2000: Business - Subterfuge aside, take a peek in Tiger’s bag
That 3-wood yanked by Tiger Woods off the last tee of the PGA Championship playoff, proving he is human, producing a shot that flew three counties wide before it was seen again, finally bouncing away from trees and bushes toward a safe haven – adios, it’s history, gone from his bag, replaced by another Titleist 970 3-wood.
Of course, his irons are gone, too, the faces worn out after (are you ready for this?) just 18 months, replaced by a duplicate set with a stamping that says simply Titleist Forged.
Woods is preoccupied with having identical backup sets. The new irons, one of his two backup sets, made their debut after the PGA Championship at the World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational. Were they really identical? Ha, he won by 11. Dating to the 1999 PGA Championship, he won four majors with irons that are now retired.
The story of the 3-wood is slightly more complicated. His discarded Titleist 970 was a specially modified bore-through model (meaning that the shaft extended all the way through the hosel and the clubhead, ending at a hole in the sole plate). His new 970 is not a bore-through.
The 970, currently available only for tour players, is a very close remake of the Titleist PT (Pro Trajectory) series that was discontinued in 1994. It features a small head and high center of gravity. A sister fairway wood with a lower center of gravity, the 975F, is sold to consumers.
The swingweight of Tiger’s new 3-wood is D4, the same as the old one. He swings an untipped X-100 Dynamic Gold steel shaft. Woods continues to use his bore-through Titleist 975D driver, the same kind sold in golf shops. His specifications: 43.5 inches length, D4 swingweight, 7.5 degrees loft, X-100 shaft (tipped one inch to produce an exceptionally stiff shaft).
Getting the specs of Tiger’s clubs is about as difficult as stealing nuclear secrets, but here they are: In this, the era of space-age golf equipment and tape-measure tee shots, the world’s best player is something of a throwback. He uses Dynamic steel exclusively (a shaft introduced 59 years ago, in 1941, by True Temper), standard length clubs (or, in the case of his driver, less than standard length) and irons that actually have more loft (they are weaker) than those carried by most pros and amateurs.
So the next time some loudmouth claims that Woods uses jacked-up lofts to hit his irons so far, just beat him over the head with a loft and lie machine. All Tiger’s irons are muscle-back forgings, with an extremely high center of gravity. The irons feature taper tip X-100 shafts and a D4 swingweight. Their length is graduated down in half-inch increments from a 39-inch 2-iron – 2-iron: 21 degrees loft/60 degrees lie (for most clubmakers, this is about one degree upright); 3-iron: 24 degrees loft/61 degrees lie; 4-iron: 27/62; 5-iron: 30/63; 6-iron: 33/63.5; 7-iron: 37/64; 8-iron: 41/64.5; 9-iron: 45/65; pitching wedge: 50/65.
Every club in his bag is from Titleist. His two sand wedges are a Vokey 258-08 and a Vokey 260-06 (translation: 58 degrees loft with 8 degrees of bounce on the sole, 60 degrees loft with 6 degrees of bounce). However, the 58-degree sand wedge is bent to 56 degrees, which not only reduces the loft but also reduces the bounce to 6 degrees.
This means that each of his sand wedges has 6 degrees of bounce – less than the amount preferred by most touring pros. He uses S-400 shafts in both Vokey wedges.
Tiger’s putter is a one-of-a-kind Scotty Cameron. Using Titleist calculations, it is 35.25 inches long and has 4 degrees of loft.
“Tiger is very particular about his equipment and knows exactly what works best,” says Chris McGinley, Titleist’s vice president of marketing. “However, he has a keen eye and asks a lot of questions about what other players are using and why.”
What about grips? Most touring pros play with round grips, as opposed to grips with a rib down the back. Tiger is no exception, using 58 round (the designated measurement) Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord grips. They are installed over a single wrap of tape.
Who assembles these clubs for Tiger? Only one person – the meticulous Larry Bobka, who, along with acclaimed designer Terry McCabe, is credited with developing the Titleist Forged 681 irons used by Woods. After turning pro in August 1996, Woods experimented with several versions of the 681 before switching from his Mizuno blades to the Titleist iron late in 1997.
Davis Love III often plays this iron, and Greg Norman currently is using a set. Ordinary golfers may be wondering if Titleist will introduce a line of forged irons to join the many investment cast models of the successful DCI series, and the answer is . . . maybe. There are persistent rumors that Titleist will unveil the 681 for consumer use in 2001.
The Titleist 681 and the Mizuno blades previously used by Woods have much in common, but this is true of most muscle-back forgings. Titleist began selling forged irons shortly after it purchased Golfcraft in 1969. The first Titleist forgings were the Golfcraft Continental model with Titleist stamped on them. This led to the Titleist Tour, a model that appeared in several variations from the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s.
One more thing: A well-circulated theory tells us that other touring pros don’t have the swing speed or power to hit Tiger’s clubs. Nonsense, claims Titleist’s Mata. “That is so false it is unbelievable,” he says. “His clubs are just standard specs, really.”
This may be the first and only time the word “standard” has been applied to Woods.