"Equipment, Intimidation and Major Championship Golf" with Tiger Woods

November 9, 2020
In this Episode
It’s been awhile since we launched our last podcast, but we’ve been holding onto this one for good reason. Our plan all along was to publish it for Masters week. When we originally sat down with our guest, we did not think that would come in November. But what better way to get in the mood for this very special week than sitting down with the defending Masters champ Tiger Woods to talk equipment, intimidation and major championship golf.

Trottie: Hi podcasters, welcome to the Team TaylorMade Podcast. My name is Chris Trott and I work out on the Tour for TaylorMade servicing the game's greatest players. In addition, I have the job of sitting down with some amazing athletes, and celebrities, discussing all things on and off the golf course. This episode's guest, is one of the greatest athletes in sport and he's joining us now on the top deck of the Tour Trailer at the Floridian. Tiger Woods, welcome to the Team TaylorMade Podcast.

Tiger: Thanks Chris.

Trottie: So, it's a rare visit to the trailer for you, we don't see you much on here.

Tiger: No, I try and have all my equipment dialed in before I get here, and then try and do my work. But no, I've been on air a few times and the guys have been fantastic.

Trottie: So, that worries me because if every player was like you I'd be out of a job, you do know that?

Tiger: No, I hear you, I try and get all my work done at home, and be ready to go.

Trottie: Okay, good. So over the years, I used to work on the European Tour so I've got a funky accent, and traveled around, and I recall a time in Dubai going back to '04, '05. I was outfitting drivers and you may not remember at the back of the range there's a restroom. And I'm doing my thing, come out, go to the restroom, walk in and you're in there, it's a one in, one out, job. And I turn on my heels and I walk back out and I'm like, "Oh my, it is Tiger Woods." And I forget even what I was going to the restroom for. You come out and I cruise back in and I'm like, "Okay I came in here to do what you do in a restroom, I'm all good." But the intimidation of you, even on people that work around the Tour, you bring it everywhere, you bring it like the game's greats bring that to any event. Do you play on that as a competitor? Do you know, do you feel it as an individual?

Tiger: No, I don't feel all that intimidating in that way. I think that over time that I have, may have been intimidating in the sense that I was always going to be consistent and I was always going to fight. And so, in this game we're not being physically, dominating over another person per se, but I think that if you can be so consistent that you can wear out somebody over the course of a four day event. I think I've done a decent job of that over the last 20+ years.

Trottie: Yeah, no joke. The P7TW's, as much as people listening to this podcast and everyone, I'm intrigued by them, I think they are an amazing club. I think your involvement in them is fantastic. I listen, like everyone else, to you in the media, and your body, and the shot shapes, and how you move, yet your spec on those clubs, the lofts you play, the shafts you play, the grips you play, it remained the same. At some point through your career, why did you never consider changing perhaps, I don't know, a length or a swing weight? Or ...

Tiger: Right. I have been playing this setup basically since I was probably about 14 or 15 years old, and I never was one that struggled for length and distance, I always had speed, and so it was always about control. And I was always a guy that, I grew up in an era when we played a spinnier ball and the whole idea was to try and take it off with your hands. And so I grew up in that era. So, I was one of those guys that, I was fortunate that I was long enough where I didn't have to deal off my irons, but also I liked the fact that as time has gone on, as the ball's gotten harder, has got less spinnier, I've been able to hit the ball basically the same distance. And so that really hasn't changed.

I was fortunate enough to get to know Jack over the years, and Jack never changed his setup. And the eight iron was going 150 yards, that was the standard, and I hit my eight iron maybe 160 yards. So it really hasn't really changed all that much for me and I try to be as consistent as I possibly can. And one of the ways to do that was to have the same lofts, the same swing weight, same shafts, same grips. The only thing that's really changed over the years is my lie angles, depends on what swing I was basically going through. I've gotten more upright, flatter, and then back to more upright.

Trottie: It's funny that you touch on lie angles because I look back at swings as a golf fan, and Hogan, and he talks about being very flat in his lie angles. Do you ever use any of the older player generations and think, "Maybe I should, if I could go a bit flatter, I could do this with my swing?" Or is it all reaction? Is there anyone from a former generation that impacts the way you try and swing the golf club? Or, is it just you and your personal feels?

