Tiger Woods’ 2000 season will be remembered as one of the best in the sport’s history. Three huge victories in a row. Nine victories globally. In 20 starts, he has 17 top ten finishes. A roughly three-shot improvement above the Tour average in scoring. The list could go on and on.
That year, Woods was in a class by himself.
What’s more astounding is that Woods completely rewrote the record books with a three-piece, solid-contruction ball with a molded rubber core injection and urethane cover that was unlike anything his colleagues were using at the time. A majority of players, including Woods, preferred a liquid-filled core and winding construction up until that point in his career.
Tiger didn’t need an equipment advantage to win, but his decision to use Nike’s Tour Accuracy at the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open in Hamburg that spring proved to be a watershed moment for not only the 15-time major champion, but the whole equipment business. All but four players in the field used a solid-construction ball by the time Woods completed the Tiger Slam at the 2001 Masters.
The equipment modification was witnessed firsthand by Steve Williams, Woods’ former caddy. Williams discussed the history of Woods’ golf ball alteration and its influence on the sport on the newest edition of the Chasing Majors podcast, which he co-hosts with golf journalist Evin Priest.
On Chasing Majors, Williams noted, “This golf ball didn’t come by accident.” “When Tiger signed with Nike, [the ball] was one of the projects. It didn’t happen overnight. It was a couple years of engineering that went into developing the ball and getting it exactly right. And it wasn’t going to be put into play until such time that it was exactly how he wanted it.”
As Williams took over as caddy in 1999, Woods looked to be in complete control of his game, but even the Aussie observed some significant improvements as his boss began to put the Nike ball through its paces during early testing.
“Tiger had a couple hundred balls in his practice bag — obviously all the balls he wasn’t using at the moment — and he’d go through the same array of shots, but there was an ease for him to do exactly what he wanted to do [with the Tour Accuracy],” Williams said on the podcast. “When he was trying to hit that stinger shot, he’d really have to concentrate on hitting it low and all the mechanics that went with it. But this ball, because it was designed so well, for specifically what he wanted to do, he’d hit the shots he needed with more ease and more confidence. Heading into the 2000 season, this ball was going to be a big factor, I felt.”
Williams didn’t hesitate when Priest pressed him to match the shots-per-round advantage the solid-contruction ball offered Woods in competition.
“Every time you have a golf ball reacting to the way you want to hit it, I think that just frees you up and gives you confidence,” he said. “You’d have to say it was worth one or two shots per round, for sure.”
Per round, one or two rounds are fired. Given how far ahead of his peers Woods was already, an extra one or two shots would have made keeping up with the then-24-year-old very impossible. His on-field performance confirms that Woods was virtually unstoppable on the course with the fresh ball in play.
Williams was keen to point out that Woods’ near-immediate success with the Nike ball was the polar opposite of what occurred to Greg Norman in the 1980s when he switched to a high-spin Spalding ball — Williams caddied for Norman from 1982 to 1989.
“When Tiger went to that Nike ball, it absolutely suited him,” Williams said. However, back in the 1980s, Greg Norman played Spalding and switched to the Tour Distance ball — he was obviously paid a lot of money to play Spalding and this new golf ball — and that ball was disastrous for his career. It was the most heinous act he had ever committed. He’d have lost two strokes every round if he’d hit that ball.
“If he would’ve ended up playing a different ball at Augusta, he would’ve won the tournament. I have absolutely no qualms in saying that. The Tour Distance spun more than any other ball — and Greg liked that. But it spun too much. Back in those days, he didn’t have the advantage of having all of this technology like TrackMan to be able to tell you how far the ball was going. You just thought this ball spins good. That’s the exact opposite of what Tiger did here.”
Following Woods’ dominating 2000 season, Titleist debuted the Pro V1 in the second week of October, and forty-seven Tour players instantly began using it, making it the greatest sudden change of equipment at one event in golf history. We may all profit from a ball structure that is superior to its predecessor thanks to Tiger.
Original article posted on Golf
Photo posted on GolfGetup