During previous incarnations of Tiger Woods swing changes, his equipment remained fairly consistent. Not this time.
Like countless other pros before him, Woods is tinkering with his putter. The Scotty Cameron model he used for his decade-plus run of dominance isn’t the automatic choice anymore. Last year at the British Open he put a Nike Method 003 mid-mallet putter in the bag and it continues to appear occasionally, like at last week’s World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.
“The Method putter is what I usually practice with at home. I like the toe swinging. It's a heel-shafted putter, so I enjoy the toe moving more,” Woods said.
“But more than anything … I've always struggled on slow greens. I've just never really have enjoyed putting on slow greens. The Method, with the grooves, it comes off faster, and it's worked on the slower greens, and one of the reasons why I switched at St. Andrews to it. And I played it at Chevron last year and I played it here this week. It definitely comes off faster, and especially on grainier greens like this, it helped a lot.”
In Woods’ final-round 66 Sunday at TPC Blue Monster at Doral he was T8 in putts, by far his best of the week.
● Speaking of putter switches, Troy Matteson appears to have hit on a good move in going to a belly putter. Last week he lost in a playoff at the Puerto Rico Open but left pleased with his play, especially on the greens.
“Last year I used the standard putter and the last four years I’ve just really struggled with my putting. Had a lot of days where I hit 15 greens and had 33 putts, and out here when you’re putting with the best putters in the world, you need to get under that 30 mark more times than not,” Matteson said.
“So this year at Torrey Pines my agent and caddie got together and said, ‘hey, why don't we just try something new.’ So we got a belly putter, and I've never really liked them because when you pick them up in the store, I think they're built for someone who's probably 5'8 to 5'10, and they're just a little short for me (Matteson is 6 foot). Mine is little over 45 inches, so it's a lot longer than what you find in the store, and all of a sudden the ball's rolling straight. My speed's not an issue.”
Matteson surprised himself with a great putting week at the Farmers Insurance Open (T9), and the TOUR had one more belly-putter convert.
● Arguably the most surprisingly slow start on TOUR this year is Jim Furyk’s, with two missed cuts in four full-field events, a first-round loss in the WGC-Accenture Match Play and only one top-10 finish (at the winners-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions). The defending FedExCup champion is 74th in 2011 points.
He’s not the type to blame equipment for a mini-slump, but it’s fact that he has some new stuff in play and is still moving things in and out of his “open bag,” which is only contracted to TaylorMade for their ball and driver.
“I’ve been tinkering, and there’s good and bad to tinkering,” Furyk said Wednesday at the Transitions Championship. “Obviously being affiliated with TaylorMade, I'm trying a lot of their products. I've got some hybrids in the bag and putters and with tinkering comes some issues as well. I'll eventually settle in, sort everything out.”
He said the biggest adjustment so far has been to his new TaylorMade Penta ball after playing Srixon, but notes it was a change he initiated.
“I actually approached TaylorMade and told them I wanted to play the ball rather than them recruiting me last year,” Furyk. “Because I really believe in it and I think it's a good product.”
● Nick Watney’s win at the WGC-Cadillac came with a Titleist 910D3 driver. He was sixth in the field in driving distance and T12 in accuracy. – John Schwarb