Tiger: I think that over the years I've been lucky enough to be able to pick the brains of some of the greatest ball strikers of all time. And one of the things that I keep harping on, even to this day, with Junior Clinics, amateurs, even my son, is the importance of hitting the ball flush. It's hitting the ball dead nuts in the center of the face. And that's one of the things that allows a person to have control. And whether I was lucky enough to have watched Trevino hit lots of golf balls over the years, and just the solidness, a flushness, and the heavy sound that he had.

I was never lucky enough to have seen Hogan hit golf balls. I was lucky enough to see Moe Norman hit balls, and there was something to the way they hit it, it just had that deeper sound. And one of the qualities that I've noticed out here is that the guys who really do flush hit have a different audio to it, a different compression. And I was never one that could go that flat. Ben was always talking about how his clubs were four degrees flat, but granted, he wasn't that tall and he had long arms. And so, that has a lot to do with it.

Trottie: It's clear when I watch you interact with the guys here that you're a thinking man, and you're watching these players and you're thinking. And then that brings me to your Milled Grind Wedges, your custom bounce that you have. I actually managed to sneak a set from Paul Demkowski, our engineer, but last year's ones because obviously I'm not allowed to have them. Now you're on MG 2, so I'm like, "Brilliant." I haven't had a chance to make them up yet. When I get those wedges, A, have you got any tips as to how I can even remotely use the bounce on there? And B, which is the more important question, how did you come about to design that sole, how it is? Because it's different.

Tiger: No, it is very different. I've worked with Mike Taylor for a number of years and I like to have my leading edge sit down, so it's one of the reasons why we bevel the leading edge down. But when I ended up creating this setup, it was about having, you have to decide how you're going to use the sole. And are you going to get the bounce, use the bounce, what part of the back side you're going to use, are you going to get the leading edge down? You have to really decide what you're going to do. And over the course of my career I've been pretty good at doing that.

And I like having the options to be able to play off of soft stuff, off of hard stuff and not really have to change my wedges for a certain setup. You hear guys, when they go over to the British open, you see it all the time, they're looking for less bounce. I'm able to still maintain my wedge setup throughout the year no matter what golf course I play, no matter what conditions I play on, or throughout the world, that I'm basically having the same setup.

Trottie: So like your irons, did you always have this bounce setup?

Tiger: I didn't, I ended up working with this one in the last probably five, six years, trying to figure it out. But I've always been one that had very little bounce. Early in my career I only had six degrees and then going to eight, but then figuring out that, how I like to get the leading edge down. And so just trying to figure all that out. And unfortunately over the course of my career, that I've had a number of injuries and had to rework how I do things around the greens, and this setup has really helped me in that regard.

Trottie: Another thing I've observed from you here, you're very disciplined in the way you move around the range, which shots you hit, how you go through the bag to warm up, super disciplined. I've seen it before with, Bernhard Langer comes to my mind, very disciplined the way he does his stuff from the way he combs his hair, to the way he puts his belt on. Now when I see you hitting these drivers for the first time, are you trying to get some stuff from this first viewing photo shoot that might help you for the real test session that's going to come?

Tiger: Well, initially it's about the look and the initial feel. I know that we're not going to have it nailed in right away, that never happens.

Trottie: Dream scenario.

Tiger: So, but I have to work through it, like I have throughout my career. I remember, some of the test sessions I ended up getting 50, 60 drivers and having to go through all of them individually, test them, each one, because they're glued hosels.

Trottie: And that's where it was at back then, right?

Tiger: Exactly, but trying to figure all that out, and do it by feel, we didn't have the TrackMan and all the data that you can, or adjustable hosels and weights, and you can figure it out pretty quickly. You had to actually spend the time, and legwork, and develop the feels to figure it all out.

Trottie: Yeah. When SIM comes out and you see this shape on the bottom, what's your first thought about that? Does it make sense? You're like, "Yeah, that might do something."

Tiger: No, it totally makes sense, but as crazy as that sounds, it looks like, initially, from my first reaction, is like, "I'm going to cut these drivers."

Trottie: Yeah, I can see that.

Tiger: Because it runs away from you. But having gone through the physics, and learning more about it, it doesn't really, it doesn't feel like that. And then when I hit it on the range, it definitely didn't do that. So, that's one of the things that, over my career that, going through these test sessions and getting it dialed in, it takes a little time. And we're going to do that this off-season. I'm going to be a little busy in the next few weeks and getting ready for the next couple of events. But after that we'll sit down and get ready.

Trottie: It's funny because you throw a comment out there, it'd be subconscious to you, but I think you and Day were talking, Jason, and you threw a comment out about movable weight. And you were like, "Yeah, I think I'm going to go straight into the moveable weight." Two, three years ago that feels-

Tiger: That's crazy, no.

Trottie: Like something you wouldn't have said?

Tiger: No, I wouldn't because the first time I ever worked with adjustable heads is when I signed with TaylorMade. I had worked with glued hosels my entire life, I remember having Persimmons and bending it over by my knee to adjust the loft and lie. So learning that art form. But when I was hurt and ended up coming back, having to learn all this. Because when I was with Nike I still didn't go into adjustable weights, I still had a glued hosel. And so it was a big learning curve. And I asked a lot of guys, "What is all about this?" And I couldn't practice that much, so-

Trottie: Yeah, which is frustrating.

Tiger: I had to do all the initial research by talking to the guys, what they went through. And they were so nice, be able to open up their wealth of knowledge and their experiences and trying to help me out.

Trottie: So if an amateur is listening to this and they're maybe booked in to go for a fitting, what would be the one piece of advice that Tiger Woods would pass to them based from what all these great players who now use moveable weight technology, or flight control? What would you turn around and say to the amateur before he goes in?

Tiger: Well, I think that having the proper loft, lie, shaft and grip, it all plays in, and we can max it out. With my driver now that I'm using, I could probably squeeze a few more yards out of it and get a little hotter ball flight. But I like having a little spinnier cut and getting that in play, but also be able to shape the draw when I need to.

Trottie: So, the consumer almost needs to know what they want?

Tiger: But you can max out and get as much distance as you possibly can. And I think that that's the fun part about going for a fitting, is that you step up there and just all of a sudden pick up another 15 yards, that's fun.

Trottie: Yeah. So you're recently back from Tokyo, you're looking great by the way, for the jet lag, you're doing a nice job.

Tiger: Man, it's one of those things.

Trottie: And congratulations.

Tiger: Thank you.

Trottie: Awesome out there, great to watch, we were all tuned in. Obviously the Olympics is coming up. You mentioned it, it's something you want to be part of, something you want to win, I assume, big time?

Tiger: Yeah, absolutely. I would love to represent my country and be part of the Olympic Games. Something that I was not a part of in '16, I was just coming back. But watching and listening to some of the guys like Justin, and Rickie and Bubba, and those guys, and how much they really enjoyed their experiences down there. And I've had a lot of friends who've competed in Olympic Games, and for us, I equate the Olympic Games in our sport, to tennis. I think it was in '96 when tennis was put into the Olympics, and they initially were skeptical about that experience. Because you have four majors a year, or four slams, and you can-

Trottie: You could call out this victory for four years. How about Rosie calling out the gold medal for four years?

Tiger: Yeah, but the thing is, in most sports that's your biggest event that you're ever going play in, but we have four of them a year. So it's a different experience, and I would like to be a part of that. I was lucky enough to have gone to the Olympic Games in '84 with my dad, and we watched archery, it was right down in Long Beach. And I didn't really understand it at the time, but now looking back on it, it was pretty cool to have a chance to go to the Olympic Games in my home city.

Trottie: Yeah, no joke. I know the Olympic Games were in London, I'd actually left, and was living in Asia at the time. But getting tickets in this day and age is a nightmare. Archery would have been one of the top of the list I reckon. Back then, what was the ticket process like to get in? Do you remember, or your dad just took care of it?

Tiger: No, my dad, it was right down the street from Alvarado, and basically we just went down there. Instead of playing golf that weekend, my dad took me down to watch archery. And the big thing was, to me at that time, was track and field, it was Carl Lewis in the hundred and in the four by one. So that was a bigger deal but also I didn't really understand the Olympic spirit at the time, but now looking back and I was very lucky to have experienced that with my dad.

Trottie: Yeah, unreal, great memories. So talking about memories, Augusta, we have to talk about it. When you went there on Monday, did you feel the vibe? Were you knowing in your mind, there's a shot here?

