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Tiger Woods switches to Nike driver

Nearly two years after switching to the Nike Golf balls, Tiger Woods took his first step toward using Nike clubs when he used the company's driver for the first time in competition Thursday in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Woods has been testing the Nike forged driver for about three months during practice. He had used a Titleist driver, and still plays Titleist irons and wedges.

``I just wanted to get a little more distance to keep up with the young pups out there,'' Woods said after opening with a 2-under 70 at Poppy Hills.

He hit the driver well throughout his round. What he really needed from Nike was a chainsaw to escape trouble from trees that cost him a shot at three birdies.

``It wasn't the driver's fault,'' Woods said. ``I wasn't able to take advantage of the places where I was hitting it.''

Woods said the driver has the same specifications as his Titleist 975D driver, only the face, made of beta-titanium, is a little thinner.

A switch to the swoosh would be a huge boost for Nike Golf, which launched its new clubs last week at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla.

David Duval was the first player to use the Nike irons last year on the PGA Tour, and he won the Open. Duval became the first player to use the Nike driver at the PGA Championship in August.

Woods signed a five-year extension with Nike worth as much as $125 million two years ago, although Nike officials have said he is under no pressure to use its clubs.

``Just like the ball, he's under the testing phase right now,'' said Kel Devlin, director of global sports marketing for Nike Golf. ``He wanted to put this under the gun.''

Woods switched from the Titleist golf ball to the Nike Tour Accuracy in May 2000 during the Deutsche Bank Open in Germany.

Devlin said the driver Woods used Thursday was not ready to go to market, ``but this may speed up the launch.''


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