Adrian Rietveld works closely with TaylorMade’s players to get them ready week in week out at PGA Tour events. But how is it different for Augusta, and what’s it like having Tiger Woods on the team? We’ll let him explain…
To prepare for the Masters is actually easier because you’re not taking a gamble on certain things. Augusta National is such a controlled environment and it has been played there for so long the golf course is so managed and manicured that they can prepare for any weather condition.
So the predictability of what you can expect is very high, you know what you are going to get. You know what the greens are going to be like, you know what the bunkers are going to be like, you know how they mow the fairways, all these things are so predictable.
Tthe more you play it, the more you understand and the more you know what you need. So you can actually prepare so well for that major versus any other major.
There is so much going on behind the scenes. It’s constantly ongoing and its not only with the equipment. We have in-house people that do deep analytics work with specific players on all areas of their game, talking about what does it take to win the Masters from a putting standpoint, from a short-game standpoint. All these different areas of the game and the equipment clearly is part of the answer.
We did a photo shoot with Rory McIlroy in November. You may have seen the video of him with the hybrid? That was a huge moment. Rory was like, ‘I’ve never hit a hybrid but look at this.’ He’s loving hitting this club and he turns and looks at Keith, who is our head of PGA Tour operations and my boss out here, and goes, ‘Augusta?’ All of a sudden he’s thinking of shots around the course where this is going to really help him, where he needs to go high and land soft. So these guys really do prepare for Augusta so much more than any other tournament. It’s strange.
How much a player tweaks their set-up during the Masters depends on the player. Wedges are so important. I remember Justin Rose, the year Sergio Garcia won, practised the whole week with a new wedge and then as soon as the tournament started he replaced it with a brand new wedge. That’s the small difference that means a lot to him.
There seems to be this obsession with a 64-degree wedge or a wedge which has more loft on it, and that only works for certain players. For someone like Dustin Johnson that was very beneficial. For someone like Rory, he’s such a high hitter of the golf ball and his delivery and his variables lend him towards just having a new 60-degree wedge.
Further up the bag Jon Rahm’s predominant shot shape is left to right so he hits little fades. He starts the ball left of target and has the ball fall back onto it. But clearly around Augusta there’s an advantage to be able to turn the ball over from right to left to draw the ball on specific tee shots. People think it’s like a huge deal. Jon won’t change his whole set-up so he can hit this draw, but what he might do is just add bit of loft to his 3-wood which helps him turn it over more and he’s strong enough and powerful enough to be able to use that to his advantage.
The guys have their equipment set up so they can’t miss left. They set it up so if it is going to miss it misses right. They will neutralise their settings. Justin used to do this with his driver as he recognised he could use it on more shots than most weeks.
You need to stay on top of your specs and how your clubs are set up. The amount of practising and travel that goes on the equipment constantly needs to be checked and rechecked. The greens are so perfect and so pure so you can actually play with less loft on you putter. But I don’t see a lot of players tweaking that on the week of the tournament especially with PGA Tour players where the greens are good week in week out.
But if your putter has moved or you have a little more loft than you think you have then you know. Jason Day is such a good putter and he will come into the truck every week and he’s like, ‘There’s definitely quarter of a degree or half a degree too much loft on this putter – I can see it, I can feel it.’ So we check it and most of the time he is right. It really shows up when you get to Augusta
When it comes to making sure Tiger Woods gets exactly what he wants, not one stone is left unturned. I can tell you that now. I mean when you look at the iron process and fairway woods, I mean everything.
For our business, for our company, signing Tiger was huge. Just huge. When our CEO announced it, I was on a plane and and everyone in the company got an email from Tiger saying he looks forward to getting fit and representing us, how we’re all in this together, and at the bottom it says ‘Best regards, Tiger Woods’. And being a tour guy I’m like, ‘Wow, man!’
He had no TaylorMade clubs in the bag at that point. That was the starting process of us getting Tiger to a point where he is now. He’s got 13 TaylorMade clubs in the bag which are current and perfectly done for him.
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So you can only imagine how when he won the Masters what it meant for our business to take the chance we did on him at the time. It was a gamble when you look at everything that was going on around him. But it was a calculated gamble which was in the best interest of our business.
Sure, he only plays very little compared to most of our players but wow does he bring the return in. I mean he just moves the needle. If Tiger is playing, every video, every news bulletin just revolves around the guy and rightfully so. Signing Tiger was probably one of the riskiest yet most rewarding in the history of our business.
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