For about 15 minutes on Tuesday morning, viewers tuned in to Masters On The Range secured a front row seat to a Tiger Woods pilot masterclass.
During the session, Woods consistently hit a ball speed of 174 mph with his TaylorMade Stealth Plus driver – a number that had social media buzzing – and rarely missed his target line.
The numbers and scatter pattern matched Fred Couples’ comments that the “Woods driver was a machine” during their Monday practice session.
“He was bombing it for one,” Couples said. “If you want to talk about golf, he was bombing it. I know [Justin Thomas] isn’t the longest hitter on the Tour, but I know he’s damn long. He was with him rinsing him.
Woods knows distance (not to mention spread) is part of the equation if he wants to fight at the Masters. But there’s another one that involves not only being able to work the ball back and forth, but also varying the trajectory.
Woods did not discuss his game plan to face Augusta National during Tuesday’s pre-tournament press conference, but the various driver tee heights he tested on the lineup revealed that the major winner at 15 occasions is ready for anything this week.
With a cool westerly wind, ranging from 10 to 20 mph, expected to drag for all four laps, Woods varied the height of the tee up and down to see how the ball would react.
It is common knowledge that adjusting the height of the tee will ultimately alter the flight of the ball. The lower the tee height, the more likely you are to produce a penetrating ball flight – something Tiger might need if the wind is strong and he is trying to find the fairway. On the other hand, throwing high with a positive angle of attack will increase launch and carry.
Thanks to advancements in technology, we’re now able to get a more accurate picture of what Woods is seeing when he does it high and low with the driver. When the camera locked on a Woods’ swing, a second screen captured launch monitor data for each shot.
When Tiger plays high
Carry: 298 yards
Ball speed: 174mph
Launch angle: 16 degrees
Curve: 12 meters
Descent angle: 41 degrees
Mountain peak: 140 feet
When Tiger is too low
Carry: 281 yards
Ball speed: 174mph
Launch angle: 10 degrees
Curve: 7 meters
Descent angle: 32 degrees
Mountain peak: 89 feet
A few general takeaways from the numbers Tiger has produced with every tee height: He sacrifices distance when he throws the ball, which isn’t a huge surprise. Getting the ball off the ground means Tiger hits the ball with a negative angle of attack and gives the ball extra spin. Hence the drop of 17 yards.
If Tiger goes into a strong head or crosswind, he favors accuracy over distance anyway. With a 10 degree launch, he does his best to keep the ball downwind and under control. The lower start can also induce a fade shape that is easier to control for most golfers. (If you’re looking for more content on the benefits of a low start in certain situations, check out a recent edition of GOLF RoboTest series.)
Compare those numbers to the high tee position and it becomes very apparent that Woods has two totally different shots in his arsenal for Augusta National, depending on how the course plays out. Going to a ball that is higher on the face will dramatically increase launch, carry, and apex, especially if you hit the ball with a positive angle of attack (upstroke).
If you’re just getting started in the game, take a page from Tiger’s recent practice session and test out different tee heights with the driver the next time you’re at the range. Grooving your driver swing is important, but if you’re playing in an area where wind is a factor, it’s important to have a few different strokes in your arsenal.
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