NEW YORK — Sitting in a posh downtown New York hotel, Tiger Woods would surely rather be about a half hour away preparing for the FedEx Cup. But a back injury has limited the star to sitting in a chair talking about hitting new golf clubs, instead of actually using them on the course.
Woods, who was in New York to promote Nike’s new Vapor irons, appeared at a kick-off event last night after appearing on the Jimmy Fallon show with Rory McIlroy. McIlroy, who is also under contract with Nike, told the talk show host that his recent winning streak made him recognize Woods’ past successes.
“I guess this little run that I’m on, it makes me appreciate what he’s done in the past,” McIlroy told Fallon. “I mean, just phenomenal to keep a run like this going and he’s done way more than me. It makes you appreciate how hard he worked and what a dominant figure he was in our game.”
When asked about McIlroy’s use of the pass tense—“what a dominate figure he was in our game”—Woods laughed.
“I was,” came the quick reply.
Tiger Woods, Jimmy Fallon and Rory McIlroy discuss Nike’s new Vapor irons on stage in New York City. Robert Thompson, Global News
Tiger Woods, Jimmy Fallon and Rory McIlroy discuss Nike’s new Vapor irons on stage in New York City.
Robert Thompson, Global News
Looking healthy wearing shorts and running shoes, but admitting he was still stiff and working on his flexibility, Woods talked at length about the exacting process he goes through before putting new clubs into play. A notorious perfectionist who doesn’t alter his clubs very often—he played a Titleist golf ball for a long time while under contract to Nike—Woods joked about telling club developers that he wouldn’t use a 5-wood until he was 50.
“I was very reluctant to switch to a 5-wood. I figured I started in my teens with a 1-iron, my twenties with a 2-iron, you know…,” he said. “You get it, right? I’m not getting an 11-wood until my eighties.”
In fact, Woods said the situation has changed dramatically from when he started in the sport. When he was a teenager, picking clubs was a challenge, and now, with computer analysis and radar to track shots, it is a precise process.
“I was talking to Jack [Nicklaus] about this back in his heyday when he was playing really well,” Woods said. “He’d have 20 of each club—20 nine irons, 20 pitching wedges—and he’d go through each one and hit every one and find one and he’d match his set using that process. You couldn’t tell if it was perfect or not. And one gram here or there, we can feel that something is off.”
Nike engineers talked about Woods noting that something was off with his driver recently, and after it was examined it was found that the toe of the club was off by a millimetre.
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Woods also joked that everyone’s golf clubs are individual to the player, noting the difference between clubs used by British Open and PGA Championship winner McIlroy and the ones the 14-time major winner uses.
“As I was joking with Rory last night that his irons are so upright to me that I stand there with my hand on my leg to get into position and I’m like, ‘Dude, you’re like four-foot tall. How do you hit these things?’” he said.
Woods added that he enjoys testing clubs, but for now he’s not hitting any shots.
“Unfortunately, I’ve had this whole back surgery thing, and that was put on hold but I’ll get back at it,” he said.
He concluded by saying that the lure of golf is that everyone, be it weekend hacker or PGA Tour star, is striving to improve.
“What I’m trying to say is everyone is different in how they play, but we’re all trying to get better and that’s from the pros to the weekend warrior,” he says. “We’re all trying to get a little bit better. That one shot that brings us back. You know, Jimmy Fallon was on there last night and he hit the most beautiful 5-wood that he’s ever hit in his life and that’s all he talked about—in the car, all night long, that one shot. That’s going to bring him back—that one shot.”