MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Even when Tiger Woods isn’t in the field, he’s still a part of conversations on Tour. During a recent chat with Keith Sbarbaro, TaylorMade’s VP of Tour Operations, at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, the discussion shifted to the success of the company’s Stealth driver and the quick transition that ensued when players started testing the final product earlier this season.
New technology doesn’t always guarantee a pluralistic adoption, but with Stealth, the shift from SIM2 to the red carbon-fiber face was noticeable.
“The transition into Stealth this year has been seamless for everyone on our staff,” Sbarbaro told GOLF.com. “Guys have loved it. For whatever reason, guys struggled a bit more last season to get into SIM2. It’s not easy to convert all of these top players into the new stuff every year — and it’s like that for every company. Some guys are driving it great, so it’s tough to want to change. But with Stealth, everyone made the jump without hesitation. That included Tiger.”
Woods gets his own mention because he’s always been slow to embrace new technology. He was one of the last players to sunset a steel-shafted driver and didn’t fully adopt an adjustable version until 2016. However, when it came to Woods embracing Stealth, things were different from the get-go.
“I remember he hit it for 10 minutes on the range [at the Father/Son Challenge] and was sold almost immediately,” Sbarbaro said. “It was hitting all of his windows and had the control. We had sent him a Stealth in advance and he’s hitting it on the range on Monday [at the Father/Son Challenge] and asks, ‘Is this club on the list?'”
The “list” Woods was referencing would be the USGA’s list of conforming driver heads. Before a club is ever given the green light for competition, it has to be deemed conforming by golf’s governing body. The process includes shipping the head off for testing and then waiting for the all-clear. Needless to say, the process takes time.
Having Woods debut TaylorMade’s new face construction with his son, Charlie, at the Father/Son was a dream scenario — but there was one problem. The driver wasn’t slated to hit the conforming list until early January, and the Father/Son took place in mid-December.
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Considering who was making the ask, Sbarbaro said TaylorMade pulled some strings to ensure the driver was added to the conforming list for Woods to use.
“We actually had to call the USGA that Monday to get it on the list for Tiger,” Sbarbaro said. “The R&D guys handle those conversations so I don’t know if it was a one-off thing because it was Tiger Woods. But they made it happen.”
When it comes to gear, whatever the G.O.A.T wants, the G.O.A.T gets. And the rest is history. Woods helped launch Stealth in style, which seemed fitting for a club with a wildly different face construction.
“It’s so strange for him to be calling and asking,” Sbarbaro said. “We knew the club was really good, but for him, it needs to check a bunch of boxes before he’ll make the change. It was a great way to launch Stealth.”
It’s unclear if Woods will once again play in the Father/Son later this year, but if happens to coincide with the launch of a new TaylorMade product, the company will be ready this time around.
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