Golf Channel's Jaime Diaz pens an interesting look at the evolution of Tiger Woods' driving and feels we may be seeing a change in driving philosophy. Diaz argues that Woods should commit to a stronger pursuit of accuracy over distance in the face of a Brooks Koepka world, but I'd gently disagree that in the last few months the decline in clubhead and ball speed suggests he's already transitioned to an emphasis on rhythm and shot-shaping over yardage.
As always, I'd encourage a full reading for context. But in the interest of discussion and before Diaz makes that case, I thought this was interesting:
But those numbers started to decline, in part because Woods never really quite felt as comfortable with oversized titanium heads and lightweight shafts as he had with a smaller metal head and heavier steel shaft.
Regarding Tiger's shifting approach:
In his post-round interview on Sunday, he twice – unprompted – pointed out that there is a level of drivers above him – not only longer, but straighter.
“He’s a tough guy to beat when he’s hitting it 340 in the air,” Woods said of Koepka. “Three-twenty in the air is like a chip shot. And so that’s the new game … Dustin’s done it now, Rory’s doing it … Those guys, if they’re driving it well, they have such a huge advantage because of the carry.”
It was a rare concession from Woods. In former days, if another player was better than he was at some part of the game – be it distance control with short irons, bunker play, lag putting – he would quietly make that strength a target to match or exceed.
The more distressing question for the game--given its history of older, more accurate players maintaining relevancy against young long hitters?
Whether giving up some power for accuracy is feasible given the extreme distances we're seeing. I believe so on a baked Carnoustie or Old Course, and maybe if Augusta National were firmer and faster, but otherwise it's hard to see the current emphasis on power providing us age and style-diverse leaderboards.
Thankfully for Tiger's fans, his "short" drives are still long enough to compete. For now.