Tiger's 2004 Nike Ignite vs his 2018 TaylorMade M3

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Tiger Woods' Driver Test: 2004 Nike Ignite Driver vs 2018 TaylorMade M3

Tiger Woods’ comeback win at the Tour Championship capped many firsts. His first win since 2013; first win since back-fusion surgery; first win with a Bridgestone ball; and it was his first win with a TaylorMade driver.

His last victory (in fact, all his wins since 2002) came with Nike drivers – and in 2004, the now defunct golf brand celebrated their association with Woods by launching a limited edition version of his Ignite driver.

Each was a replica of his own driver, made to his exact specs... and even included “Frank”, his famous headcover. Nike said well-heeled fans would buy the clubs, even though they has zero chance of using it.

Rumour has it sales weren’t very good, but we did get one – and it’s been gathering dust in our gear cupboard… until now. After signing a deal with TaylorMade in January 2017, he’s back in the winners’ circle playing an M3 460 – so we thought it was an ideal time to compare his old and new big sticks, to see how things have changed.

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Tiger’s 2004 driver:

Nike Ignite (7.5° loft) Adjustability: None Shaft: Diamana prototype just for Woods (43.5in length).

Tiger Woods Ignite driver

Tiger’s 2018 driver:

TaylorMade M3 (8.5° loft) Adjustability: Both weights in central track, one forward, one back. Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Whiteboard proto shaft (44.5in).

See our full TaylorMade M3 Driver review here

Shape and size:

The first thing you notice is how much a driver’s shape and size has changed over the last 14 years. Back in the noughties, pros loved smaller heads, because workability was a top priority. But today, ball speed protection and spin reduction are much more important. The 410cc Ignite is a full 50cc smaller than the M3. It’s also traditionally teardrop-shaped, and not nearly as wide or stretched as an M3 (or most modern drivers).

Tiger Woods Ignite driver shaft

Construction:

Driver construction has moved on massively since Tiger won his last major in 2008, let alone since 2004, when the Ignite was created. TaylorMade has convinced Tiger to use an adjustable driver – he shunned anything other than glued hosels from Nike. The M3’s lightweight, carbon-fibre crown and movable weights are light years away from the Nike, and sliding sole weights offer much more in the way of versatility to dial in specific launch conditions for a player.

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What the numbers say:

Tiger Woods driver data

14 years is a very long time when it comes to driver design. Our test pro’s gain of 7mph in ball speed is huge, but can only be partly explained by better head tech. An inch longer shaft undeniably helps boost speed, too. We’d say Tiger needs that extra help to keep up with today’s bombers. Whatever the reasoning, for our pro at least, shots launched and peaked out higher with the M3, without increasing backspin, adding an extra 17 yards of carry distance. That’s enormous, and tells us that if you’re still persisting with a decade-old driver, you’re losing out big time.

Our pro's verdict:

Tiger Woods Ignite driver

The Ignite looked a really weird shape initially; it’s just not what we’re used to in the modern day. The 7.5° loft means the Ignite can never be called a high-flying bomber, but the titanium head does sound great. With the M3 I feel I can hit shots harder; its bigger size and extra forgiveness instils lots more confidence. With the Ignite I felt like I was guiding shots down the fairway, as the small head is so unforgiving on off-centre hits.

Tiger Woods Nike Ignite driver

Then and now…the numbers

On face value, Tiger’s gain of one yard in 14 years seems feeble. But let’s remember we’re talking about a 29-year-old in his prime versus a soon-to-be 43-year-old with a fused spine. Modern driver tech has helped Tiger maintain distance – and that will apply to anyone.

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Tiger’s 2018 driver:
Average driving distance: 303 yards (T32 on the PGA Tour)
Driving accuracy: 58.64% of fairways hit (135th on the PGA Tour)

Tiger’s 2004 driver:
Average driving distance: 302 yards (9th on the PGA Tour)
Driving accuracy: 56.13% of fairways hit (182nd on the PGA Tour)