December 15, 2016 / 1:32 PM / a year ago

Ball change for Woods in ongoing equipment switch

(Reuters) - It has been all change on the equipment front for Tiger Woods on his return to competition after an absence of almost 16 months and on Thursday Bridgestone Golf announced that he has signed a multi-year agreement for exclusive use of its golf ball.

Tiger Woods talk in Chaska, Minnesota, September 28, 2016. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports/File photo

The former world number one had previously played with Nike golf balls, dating back to 2000, but he was forced to look elsewhere when the world’s largest footwear maker decided to exit the golf club and ball business in August.

Following the departure of Nike, Woods switched to a TaylorMade driver and fairway metals, reverted to his Scotty Cameron putter, and he selected the Bridgestone Tour B330-S ball after testing it in competition at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

”Finding the right golf ball is extremely important,“ Woods, 40, said in a statement as his deal with Bridgestone Golf was formally announced. ”It’s an essential part of my equipment, and the Bridgestone B330-S ball is hands-down the best for my game.

“Controlling launch and trajectory is critical, and with this ball I feel I have total control to hit all shots accurately. I‘m not just here to play -- I‘m here to win.”

Woods, who continues to work with swing coach Chris Como, produced mixed form to finish 15th in an elite field of 17 at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas but he was encouraged after posting a tournament-high 24 birdies during the week.

”As of right now, I‘m longer than I’ve ever been,“ he said of his performance off the tees with the Bridgestone golf ball. ”I‘m about six yards longer.

“Being able to hit one, even half a club, (less) into the green is a huge advantage. I was shocked at how stable the ball is. The accuracy and aerodynamics are incredible.”

Woods, who made his competitive return in the Bahamas after being sidelined since August 2015 by chronic back problems, plans to play a full schedule on the PGA Tour next year.

A 79-times champion on the U.S. circuit, he has not won a tournament anywhere since 2013 and his title drought in the major championships dates back to 2008.

Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in St. Augustine, Florida; Editing by Frank Pingue

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