April 21 2011
By Stan Awtrey, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Unsatisfied with his putting all season, Garrett Willis was ready to dump the Scotty Cameron model putter that refers to as "Old Faithful" and exchange it for a belly putter. He used the belly putter in a practice round at a nearby course on Wednesday and arrived at Harbour Town about 30 minutes earlier than usual to dial it in.
After breakfast Willis was walking to the range, preparing for his 8:50 a.m. starting time, and had a change of heart. He sent his caddie to the car to get "Old Faithful" and used it to hit a handful of putts to get ready for the round.
"I said, you know what, go back to the car and get Old Faithful. I can’t pull the trigger," Willis said.
That turned out to be a great decision.
"I haven’t missed a tournament in five years with it," Willis said. "I’ve been having 31, 32, 33 putts a round, which is leading to a lot of missed cuts. And this is the week I’m going to break away, I’m going to do it, I’m going to switch. I say that almost every week, but I don’t have the guts enough to do it. Luckily it paid off."
Willis had one of the best putting days of his career. It led to a run of six straight birdies on the front nine and a round of 64, which gave him the early first round lead at The Heritage.
"Obviously I’m very excited about putting this well and having a chance to make the cut for a change," Willis said.
Willis has made the cut only twice in eight starts. His best finish was a tie for 15th at the Transitions Championship, one of a handful of courses Willis said he’s capable of competing on. That short list includes Harbour Town, where he hasn’t played since 2003. His best finish at The Heritage was a tie for 38th in 2003.
It was an all-around good day for players who opted out of the belly putter. Tim Herron changed his mind at the last minute and stuck with his old putter and wound up shooting a 65, the best round of his career at Harbour Town.
Garrett Willis' scorecard: