Tiger Woods’ reputation always has been that he ushered in “long ball” era on the PGA Tour. Ask most people who the longest driver on Tour is, and chances are they’ll say “Tiger Woods.”
The Striped One, however, sees it different. For the record, Eldrick is averaging 297 yards off the tee this year. That’s tied for 38th going into this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship. Bubba Watson leads the Tour at 315.5 yards.
“The game has certainly changed,” Woods said this week. “When I came out here in ’96 and ’97 I was long, and I averaged 296. I think there’s like 30‑some‑odd guys who are (now) averaging over 300. So it’s a totally different game now.
“You know, the bigger hitters can hit the ball 320 in the air. I don’t really have that. I can carry it 300, but that’s a different gear. They’re taller, they’re bigger, and most of the longer guys are 6’3″. When I was coming out here, if you were six foot you were pretty much average height, big height. Look at Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Watson, they’re all short compared to the big guys now, and they were long hitters at the time for their era. But these guys are just bigger. I certainly can’t carry the ball that far, but I’m still one of the longer ones but not the longest by any stretch of the imagination.”
The biggest change, Woods said, has been in equipment. No big surprise there.
“It was balata balls, 43‑inch steel‑shafted drivers. Now the standard driver is 45-inch graphite. You’re taking 60 grams out of a shaft, and the balls are much harder than they ever used to be. You add that and the guys are bigger and stronger and faster, it’s a significant jump.”