Matt Kuchar's new Bettinardi signature putter. (Jonathan Wall/PGA TOUR)
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM Equipment Insider
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Matt Kuchar won his first PGA TOUR event with a Bettinardi mallet putter at the 2002 Honda Classic. On Tuesday at THE PLAYERS Championship, site of the biggest win of his professional career, Kuchar officially joined Bettinardi Golf's staff and announced the unveiling of two Matt Kuchar signature models to the company's putter line.
Kuchar has been one of the most consistent putters on the PGA TOUR over the last few years and recently came to the forefront of the USGA's proposed anchor ban debate when Executive Director Mike Davis deemed Kuchar's arm-lock putting method — Kuchar putts with the grip against his left forearm in an effort to maintain a stable stroke through impact — to be legal.
"We would consider this not an anchored stroke," Davis said of Kuchar's method, "even though that the club is resting against him. For those that follow the PGA TOUR, this is a stroke that Matt Kuchar has used the last several years."
According to Kuchar, he started using the arm lock method after talking with instructor Dave Stockton at an event in Palm Springs a few years back.
"This has been a learning process," Kuchar said. "My style of putting with putting the putter up my left forearm started with a chat with Dave Stockton. I've always admired the way he putts and we were at a clinic together in Palm Springs and I just wanted to hear some of his thoughts. Before long, we were out on the green hitting a few different putts the way he used to do it.
"I wasn't doing it the way he wanted, so I said, What if I just take your putter, choke down on it and have the grip come up to my wrist and hit some putts. Dave said that was a great reminder, and it reminded me of the way I used to putt as a kid because I had a big forward press. It ended up feeling like an extension of my left arm."
Kuchar eventually picked up a belly at a PGA TOUR event and liked the fact that the belly putter grip went a little further up his arm for added stability and consistency through the stroke.
Looking to capitalize on Kuchar's unique stroke and notoriety, founder Bob Bettinardi went to work trying to talk Kuchar into collaborating on a signature putter for the company.
"I remember telling Matt at the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick that I wanted to build him a putter," Bettinardi said. "He came by our bag on the putting green and picked out a couple styles and finishes he liked. From there we sent him 15 to 20 different prototypes, and he would critique the model and relay back what he liked and didn't liked.
Through constant feedback and testing, Kuchar and Bettinardi were able to develop two different head styles for Kuchar's signature line.
The 400-gram Kuchar Model 1 is a 42-inch putter that has 7 degrees of loft — the putter also comes in a 350-gram, conventional-length model that's 35 inches and has 3 degrees of loft — and looks nearly identical to the 44.75-inch model Kuchar used to win the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
The heel-toe weighted, face-balanced putter has a wider profile, 2.5 degrees of shaft offset, a double shaft bend and features Bettinardi's F.I.T (Feel Impact Technology) that, according to Bettinardi, "removed 55 percent of the material from the face, resulting in a softer feel at impact." The putter also has a Pewter P.V.D. finish that prevents corrosion.
The second model, known as the Kuchar Model 2, is a pear-shaped mallet that has a wider flange and longer sightline. The putter also has 7 degrees of loft, the same double shaft bend and 2.5 degrees of offset as Kuchar Model 1.
While 7 degrees of loft on the putter might seem excessive — standard putters have 3 degrees of loft — Kuchar said it imperative to get enough loft on the face so the putter head didn't look "shut" at address.
"The problem is when you start adding loft to a putter that's pre-milled is that the putter shuts and gets really hooked. It never really looks right; it sits down. To me, it looked like I was going to miss it left. I need to get a putter that had loft milled in the face and when it sat there, it sat square and didn't tend to shut. That was a key element."
The 2.5 degrees of offset was also necessary based on Kuchar's forward shaft lean with the putter. Looking for a little inspiration, Kuchar sent Bettinardi an old PING Cushin putter he used as a kid that featured a big shaft bend and additional offset for a forward press.
Another interesting addition to the putter is a stepless shaft — Kuchar called it a "ski pole shaft" — that's slightly heavier, and sturdier, than most conventional shafts.
"With a skinnier putter shaft you get some vibration in the arm on longer putts," Kuchar said. "So the heavy-duty shaft eliminates that vibration, and the heavier shaft gets a little bit more feeling in the putter head."
Since Kuchar started working with his signature putter, he said a number of PGA TOUR players have come up to try it out — including Bernhard Langer, who was one of the first to use a similar putting style, at this year's Masters.
"This has been a two-year process for me," Kuchar said. "I'm really happy with what Bob came up with, and I think it's putter design that, if you're struggling or want to try something new, golfers should consider."
Bettinardi's Matt Kuchar signature models will be available starting May 15.
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM Equipment Insider
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Apparel scripting is no longer reserved for the four major championships. This week at THE PLAYERS Championship, Sean O'Hair, Stewart Cink, Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Jason Day will be outfitted in custom pink Ashworth and adidas apparel for one of the highest-profile events on the PGA TOUR schedule.
O'Hair, Cink and Rose will wear a rotation of the four Ashworth shirts during the tournament but will all wear the Sunday shirt. Johnson, Day and Garcia will do the same thing with adidas' four shirts; however, unlike the last time around at the Masters — all three players wore the same outfit during the first round — the players will rotate the looks.
Ashworth and adidas will also release limited edition pink footwear in support of THE PLAYERS Championship's "Pink Out" on Sunday, May 12 (Mother's Day).