As Tiger Woods prepares to follow up an award-winning 2013 season on the PGA Tour, he will be using some familiar equipment in his quest for more tournament wins and, perhaps, his first major championship victory in six years.
Major championships. They motivate Woods more than any other factor in an 18-year professional golf career that includes first-place finishes in 14 of them. Still, he hasn't won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open and remains four majors behind Jack Nicklaus in his quest to become the all-time leader—and arguably the best golfer to ever play the game.
It's a status that both motivates and haunts Woods, but he takes it in stride. Woods said the following in a pre-tournament presser prior to this week's Farmers Insurance Open, where he is not only the defending champion, he has won an impressive eight times at lengthy host course Torrey Pines:
Every year I get a chance to compete and play in tournaments and major championships for as long as I decide to do it. Looking back from the beginning of my career to now, I know that I don't have 20 years in my prime. I don't see being 58 and being in my prime. Most guys don't jump from the foul line at age 58, so it's a little different but the outlook is still the same. I still prepare the same. I still work my tail off to be ready to compete at this level and beat everyone that I'm playing against.
Woods’ 2013 season was filled with disappointment when it came to the majors, but his five PGA Tour victories—highlighted by wins at the Players Championship and two World Golf Championships—earned him Player of the Year honors.
He was also named the PGA of America Player of the Year for the 11th time. He was the PGA Tour’s leading money winner, earning more than $8.5 million. He was first in FedExCup season points and All-Around Ranking, and his scoring average of 68.98 earned him his ninth Vardon Trophy.
It was a year that will be difficult to duplicate, let alone surpass. Woods is hoping to do exactly that, however, as he prepares for four more chances at major championship success against the rest of the best players in the world.
The equipment he will be using in 2014 is largely the same as last year's gear—which stands to reason given his accomplishments—save for a new driver he recently put into play, Nike’s new VRS Covert 2.0 Tour model:
- Driver: Nike VRS Covert 2.0 Tour 9.5-degree (Mitsubishi Diamana Blue Board 103X)
- Fairway Wood: Nike VRS Covert 3-wood/15-degree and Nike VRS Covert 5-wood/19-degree
- Irons: Nike VR Pro Blade (3-PW)
- Wedges: Nike VR Pro 56-degree and 60-degree
- Putter: Nike Method 001
- Ball: Nike ONE Tour D
“Why do I play this driver? To win. Next question.”
That’s what Woods declares in Nike’s latest round of print ads for their new VRS Covert 2.0 driver. In Woods' case, with the Tour model, he will be enjoying a club that is 30 cubic centimeters bigger with a 15 percent larger face than last year's version. That means more forgiveness on mishits and, thus, more confidence.
Woods has long been accused of having what former teacher Hank Haney described in his book as driver anxiety—aka "the big miss"—throughout his career. Most recently, in 2013, Woods was No. 69 on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy, hitting 62.5 percent of his fairways while barely making the top 50 in driving distance at 293 yards. Combined, it was far from Woods' worst effort statistically, but it does suggest there's room for improvement for the No. 1 ranked player in the world.
“I'm still able to generate the same amount of clubhead speed as I did when I was younger, it's just that I can't do it every shot anymore,” Woods continued. “I don't have the rotational speed that I used to and that's a fact of aging.”
Enter Covert 2.0, a club Woods unveiled with positive results in a second-place playoff finish at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge last December.
“I found a new Nike driver, VRS Covert 2.0 Tour, that I'm really excited about,” Woods said in a blog post following that tournament, via his website. “I drove the ball a little further and definitely straighter than I have been all year."
Will those results carry over into 2014? Woods seems to think so based on his scheduling history leading into this week's event, where he noted it will be "imperative" to drive the ball in the fairway because of the lush rough at Torrey Pines.
"One of the reasons I’ve come out and have played well at this event is because I’ve taken breaks," Woods said. "I'm hitting it well. ... I’m fresh. So, I’m excited and ready. The opportunity to go for number nine here is fun.”