Tiger Woods made an appearance at Nike's media day in New York City on Tuesday morning to chat about his new Nike irons, his old clubs, persimmon woods, testing new clubs, and a few other items to boot.
Sitting with Rob Arluna, Nike Golf's global golf club business director, Tiger looked surprisingly at ease in front of a group that included a number of journalists as well as Cindy Davis, president of Nike Golf, and Tiger's agent Mark Steinberg.
Mike Taylor, a master modelmaker at Nike Golf and an industry veteran who got his start under Tom Stites, sat in with Tiger as well as they talked about Nike's overall philosophy on better utilizing weight distribution and how he and Tiger share a similar taste in club design and aesthetics.
In their conversation Tiger mentioned that the new Vapor Pro irons, which were designed with a great deal of input from him, deliver a "heavy hit" and that is what you want from an iron. He also said that though he doesn't profess to be an expert on golf club design, he considered the new Vapor Pro with it's "modern muscle," design to be a breakthrough.
"I dropped out of college so physics is not my specialty, but we've got the center of gravity in the middle of the face," Tiger said. "That's a game-changer."
Tiger went on to talk about a variety of things relating to his equipment and mentioned the fact that he has basically played the same lofts, lengths, shafts, and grips since he was about 15.
"I'm old school," Tiger said. "I"m part of the last generation to play persimmon and balata balls. I grew up on persimmon. The ball always moved so you had to play a shot. A lot of guys stand up there now and just try to hit the ball as far as they can."
In regard to the days of yore, Tiger said that his first Tour win, which was a playoff victory over Davis Love III, featured one of the last players to still use a wooden driver. Love, Bob Estes, and Justin Leonard were the only players at the time who still hit persimmon off the tee, according to Woods.
Clearly enjoying the persimmon talk, Woods added that when he was a kid he used to ask his father Earl why people always used the phrase "hit it on the screws," since the screws were not in the center of the clubface.
"That's a miss-hit," said Tiger with a smile, "you wanted to miss the screws."
Another topic of conversation was Tiger's relationship with Nike Golf's equipment team and how much he enjoys testing equipment, provided he's playing well. Tiger said he only tests new gear when he's on top of his game, because that's the only time when you can really tell how well it works. He also said that he only puts a new club in his bag if it's actually better than what he already has.
Back to the subject of being "old school," Tiger said he looked at Rory McIlory's wedge the previous evening at an event at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey and thought it looked like his nine-iron because it has such strong loft. He also recounted a story about Jack Nicklaus and the persimmon woods the Golden Bear used in his prime. According to Tiger, Nicklaus used to have the heel portion of his woods shaped with extra contour so he could intentionally "neck it," and hit a little slice back into the fairway when he needed to get one in play under pressure.
"You can't hit that shot anymore because the equipment doesn't do that," he said.
Although all the gear talk was interesting, the best thing about Tiger's brief chat was his rather casual appearance (he was wearing shorts and sneakers) and friendly attitude. Not only did he laugh and joke a bit with the other panelists but he seemed more than happy to answer whatever questions were thrown at him. He also didn't look nearly as muscular or imposing as he does on TV -- he actually looks a little slimmer, which might bode well for his health going forward.
--By Mike Chwasky, Golf Magazine