Tiger Woods at the Chevron World Challenge
Believe it. Tiger Woods is back.
And if you don't think the recent warning signs are enough proof—his third place finish at the Australian Open; his 4 and 3 win over Aaron Baddeley to clinch US victory in the Presidents Cup; and just a couple days ago, his win at the Chevron World Challenge—just wait until 2012.
It took a couple years of dealing with personal problems, swing changes and a variety of injuries, but Tiger continued to believe in himself. Now, his confidence is high and he's returning to the form that made him one of the best to ever play the game.
I recently spent some time in Nike Golf's Ft. Worth, Texas-based R&D facility—The Oven—and I discovered a great deal about the technology that goes into making Tiger's clubs. I was also fortunate enough to enjoy the same incredible club fitting experience Tiger does.
I believe 2012 will be a record-setting year for Tiger Woods. Let's take a look at the equipment he'll be using and the technology that was used to create it.
For most, the club maker for Tiger Woods is known as Nike Golf.
And while that is true, of course, after spending a day at The Oven, I now recognize Tiger's club maker by individual names—like Master Craftsman Mike Taylor, Master Grinder Jay Denn, Putting Designer/Model Maker David Franklin, Tour Club Specialist David Ritchey, Field Manager Rick Nichols and Director of Product Creation Tom Stites.
These talented and dedicated individuals are just some of the people that create and develop the technology and/or build the tools that allow Tiger and many other pros—as well as amateurs like myself—to succeed on the golf course.
Taylor, Denn, Franklin, Ritchey, Nichols, Stites—they all work very closely with Nike Golf's athletes to stay on the cutting edge of product development, using their state of the art research and development facility to host and test some of the best golfers in the world.
The result? Better products for the professional player—and better products for the rest of us.
That's right. If you think what you're getting off the shelf from Nike, as a consumer, is different from what the tour pros are using, you would be wrong.
Mike Taylor, who might be the only person on the planet who has built clubs for Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, said that outside of some minor customizations, the average consumer gets to play what the pros play:
"If a person buys a Nike wedge, for example, you're most likely going to be looking at something very, very close, if not exact, to what our professional players prefer," Taylor said. "We've used Tiger's profile a great deal. Our blade irons have his club design shape on them."
On that subject, Taylor added:
"I've worked with a lot of golf club companies and a lot of players in my career. This company is more committed to their brand athletes than any company I've ever been around."
No joke. As one example, when the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club rolls into Ft. Worth in late May, Nike Golf uses the opportunity to get their athletes—eight-to-10 of which are usually playing in the tournament anyway—into the facility for some valuable feedback.
"Getting input from our athletes is where all our products start," said Nike Golf Sports Marketing Specialist Matt Plumb. "We get them in here to test prototypes. This year we had them trying 2012-2016 year products. Every year they're going to continue to test those products. They will have hit a club between eight and 15 times before we ever talk about putting it in their bag. So, we get their input multiple times throughout the product creation process."
Self-proclaimed "club geek" Tom Stites is always looking forward, working on golf clubs that won't see the light of day for years. Like a movie star who is working on a new film, however, Stites has to step back to talk about what the consumer is just now discovering.
Enter VR_S. Available to the public Feb. 1, 2012, Nike Golf takes the current and popular VR series to the next level. I'm sorry I can’t share the details of my conversation with Tom about the product line at this time, but let me tell you for certain—these clubs will greatly benefit a wide range of players, no matter what the handicap number is.
My goal is to get my handicap from nine down to five in 2012. With Nike's new VR_S technology all over my equipment, I'm looking forward to having that edge to help me get there.
Rob Arluna, Nike Golf's Global Category Business Director, said they have increased their spending on R&D 65 percent over the past four years. He added that as a percentage of revenue, Nike is currently investing at a rate more than double that of the competitive standard. So continue to expect big things from Nike Golf in the future.
OK, let's see what technology Tiger's got in his bag.
Tiger Woods with his VR Tour driver
Tiger Woods is all over The Oven—from his giant, black and white boyhood image in the main lobby to the grind shop where I discovered his backup set of VR Pro blades in the making.
The Nike Golf Hall of Fame inside The Oven shows some of Tiger's career highlights and displays memorabilia.
Really cool memorabilia, like the first full set of Nike Golf clubs that were hand-built at The Oven and put into play by Tiger.
These clubs include a Nike Ignite 460 driver, Nike T60 fairway wood and Nike Forged Blade irons and wedges. These clubs were fine-tuned and precision-finished to Tiger’s exact specifications—it's the actual set used by Tiger to win seven times during the 2005 season, including major championship wins at the 2005 Masters Tournament and the 2005 Open Championship.
But that was then. This is now.
Victory Red—aka VR—dominates Tiger's bag from his driver to his fairway clubs to his irons and wedges.
"The go-to club in my bag has to be all 14," Tiger said. "Because I have to rely on them at any given time. There are no favorites. They all have to be my favorite."
Here what's in Tiger's Bag for 2012:
- Driver: Nike VR Tour 8.5 degree (Graphite Design DI 6X)
- Fairway: Nike VR Pro Limited Edition 3-wood/15-degree and 5-wood/19-degree (Mitsubishi Diamana BB 103x)
- Irons: Nike VR Pro Blades 3-PW (True Temper Dynamic Gold X100)
- Wedges: Nike VR Pro 56 and 60 degree (True Temper Dynamic Gold S400)
- Putter: Nike Method 001
- Ball: Nike ONE Tour D
Speaking of favorites, during the Australian Open, Tiger removed his VR Pro 5-wood and put into play a VR_S Forged 3-iron, bent to perform like a 2-iron. This club will probably be in his bag in 2012 when the 5-wood is not.
