After 20-plus years, Tiger Woods is changing a key piece of gear for The Match
Tiger Woods has been more willing to make equipment adjustments in recent years. But if there’s one piece of gear he’s rarely touched, it’s the golf ball.
Going all the way back to Woods’ time with Nike in the early 2000 — when he made the switch from a wound ball to solid construction — he’s historically played a softer ball with more spin in an effort to work the ball both directions and get the necessary zip around the green.
It’s a golf ball recipe that’s served Woods well for more than two decades, but according to Bridgestone Golf, all signs point to the 15-time major winner altering the recipe and switching away from the Tour B XS and into the Tour B X for at least The Match and PNC Championship.
“These are more of an exhibition-type situation, and I think that’s factoring into his decision,” Elliot Mellow, Bridgestone’s golf ball marketing manager, told GOLF.com. “So he’ll be a Tour B X player at least for the next few events. He’s been looking at distance and the greenside spin is where it needs to be.”
In the run-up to the next edition of The Match, which pits Woods and Rory McIlroy against Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, Woods began testing the Tour B X on his at-home simulator and noticed an uptick of nearly 10 yards of additional carry, which amounts to roughly one less club into the hole on approach shots. (The Tour B and Tour B XS are both three-piece balls geared for swing speeds over 105 mph, but the firmer X is built to lower flight and spin.)
From there, Woods tested the ball around the green, to ensure it still had the necessary shot-game spin, before taking it to the Bahamas for on-course testing in the wind.
“The real test was [in the Bahamas during Hero week] where it hit it into different winds and liked the ball flight,” Mellow said. “The comments we’ve heard from Tiger and his team is that it’s really cool that if he’s looking for something different, we don’t have to go out and build him a specific ball. He can just go to something we’re already making that’s on the retail shelf.”
Indeed, Woods plans to play the same retail Tour B X found on retail shelves. The only thing that would differentiate Woods’ ball from the retail model is the addition of a “TIGER” side stamp — but even that’s up in the air.
Mellow confirmed they’re currently in the process of making Woods enough balls with his usual side stamp and 1 play number for both events.
“We’re trying to figure that out as we speak,” he said with a chuckle. “He just plays balls with a 1 play stamp and Tiger on the side. Right now it’s exactly like the one you’d find on the shelf. After we got all the information and comprehended what was going on, that was actually one of our first questions. Do we have enough balls? And then, can we get the ball to look the way he wants them to look? This is fast developing so we’re trying to find out if we can make the Tiger stamped balls a reality or not in time for Saturday.”
As far as Woods’ plan for Tour B X after The Match and PNC, Bridgestone isn’t anticipating he’ll stick with the firmer offering. Assuming Woods makes his way back to Augusta in April, expect him to have his usual Tour B XS in tow.
“The Tour B XS is still a ball he helped co-design, and it’s a ball he’ll probably go back to in those situations where he needs more playability and workability in the golf ball,” said Mellow. “We don’t get the impression this is a permanent thing. It’s more situational. He’s chasing distance more than spin for all the obvious reasons.”
Want to overhaul your bag for 2023? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news and information, check out Fully Equipped podcast below.