Toy Box Mailbag: Woods' driver choice and more

Tiger Woods during the third round of the 2013 Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village.

Tiger Woods during the third round of the 2013 Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village.

If you have a question about the latest golf clubs and equipment or are wondering what gear PGA Tour players are using, send a Tweet to Golfweek senior writer David Dusek at @David Dusek

Some recent inquiries:

• • •

Lee,

As you noted, Tiger Woods switched to Nike's new VR_S Covert fairway woods earlier this season. He removed his Nike SQ II 5-wood before the start of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral and took out this Nike VR Pro Limited Edition 3-wood before the start of the Masters.

All of the Nike VR_S Covert drivers, fairway woods and hybrids are designed with a hole in the back-center section of the sole, which redistributes weight to the heel and toe areas and, according to Nike, increases forgiveness. They also feature an adjustable hosel system that allows you to change the club's loft and face angle.

The clubs come in two models, the VR_S Covert Performance series and the VR_S Covert Tour series. From a distance you can tell them apart because the clubs in the Performance line have a silver-toned face; the faces of the Tour clubs have a black face.

The primary difference between the VR_S Covert drivers is the Performance version has 460-cc to maximize distance and forgiveness while the Tour version has a deeper-faced 430-cc head that Nike says will help players shape shots more effectively.

Woods had been playing a Nike VR Tour driver with 8.5 degrees of loft and a Graphite Design Tour AD DI-7 X shaft. However, before the start of the Players Championship he had Nike increase the loft to 9.5 degrees and put in a Mitsubishi Diamana White Board shaft.

My suspicion is that Woods doesn't feel the need to switch drivers, and like a lot of players on the PGA Tour, he's happy to stick with a club that has been working well. Woods has four PGA Tour wins in 2013; he ranks 40th in driving distance (293.2 yards) and has increased his accuracy over the past two years. He's also hitting more 3-woods and 5-woods off the tee this season, because at venues such as TPC Sawgrass and Merion it's a smarter play for him strategically.

On Wednesday at Merion, I spoke with Rick Nichols, Nike Golf's tour field manager who helps Woods fine tune his equipment, and he confirmed that Woods has tried the Covert drivers.

"It's just a process," Nichols said. "It's a deliberate process, and we're working toward it."

Nichols said that Woods has seen some of the benefits of the Covert drivers, adding that he eventually expects him to make the switch. However, Nichols did not put a timetable on when the switch might take place.

• • •

Marty,

If your last name is Mickelson, a 64-degree lob wedge is a great tool from greenside rough and awkward lies, but I see that your last name is York, so I'd hold off on adding one to your bag.

Typically, a super high-lofted wedge (which in my book is anything over 60 degrees) only has about 6 degrees of bounce. For amateurs, they are really easy to blade when hitting from a tight lie and require a lot of precision in the sand.

In addition, because there is so much loft, when the ball is perched it's easy to swing the clubhead under the ball completely.

Instead of adding a 64-degree wedge to your set, get the lofts and lies of your current wedges checked by a professional club fitter and discuss the greenside shots that give you trouble. By grinding material from the heel or toe areas (or both), the fitter can make you a wedge that will give you more effective loft while maintaining some forgiveness.

• • •

Scott,

There was a time when it seemed like nearly every pro used a driver with about 7.5 degrees of loft, and 9.5 degrees has been the default number for amateurs for a long time. But with more golfers taking advantage of custom fitting, they are realizing that their ideal loft actually can fall within a much broader spectrum.

To maximize distance, manufacturers are advocating "high launch, low spin" off the tee, and for most amateurs that means using more loft. But now that manufacturers can better manipulate the center of gravity (CG) – and with the greater availability of higher-quality shafts – adding loft doesn't have to lead to excessive spin.

Pros are using more loft these days, too. For example, Carl Pettersson averages 290 yards off the tee using his 11.5-degree driver, and Rory McIlroy averages 299 with his 10.5-degree driver.

There are still some players who generate a lot of spin with their driver, so they benefit from lower-lofted heads. But the only way for any player to find the ideal loft and shaft combination is to work with a fitter and, ideally, use a launch monitor.

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