Not only was Tiger Woods the most talented golfer in the world in the early 2000s, he was one of the most innovative.
Tiger has been heavily criticised throughout his career for incessantly tinkering with his game. In his pursuit of the perfect golf swing, he has disassembled and rebuilt the swing that won him majors, and he’s done it multiple times. He’s never satisfied, probably to a fault.
But if it wasn’t for his willingness to try new things, he would have never been as dominant as he was.
After the 2000 Masters, Tiger became one of the first well-known players to switch from a wound-core ball to a solid-core ball.
“A lot of people look at 2000 as Tiger at his best but it was probably the first and only time in Tiger’s career that you could argue that maybe he had better equipment than the rest,” ex-PGA golfer Frank Nobilo told Reuters. “Only a handful of guys had gone to the solid ball. The rest of us all thought a wound ball was better.”
At the 2000 Masters, less than half of the players used a solid-core ball, according to Mark McClusky, author of the book Faster, Higher, Stronger. A year later, all but four players used a solid-core ball.
Part of the reason this transition was so swift and total: Tiger had one of the greatest years in the history of golf after he switched to the new type of ball.
He debuted the new Nike ball at the Deutsche Bank Open in Germany in May of 2000. That summer he won the U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championship. The next spring he won the Masters to complete the “Tiger Slam.”
In the 12 months after he switched, he won nine tournaments and all four majors.
In 2014, Woods spoke at a Nike event and talked about the significance of the switch. Even 14 years later, you can tell how proud he is that he helped change the sport by taking a chance on this new type of ball:
“I think the biggest transition I ever made was back in 2000. It was the wound-ball technology at that time, and we came out with a solid-construction ball. I tested it and felt great about it and what it did for me, how it performed around the greens and especially in the wind. I believe it was, in Germany at the Deutsche Bank event in Hamburg, where I put it in play for the first time. Then I came back and played Memorial and won, and then I had a good showing at the U.S. Open at Pebble and then won the British and the PGA. It was a nice little run, and I basically won four straight majors with that ball.
“The rest is history because the wound-ball technology is gone. Everyone switched. Being a part of that innovative wave was pretty exciting for me. And then (David) Duval switched as well, and we were both No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, so you couldn’t have had a more opportunistic and dynamic showing of evolution happening, and it was fantastic. Then he won the British Open a year later.”
Tiger had been using Titleist balls before the 2000 Deutsche Bank. Part of that was because Nike didn’t make balls at the time. They started as his apparel and shoe sponsor, and only started making equipment in the early 2000s.
Nike Golf president Bob Wood said in 2000, “If he decides to switch, it’s an earthquake.”
Don’t weep for Titleist, though. The company debuted its own solid-core ball that year. That ball, the Pro V1, is widely regarded as the ball that revolutionised the sport.
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