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World No. 1 driven by an old habit
- woods looks to rediscover form

Richmond (US): Tiger Woods is turning the clock back in a bid to rediscover his winning touch.

In an effort to salvage a poor season, Woods, whose last major win was at the 2002 US Open, is switching back to his old driver in the run-up to next month’s US PGA Championship.

The eight-time major winner and undisputed world number one said this week he had decided to put aside the Nike driver he has been using since the start of 2002 and go back to the Titleist 975D.

Deciding that size is not everything, Woods is switching back to the smaller driver in the defence of his title at this week’s Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Michigan, and will continue to use it at least through the US PGA Championship which starts on August 14.

“It feels good to step up and hit something I feel confident hitting,” Woods said of a club that is no longer manufactured.

Woods has a multi-million-dollar endorsement contract with Nike — covering clothing and equipment — but the company has allowed him to be selective over his clubs.

He finally switched to Nike Irons last September but still has a few Titleist clubs in the bag. The driver has been the particular sticking point and after continually being out-hit off the tee, Woods recently made a public request for mandatory testing of drivers at PGA Tour events due to the length his competitors were finding.

Better control

However, it is the search for accuracy, not length that is behind his latest switch.

Woods feels that he has more control with the old club, which is dwarfed in head-size by its 2003 rivals, and that he is able to shape shots he had lost control of with the bigger-faced Nike club.

The old Titleist appeared in Woods’ bag for the first time in 18 months at an exhibition on Monday as he and Ernie Els lost to Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson 3 and 1.

Els and Mickelson use Titleist’s 975 E and K drivers respectively — both of which are generations ahead of Woods’.

In an interview in March, Mickelson suggested that Woods’ equipment might be holding him back.

“He hates that I can fly it past him now,” Mickelson said. “He has a faster swing speed than I do but he has inferior equipment. Tiger is the only player who is good enough to overcome the equipment he’s stuck with.”

Mickelson appears prescient.

Jack Nicklaus was known to have used inferior equipment in his heyday but it did not stop him winning a record 18 majors.

Nicklaus played a McGregor ball that was found to be considerably shorter than any other ball tested by the United States Golf Association but he stayed with it for most of his career.

Woods, despite his dissatisfaction, has managed to secure nine wins using the Nike driver, including the Masters and US Open, and remains open about his future preference.

“Honestly, I have no idea how long I’m going to play with it,” he said of the Titleist. “I just want to go back to something I played well with in the past.” (Reuters)

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