Tiger's new driving force

Woods' new Nike driver in play

Bob Warters's picture
Tue, 5 Feb 2002

Tiger Woods heads for the wind-whipped coastline near San Diego, California this week with a new club in his bag.

Tiger's Nike driver.

And the guys at Titleist headquarters, just up the road at Carlsbad, will be out in force to pay particular attention because for only the second time in his career, the driver is unlikely to be one of theirs.

As part of his multi-million dollar contracts, Tiger is obliged to play the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines as well as carry a set of Titleist irons in his bag – the clubs he has used since he was at college.

He has been reluctant to change because they are the clubs which have helped take him to the World No.1 spot and lift six majors, but one of his other sponsors, Nike, are keen for him to try their new range of clubs, too.

But after finishing the AT & T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am with a four under par 68 on another demanding, windy day on the west coast, he wants to give the new Nike forged driver, currently being used by David Duval, another try under tournament conditions.

He has been testing the club for about three months during practice, while still using Titleist irons and wedges and put it into action in a tournament for the first time in the first round at Pebble Beach.

"I just wanted to get a little more distance to keep up with the young pups out there,'' Woods said after opening with a two-under-par 70 at Poppy Hills.

Though suffering with a heavy cold, he hit the driver well throughout his round improving his average driving distance to 309 yards, and now he’s working on his accuracy.

"It wasn't the driver's fault,'' said Woods. "I wasn't able to take advantage of the places where I was hitting it.''

He hasn't missed a cut in 80 events - a record which is dozens more than his nearest rival – and aims to maintain the streak this week on a course where he played much of his golf as a schoolboy.

Woods also has a score to settle with Phil Mickelson, who ended his run of six consecutive Tour victories here in 2000. This year Mickelson is going for a hat-trick of wins in the event, having beaten Frank Lickliter last year with a double-bogey in the playoff.

And with the scenic course lengthened by 200 yards – the longest on the PGA Tour at 7,607 yards – Woods will need all his accuracy, combined with his new found-power with the Nike driver to keep the left-hander at bay.

Englishmen Luke Donald, Paul Casey and Ed Fryatt, all of whom missed the cut at Pebble Beach, get another chance to improve their bank balance at the $3.6million tournament which has $648,000 going to the winner.

Jose Maria Olazabal is also in the field following his share of fifth place on Sunday.



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