(Reuters) - Tiger Woods ruled golf in 2000 in a manner that may never be matched, but one of his peers may have an insight into one of the reasons for that dominance.
Frank Nobilo, who won 15 times globally, including once on the PGA Tour, says Woods reaped the benefits of being one of the first players to switch to a solid ball from a wound ball.
“A lot of people look at 2000 as Tiger at his best but it was probably the first and only time in Tiger’s career that you could argue that maybe he had better equipment than the rest,” Nobilo, now a commentator for Golf Channel, told Reuters.
“Only a handful of guys had gone to the solid ball. The rest of us all thought a wound ball was better.”
Wound balls had a rubber thread wound around either a liquid center or a synthetic rubber core. These days, all players use solid, multi-layer, urethane-covered balls.
New Zealander Nobilo is not suggesting Woods would not have dominated had he used wounds balls, just that he thinks it might not have been by quite as much.
That was the year Woods won nine PGA Tour events, including three majors, one of which, the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, was a mind-boggling 15-stroke runaway.
“Everybody caught up about a year or two later (with ball technology) and Tiger was still better, but not by quite as much,” said Nobilo.
“Everybody now is using the same type of equipment so it’s hard for any one player to get that technological jump ahead that I believe Tiger had in 2000.
“He obviously had skills too but that’s why it wasn’t a fair fight.”
Woods switched to a solid ball in May 2000, less than a month before embarking on an unprecedented run of four consecutive major victories.
David Duval, who was world number one for 15 weeks until he was displaced by Woods in 1999, recalls switching to solid balls in 2001 and quickly noticed they were more consistent than wound balls.
“A lot of players are slow to change,” he told Reuters, saying he was not surprised it took most players a while to appreciate the qualities of the new ball.
“You’re playing good, (you think) why do I want to mess with that? It takes a lot of testing, a lot of practice and observation of the ball, especially under competitive circumstances, to realize this is a better product and I need to start using it.”
Stuart Appleby was one of the first pros to use a solid ball, back in 1995, and says it was immediately obvious how much more stable and consistent it was in its flight.
And Appleby’s take on Woods’ 2000 dominance?
“He had an edge anyway,” said the Australian. “I don’t know if he needed more of an edge. I think there was an advantage (but) he could have hit anything (and still won).”
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue