Tiger Woods began using Nike’s wonderball in May of 2000. Up to that point, Woods had been having a fine career. He had played in 13 majors and won two of them. The first was the well-known romp at Augusta in 1997. However, the second one was a narrow one-shot victory over Sergio Garcia. Also, since winning that first Masters, Woods had managed no better than a 5th at Augusta.
Woods was ready for a change, so shortly after the Masters of 2000, he tried a new Nike ball while playing in Europe. He quickly saw it would be advantageous to play this new type of ball; when he returned to the United States, he had made the switch.
With the new Nike ball, Woods proceeded to win the U.S. Open by an astonishing 15 strokes. He then won the British Open by an impressive eight strokes, driving his new super-ball beyond the landing area bunkers. The new ball traveled so far, he did not play out of a single bunker the entire week.
The British Open win gave Woods the Career Slam. Had he not won that year, he would not have completed the Career Slam until 2005 at age 29 when he won the British Open using the same type ball as the other competitors, meaning Nicklaus would have done it earlier at age 26. In August, Woods won a third major, the PGA Championship.
Titleist, the ball used by most professional golfers, introduced their solid core ball in October, putting an end to the advantage Woods had enjoyed during what is considered Woods’s most “dominant” period. Knowing what we now know, that dominance doesn’t seem near as impressive to golf fans.
One interesting piece of fallout from the Nobilo revelation might be a reassessment of golf instructors. Hank Haney was often criticized because Woods won “only” six majors under his tutelage, whereas Butch Harmon oversaw Woods winning eight. With three of the Harmon majors now considered suspect, Haney leads six to five.
Another issue sure to be raised in light of this new information concerns Woods’s career win total. If you do not count the wins he achieved using the advantageous ball, he has a total of 73, not 79. In other words, he has the same number as Jack Nicklaus, not more.