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Tiger pursues testing of hot drivers

The dirtiest word in golf is "cheating." According to the game's greatest practitioner, it is happening "more and more often" on the PGA Tour.

This has nothing to do with foot wedges or shaved scores. Woods firmly believes that a number of professional golfers are driving under the influence of juiced technology. This is golf's equivalent to Sammy Sosa's corked bat or Jose Canseco's steroid-enhanced power.

The old-school Woods admits that he may in fact be playing with inferior equipment, but not in the way Phil Mickelson meant when he criticized Tiger's Nike paraphernalia earlier this year. Woods insists some players are using drivers that exceed the governing standards established to regulate technology.

How else would you explain Woods - who has never ranked worse than fourth in average driving distance - dropping to 29th in driving stats behind the likes of Andrew Magee or Craig Barlow? Something just isn't kosher about the numbers.

"It makes me sensitive to it because this is golf," Woods said during a videoconference Tuesday from his home in Orlando, Fla. "This is the last bastion of all sports where you call penalties on yourself ... and I don't want to see that ruined."

To save that from happening, Woods is aggressively promoting the idea of regular testing of drivers on the PGA Tour to determine conformity. If NASCAR can test winning race cars for illegal spoilers and carburetors and the International Olympic Committee can drug test medalists after competitions, why can't golf test clubs to make sure everything is aboveboard?

With today's manufacturing competition, the old gentlemen's rules may not be enough.

"I'm not the only one who feels this way," Woods said. "A lot of players feel this way."

The USGA has mandated a "coefficient of restitution" figure of 0.83 to draw the line on the trampoline effect the clubhead has on a golf ball at impact. With all the advances in technology, thinner-faced drivers with a larger COR can produce rocketlike effects with tee shots.

Woods wants every driver tested by tour officials the minute a player steps to the first tee every day of a tournament, and he's talked with PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem about it. Barring that extreme, Woods at least advocates the testing of drivers for players finishing in the top 5 to 10 in any event.

"Red light, green light," Woods calls his test plan. "Players may not know, but the manufacturers do. When the manufacturers are going ahead and producing clubs that are over the limit, then something's got to be done about it."

USGA senior technology adviser Dick Rugge says he has seen no evidence that tour pros are using clubs that exceed the set limits.

Woods says they must not be looking very hard. He sees it every week on the driving range and the golf course. He has noticed players who can't hit a 3-wood as far as he can pull a driver and clear his own by 10 to 20 yards.

"Well, there's something wrong with that picture, since you can't increase your clubhead speed by 5 to 6 miles an hour from your driver to your 3-wood," Woods said.

"As players we all know those guys on tour, when they're picking up yardage, when they are making the same swing and all of the sudden the ball's jumping out of there 20 to 30 yards farther," he said. "They can't replicate that same type of game with the rest of their clubs, or even their 3-wood. It's the driver only."

Golf is nothing without rules. When a superstar like Woods is losing confidence in the game's integrity, it's time to listen.

 

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