Tiger: Leading up into that week I had really, really good practice sessions, and I really found something, that I had a little more control, especially hitting draws. And there's such an advantage to be able, for a right-hander, to be able to turn that ball from right to left. You see guys like Bubba and Phil who are natural lefties, cut the ball. And if you're able to shape it from right to left, there is a distinct advantage, and I ended up finding something. And when I went up there, doing a great practice session with Joey and Rob on Sunday night, I got a really good feel for it. And on Tuesday-

Trottie: Did you say that to the boys?

Tiger: No, on Tuesday, was probably one of the bigger moments, having the rain-out, and then getting a nice full day of rest and then getting back at it.

Trottie: I can see your eyes just lightening up as you're talking about it, it's cool to see. When you look forward to majors to come, do you now pinpoint golf courses that you like your chances at? When you look over the next three, four years, majors have got to be forefront of Tiger Woods's mind?

Tiger: Well, they always happen, that's the thing, and over the course of my career, I basically try to peak four times a year, trying to win the biggest events. Along the way you're trying to, for me, I was trying to clip off events and made sure I was ready for them, for these big events. And over the course of my career I've been able to do it 15 times, and so there's something, I don't know, there's something to the process of getting ready for major championships that I've just loved. And the rush, and the feel of experiencing the hardest and most difficult events, and trying to figure it out and just something to that.

Trottie: So I'm from the Wirral in England, which is where Hoylake is and I'm actually a double junior club champion there. So I know you won an Open there, but if there's any tips you need? It’s easy, pop round. Got a Men's Club Championship as well, just so it's legit.

Tiger: One thing I learned is, I hit driver there, one time-

Trottie: It was burnt out when you guys came.

Tiger: Yeah, but I hit it one time, I did hit the fairway though, it was going down 16, or 15, and I ended up hitting, snap hooking into the 16th fairway.

Trottie: I've done it many times.

Tiger: No, but that was the only driver I hit the entire weekend. For some reason I just had, that whole week was about lag putting, and there was something to that week, it was just so hot, so dry. But my lag putting felt so good that week, my feels, my rolls. And so I felt like, "Hey, if I had control of the irons, cutting into the greens, if I could put the ball inside of 30 feet on every hole, I could do something this week." And I was able to do it.

Trottie: Awesome. So obviously you talk a lot about your kids these days, which is great to see. We believe they're big soccer players?

Tiger: Yeah, they are.

Trottie: What are you like as a parent, sideline parent, when it comes to soccer?

Tiger: I want them to play well, I want their team to do well. I've gotten to know a lot of the parents and the kids as they've grown up together. I'm like any parent, I want my kids to do well. It's frustrating and it's difficult when they have tough losses and they've been in tough situations, but that's part of growing up, it's part of maturing and learning, and dealing with defeat. And in my sport we lose a hell of a lot more than we win, and so you have to learn how to deal with defeat. And fortunately my kids are, been on good teams, but they've had to fight and earn their spots, and I love that.

Trottie: And are they golfers as well?

Tiger: My son plays with me, he's starting to get into it and he's starting to understand what I do, and what I love to do. And he's only 10, so ... I started picking up the game a little bit, probably right around eight, nine with my dad, my son's starting to do a little bit of the same. But also it correlated with me practicing and me coming back, and asking him, "You want to go back in the backyard?" And next thing you know, he's coming along, or we're going out to Medalist, where I, practicing, playing. And he's having fun, he's growing.

Trottie: Does that give you energy, does it drive you on, in your game?

Tiger: Yeah, it does, but you know what, it was interesting because when I first started coming back and started doing it, it was about playing soccer. When I'm on the golf course, he just wanted to pass the soccer ball around, so I was kind of doing both. But now he's starting to get a little more into golf and it's been a lot of fun. As a parent to be able to share what I love to do with him is fantastic.

Trottie: So talk to me about spearfishing, I know that's another great love of yours. How did you get into that? How do you even go off and start?

Tiger: Well, I love hunting, and I love being in the water, and I love diving. So found out about spearfishing and the next thing you know, I ended up tank diving and spear fishing, and the ultimate is free diving, figuring that out.

Trottie: And how do you know your limits when you're free diving? How do you get-

Tiger: I think it's just practice, it's training, I've done a dive course and trying to learn how to breathe up properly. And so, doing static apnea tests, also exertion levels and trying to stay calm, trying to figure all that out, it just takes time.

