I pulled some nice shots of Tiger teeing off at Firestone a few weeks ago and it gives us the opportunity to compare his driver swing, which has taken a lot of criticism for its lack of consistency and accuracy, and his 3-wood, which has been his go-to club in most situations that haven’t required extra distance. It is apparent that his overall motion, with the hands leading the clubhead into the ball and the shaft leaning forward, is more conducive to compressing the ball off the ground, or in this case driving the ball off of a low tee, than it is to delivering an ascending blow such as is needed to get optimum results with the driver. It is also apparent that Tiger’s present driver swing is delivering a more descending blow than would commonly be considered ideal.
Tiger’s 3-wood swing off the tee has a couple of advantages over the driver swing when it comes to the ability to hit the ball straight: because he can plan on a more descending blow with the more lofted fairway wood his right arm can stay bent longer and thus travel further before it straightens, which allows his left arm to stay more connected to his body and his hands and arms to release more around to the left. This type of motion also encourages his weight to shift more directly to the left heel, and the resulting footwork is more stable as the left foot stays more grounded in the impact area. The result is better ball control, but there is a definite difference in distance between the two. I think that the trend for all long hitters will be to move toward a driving type 3-wood that is built more for tee shots, while the driver becomes more of a utility club to be used in situations where distance is paramount and accuracy not as important. If I were working with Tiger I would be focusing on left arm connection and solid footwork, and I would also be encouraging his club makers to come up with a driving club that would measure out to a 3 wood but would hit the ball closer to driver length. With so many guys hitting it so far it becomes more difficult to dial down, especially when Tiger remembers being as long as or longer than anyone on Tour.
At the end of the video I include a side by side of Tiger hitting driver in 2001 with the 2013 version. I think you will find that quite interesting.