OK, you didn't read this article to find out what's in my bag, but if you ever aspired to lower your golf scores—and I'm betting nearly everyone reading this has—you'll want to keep reading.
Nike Golf put me through the same club-fitting experience that Tiger Woods has gone through.
If you've ever seen Nike Golf's videos from The Oven, you know what I mean.
The same place with the garage door open, the same computer, the same technology. Exactly. It's where all their pros hit balls to "get spec'd" and better understand what's going on with their golf swing.
"We are able to hit shots, get on a monitor, get all the distances, all the ball speeds, all the spins—and get fitted, tested and understand it," Tiger said of The Oven experience.
Nike Golf's Matt Plumb—whose title, as I mentioned earlier, is Sports Marketing Specialist—was my club fitting guru. Matt seems to know absolutely everything about every aspect of Nike Golf. I think his title should be Sports Marketing Specialist and Everything Else.
I started my club fitting session by hitting some short irons, just to get warmed up.
As I was hitting balls, Matt explained that Nike Golf uses a Doppler radar to assist in gathering the necessary information to evaluate a player's numbers. So, when the Ft. Worth winds blow—as they oftentimes do—the radar accounts for that wind and figures it into the final numbers.
After I hit a few shots, Matt would have me take a look at the computer screen to see what information was being compiled. This absolutely blew my mind.
It was way more information than would be needed to outfit an amateur player like myself, but I was getting the pro treatment and really enjoying it.
Here are a few of the elements of my swing that were being measured:
- Club speed, attack angle, club path, vertical swing plane, horizontal swing plane, dynamic loft and face angle, ball speed, smash factor, vertical angle, horizontal angle, ball spin rate, ball spin rate type and ball spin axis.
Prior to today, I didn't know any of this information in regards to my own swing. Now I had more data than I could possibly know what to do with. Luckily, Matt knew exactly what to do with the numbers and he took the time to explain to me the aspects I didn't understand.
Anyway, I won't go into all the details of my results because, honestly, who really cares other than me? And maybe some of my golfing buddies.
But suffice to say it was incredibly interesting. I think we all want to know, at the very least, what our club head speed and ball speed is. We want to compare ourselves to the pros and see just how we measure up. My maximum club head speed—with a driver—was 100.8 mph and my max ball speed was 144.8 mph.
By comparison, the average PGA Tour player has a club head speed of 110 mph and a ball speed of 165 mph. OK, so I'm not ready for the PGA Tour just yet.
After hitting what seemed like hundreds of balls with a multitude of clubs, including the new VR_S series driver and forged irons—and some wedge work on Nike Golf's short game course—Matt had me dialed in for the following equipment:
- Driver: Nike VR_S 9.5 degree (Fubuki 51-S Flex)
- Fairway: Nike Custom VR Pro Limited 3-wood/15-degree (Fujikura Fit On Max S-Flex)
- Hybrids: Nike Custom VR Pro Hybrids 3-hybrid/21 degree, 4-hybrid/24 degree (Project X Graphite 5.5)
- Irons: Nike Custom VR_S-Forged 5-AW (Nippon 950 S-Flex)
- Wedges: Nike Custom VR Pro Oxide 54 and 60 degree (TT Dynamic Gold S400)
- Putter: Nike Custom Method Core Drone
- Ball: Nike 20XI-X
Not only do I love the way these clubs feel, I also love the way they look. My new VR_S Forged irons, for example, are cavity back clubs, but they look like blades when I have them in my hands over a shot. It's the first thing I mentioned to Matt when I hit them. I love that about these clubs.
And my new driver. Whoa. Not only am I enjoying the VR_S technology, but it also includes STR8-FIT capabilities so I can change the face angle and the loft and lie angle up to two degrees plus and minus.
So, that's what's in my bag for 2012. I'm fired up and ready to attack the golf course.
Tiger is "Powered by Fuse Science"
OK, so now we know what's inside Tiger's bag for 2012. But what's that new logo on the outside of his bag?
Powered by Fuse Science?
That's right, Tiger Woods is now "Powered by Fuse Science"—a new company that develops patent-pending technologies poised to redefine how we, as consumers, receive energy, medicines, vitamins and minerals.
Tiger debuted the partnership during his play at the Chevron World Challenge.
I'm into this kind of stuff, so it definitely got my attention.
Fuse’s primary focus is to provide energy and body replenishment products that combine cutting-edge body absorption technology with two proprietary formulas for powering professional athletes, like Tiger Woods, and weekend warriors, like, you know, me.
"We could not be more pleased to partner with the best in everything we do beginning with Tiger," said Adam Adler, Fuse co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer. "The Fuse Science technology is life-changing and we will continue to advance its innovative applications to improve the delivery and standard of efficacy of medicines and nutrition around the world."
Utilizing a unique, bonding technology, Fuse Science has a more effective electrolyte and energy delivery system with their Nutrition Drop (anti-oxident/vitamin drop), Energy Drop (full body energy) and Electrolyte Drop (electrolyte replenishment, cramping prevention).
You simply place a few drops in your mouth or under your tongue to absorb the elixir sublingually. It bypasses your gut and you enjoy almost immediate effects.
There is apparently no other product on the market today that employs this delivery system, or that offers this direct and almost immediate positive impact on the body.
They also offer a product called Enerjel that you rub on to alleviate site specific muscle fatigue and soreness. It gives you full body energy with all natural ingredients. NFL running back Arian Foster (Houston Texans) and receiver Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers) are already using it—to name a couple players.