double-decker. I didn’t know that. It’s pretty incredible. Honestly, I’m blown away. Can’t wait to see everybody getting clubs inside here and it fills in.
How much time do you spend in a Tour Van?
Almost never. I’m one of those guys that does a lot of my tinkering at home. When I come to a tournament, I don’t tinker anymore. I usually come in here to get … I’ve been practicing a lot, my grips need to be redone, or something like that. I’ll check lofts and lies since, I’ve been practicing a lot at home, my irons tend to get flat. So I’ll have Keith [Sbaboro] come in, but generally I just throw him my clubs and let him go do it.
You don’t change equipment a lot …
I don’t. No, I don’t. I’m one of the guys that don’t really change anything while I’m at a TOUR site. I do all my testing at home. Now, if you come to my house you’ll see that I’ve got clubs everywhere, and testing, and I got all different data. That’s different.
I’ve talked to Rick Nichols a bit about your past with equipment. Who is Rick Nichols to you, and how would you describe that relationship?
Well, I started with Rick when he was with True Temper, when I first came out on TOUR. He used to help me with shafts, and I remember he had an idea – back in 2002? – that I should try this new True Temper Lite shaft. It was 112-gram steel. At the time it was really light because I was North of 120 [grams]. I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll try it and see how it feels.’ And, ‘Oh my god, I picked up some distance and some speed, this is great.’ ... I’ve always trusted Rick implicitly with my clubs over the years, and Keith has now transitioned into that role. I’ve known Keith ever since I came out here on TOUR; he’s been with TaylorMade ever since I got out here. So I’ve only worked with two guys out here. It’s either Rick or Keith and they both know me, and what I like, what I like to feel. And bounce ideas on and off each other, and try to get me into better equipment than I’m playing. But that doesn’t happen over night. As I said, we do a lot of the work at home.
This is year two for you with TaylorMade, essentially using their equipment. Was the transition faster than you expected? You changed out a lot of gear last year. Were you surprised with how quickly you were able to acclimate to new equipment?
Well the irons were pretty simple because they made them just like my old ones. We had an issue prior to that because they wanted me in a different metal, and I found that I was hitting the ball too far. You know, all this technology I kept hitting the ball too far. I don’t want to do that. I want to hit the ball at my numbers. So, we worked them, put my old grooves back into these irons, and then I started hitting my windows, my numbers, and everything was good to go so, I put them in the bag.
But more than anything it’s been the woods; how much distance I’ve picked up since I’ve been with TaylorMade. Trying to understand … you have to understand, this is the first time that I’ve ever played a non-glued hosel. I’ve never played anything with Nike all those years. And then when I came back from all my injuries, it was tinkering around with the lofts, the weight distribution, and it just changed all my numbers and I was like ‘Wow.’ Usually I come to a testing and there’s like 50 drivers, up on a tee, I hit each single one about three times or so, and then we sort them out that way. Then we re-test them again. That takes two days and I’m so friggin’ tired. Now it’s like click, back in and hit again. ‘Let’s go this way, let’s go that way.’ And all the sudden I have a new driver in 20 minutes. So that was a bit of an adjustment for me, trying to understand that. That whole side of how the hosel works, and how all the weights can play a big difference in my spin rate and my launch conditions. So I had to learn a lot of that. I either talked to the players that we have – like DJ, Rory. They were instrumental in helping me understand that. And then, working with Keith, trying to understand the time that I had a glued hosel to what we have now, So that was a bit of an adjustment, but I was able to make it.
You told me something in 2017 … you said that you were actually going to have to learn about the adjustable hosel. Did you really have to go and ask?
I did. No, I did. As I said, asking DJ and asking Rory. J. Day, I called him up many of times trying to figure it out, because I didn’t know. It was a big adjustment for me. And then with the weight there, how they work, and trying to understand that. And then, for me, my feels, and trying to understand my body at the same time. Those were all things that were playing together at the same time. But it all came together last FedExCup Playoffs when I switched to my old shaft. I went back to my old Diamana shaft that I’ve had so much success with. I went back to that shaft, got me a little bit more spin on my driver and ended up hitting fairways. Ended up winning the TOUR Championship.
What about the transition from the Phase 1 to the new irons you have now. What was that transition like for you, and that process working your way into those new irons?
The Phase 1 was more of the challenge, because it was trying to go from Nike to TaylorMade. Once they got the metal, the grooves, my CGs (center of gravities) just right, between the Phase 1 and the P-7TWs, it wasn’t anything, except they were non-milled. Now they can make them again and again and again, and they’re all the same. But the transition from Nike to TaylorMade was a bigger change. Once we got it right, I was pretty consistent going into the greens this past year. I had a lot of confidence hitting the ball inside of 15 feet, and that helped. It’s one of the reasons why I had the success that I had the entire year.
With the switch to TaylorMade wedges from Nike, it seems like you’re changing out wedges more often. I saw you with a new wedge at THE PLAYERS, and then you had one in bubble wrap today [at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play practice round]. It seems like you’re able to change wedges more often. Can you speak to that?
Well they’re making them ... obviously they’re milled, so they’re identical. So, once we figured out what the right bounce and the system that I like with my -- I have two different wedges: one I used last year, and one I’ve been testing around a little this year a little bit because of the rough, and I’m trying to get a little more bounce out of the bunkers. I have two different 60 [degree wedges] that I can play with, that I have played with. When I was with Nike we would take 8 sets, or 8 different wedges, and literally hand-grind them all. I’d hit them, I’d test them, ‘I like this, I like that.’ Buff them off, try to get them just right, and then each one felt exactly the same. But after use, at home practicing, bunker work, the grooves started getting worn down so I would send one in, have that re-blasted. That [wedge] would move into the back of the order. Then I had the fresh ones, and I’d wear that one out. Then that would get re-blasted, and eventually they’d come around and I used all 8 sets twice. Then once those were done – so 16 go-arounds – now we have to start it all over again, because they can’t get anymore spin on them. It’s a lot easier now, going through what we had to go through; those long testing sessions, a lot of work with Mike Taylor, a lot of work in the grind room. But when I had them right, I didn’t have to think about it, all I had to do was go hit. But once I wore them out 16 times, we had to restart the process.
You mentioned Mike [Taylor]. He was such a big part of building your golf clubs. Is he still involved at all with these new irons?
Yeah, he worked on all these irons. He worked on all my wedges. I talk to him probably every few weeks, giving updates on how I feel, things that I think could be better. He’ll bounce a few ideas off me, what I think, what direction we need to go down the road, how can we make them any better than what they are. And this is the same process I went through all those years when I was working with him at Nike. But now working with him at TaylorMade, it’s a lot more seamless.