Tiger returns with new Nike driver, wedge

Tiger Woods has a new driver in the bag this week at the Masters.

Tiger Woods has a new driver in the bag this week at the Masters.

AUGUSTA, Ga. – New start, new attitude, new driver.

Tiger Woods switched drivers before launching his return to competitive golf at the Masters.

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Woods is now using a 9.5-degree Nike VR Tour driver with a Graphite Design Tour AD DI-7X shaft. After 36 holes, he stands at 6-under 138, two back of leaders Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter.

The official driving distance average for Woods through two rounds is 287.25 yards, but it is his accuracy that has turned a few heads. Woods finished 83rd in driving accuracy on the 2009 PGA Tour with a 64.29 fairway percentage. Here at the Masters, he has hit 20 of 29 fairways for a 71.43 percentage.

Credit fellow player Charles Howell III with orchestrating this driver change. In March, Howell and Woods were engaged in a friendly round at Isleworth Golf and Country Club in Windermere, Fla., where both live.

Woods, impressed with Howell’s tee shots, asked him if he could hit his driver. The rest is recent history.

Graphite Design shipped 10 of the Tour AD DI shafts to Nike’s design and tour facility in Fort Worth, Texas. Woods showed up here with two VR Tour drivers, each with a DI-7X shaft.

The length of the driver is believed to be 44.75 inches, although Tiger and his camp have yet to talk about the new club. According to reliable sources, the two drivers were constructed at 44.75 and 45 inches in length.

The eye-catching shaft is mostly a burnt orange color, with cosmetic bands of orange, green and white. It weighs 75 grams and is an X flex.

The Tour AD DI is a mid-kick shaft that is manufactured in weights varying from 54 to 85 grams. It became available in March, with a suggested retail price of $380.

According to touring pro Arjun Atwal, who played several rounds with Woods at Isleworth, Woods was “just bombing the ball” in preparation for the Masters.

In 2008 and 2009, Woods was a regular user of Mitsubishi Rayon’s Diamana White Board driver shaft, weighing 83 grams. He still uses 103-gram Diamana Blue Board shafts in his 3-wood and 5-wood.

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The Nike VR Tour driver head used by Woods has been measured by the U.S. Golf Association at 420 CCs in size, although it looks smaller. In 2009, Woods experienced most of his success with a Nike SQ Dymo 380 prototype driver (10.5 degrees).

Woods has another new club in his bag for the Masters. He used a Nike SV Tour 60-degree lob wedge throughout 2009, but has substituted a 62-degree VR lob wedge here.

Through 36 holes, Woods has hit 26 greens in regulation, ranking among the top 10 in that category. However, he has totaled 59 putts, barely cracking the top 50.

No worries about the driver, though.

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