Trottie: With all these things going on, parenting, kicking soccer balls around the golf course, fishing, your kids are getting into all sorts of sports. How do you find the work, the time for TGR, which is your Foundation? Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Tiger: My staff has been incredible, we've been doing this for a little over 20 years now, and being in the STEM environment, the STEM field, we've now reached over a million kids, and now we're expanding into other countries. And so one of the things that we've done is, I think is probably been under-noticed over time, but I think that people are starting to understand how impactful we've been.

Trottie: And golf course design, that's under the umbrella as well, that means a lot to you. I heard that you have a different approach and you feel very responsible for how you set up a golf course for the amateur. Touch on that a little bit?

Tiger: Well, I think that for me, my favorite golf to play is links golf, and to me that's the ultimate because it's about playability. Understanding how to use the ground, how to work the ball, and give players so many different options, that's what I like to do. I want to make the person not have to carry the ball in the air, I want them to learn how to run the ball up. And you can play it for, early ages of single digits all the way up into 70s, 80s. So, I want to be able to have that type of impact. And so I don't do that many.

Trottie: That many ...

Tiger: That many courses, because I'm going to pick and choose and have the environments that I like to have it, and where we can open it up and be able to use the ground.

Trottie: Do you foresee yourself making a links course in the UK at some point?

Tiger: If I'm given the opportunity to do it, that'd be fantastic because that is some of the best ground there is. I've been lucky enough to play a lot over there and I enjoy the Sandbelt golf course in Australia. I enjoy the hard, fast, keep it on the ground, out of the air-

Trottie: I'm with you.

Tiger: And bouncing around and, it's, nothing more enjoyable than having 150 yards and I can hit wedge, or I can hit four iron, and I like that.

Trottie: Yeah, I'm with you. I think it's such a great part of the game. So to wrap up our podcast, we run speed injected questions.

Tiger: Okay.

Trottie: So these are going to be quick fire questions for you. 1997 Masters or 2019 Masters?

Tiger: No, '97, that's where it all started.

Trottie: Torrey Pines or Bethpage?

Tiger: Torrey.

Trottie: Dodgers or Raiders?

Tiger: Crap.

Trottie: You've got to answer. If you could only watch one?

Tiger: Raiders.

Trottie: Favorite TV show right now?

Tiger: Madam Secretary.

Trottie: The one course, if you could play one for the rest of your life, where would it be?

Tiger: St Andrew's.

Trottie: Number of career hole-in-one's?

Tiger: 20.

Trottie: What would you shoot lefthanded?

Tiger: A hole, or a round?

Trottie: A round?

Tiger: It would be high triple digits.

Trottie: The one shot in your career you wish you could have a Mulligan on?

Tiger: None.

Trottie: Good answer. One event you haven't won yet, but you want to?

Tiger: My own event, the Genesis Open.

Trottie: And, you're in everyone's dream foursome, so what would be your dream foursome?

Tiger: That answer has changed because I used to always say it'd be just a twosome, me and my pops. Now my son is starting to play, it would have been awesome to have three different generations, my son, me and my pops all playing together.

Trottie: That would be pretty awesome. I think to wrap this up, what you've done and impacted for all of us in the game of golf, and I include everyone here at TaylorMade and everyone across the industry, whether it's media, whether it's other players, you've touched all of us in some way, and I speak on behalf of TaylorMade, myself, I can't thank you enough for that. And you, it's something that may not even come into your mind any day of the week, but you've taken the game to a place and we've all ran with you and are willing you all the luck in the world to keep going and keep achieving. And thanks for joining us on the Team TaylorMade Podcast.

Tiger: Thank you for having me, and thank you for helping me achieve these goals, and achieve these wins, because I certainly could not have done it without you guys. And will continue to do my best to continue to win more events.

Trottie: And we hope we can be more of a part of it, everyone, from the top, down, it's fantastic. So guys, thanks for listening, if you want to find Tiger on social media, you know all his tags, it's not going to be difficult. This podcast is found at the TaylorMade Golf website, forward slash, podcast. I'm trottiegolf on Instagram, you can catch all of our tips from the Tour there. And it can of course be found on SoundCloud, Spotify, and iTunes. Hope you enjoyed it. Tiger Woods, great to have you on.

Tiger: Yeah, thanks-

Trottie: Thanks buddy.

Tiger: Appreciate it.

Trottie: Cheers.