How a one-off, Bettinardi-Mizuno putter from 10 years ago ended up in Russell Knox’s bag
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PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Struggling putters on the PGA TOUR will try almost anything – new grips, putting styles and putter heads – to find a different feel and spark putting success. Enter this story as an extreme, yet wildly interesting case.
Every week on the practice green at a PGA TOUR event, you can find Arnie Cunningham, TOUR representative for SuperStroke grips, standing beside a SuperStroke staff bag. Propped up against the bag are a dozen or more putters from different manufacturers, each equipped with the newest versions of SuperStroke putter grips. The putters are there mostly so TOUR players interested in changing grips can see how the grips feel with a putter head and shaft on them. If the player likes a grip, Cunningham and team will build that player’s gamer head with the new grip on it.
One of the putter heads that Cunningham uses to show off the new grips is his old gamer putter that was custom-made for him by Bob Bettinardi prior to 2009, when Bettinardi still had a partnership with Mizuno.
“I brought that [putter] out more as a novelty item because back in about 2007, Bob [Bettinardi] made me a SeeMore copy, let’s call it, with a red dot, that was on a Tomahawk head; there was an old putter company called Tomahawk back in the 60s and 70s,” Cunningham explains. “So I ask [Bob Bettinardi] to make me a Tomahawk head with a red dot and a straight-in putter… it is a one-off Bettinardi [from] back in the Mizuno-Bettinardi days, it has both names on the putter.”
According to Sam Bettinardi, Bob’s son and current Executive Vice President of Bettinardi, said the Tomahawk-style Bettinardi head itself was made in 2007 as a special request from Ian Woosnam, and it had one of the first generations of the company’s now-popular F.I.T. Face milling. Cunningham’s red-dot Tomahawk version with a straight-in style shaft, however, is a complete one-off.
On Tuesday ahead of the Valspar Championship, Russell Knox, unhappy with his putting performance of late – he currently ranks 170 in Strokes Gained: Putting in 2019 – went on the search for a new flatstick on the putting green, where various putting manufacturers showcase their new putters. As a longtime SuperStroke putter grip user, a particular putter caught his eye propped against the SuperStroke staff bag. You guessed it, Knox started trying out Cunningham’s one-off Bettinardi-Mizuno putter… and he “fell in love with it,” says Cunningham.
“I started the week searching,” Knox explained. “I’ve been unhappy with the way I’ve putted recently, and I felt like there was a certain type of putter that I could find that could help me. So I went for that search yesterday. And I stumbled across this very old Mizuno Bettinardi putter, courtesy of Arnie (Cunningham)… I don’t think he ever expected someone to actually like it, because it’s his personal putter... And I just felt an instant connection with this old, pencil-looking putter.”
After using the putter on Tuesday on the practice green and during his practice round, Knox began searching the Internet for “25-30 minutes” looking for a replica, or any information whatsoever about the putter. Of course, he couldn’t find anything, since there’s only one in the world, and it was custom-made for Cunningham.
Initially, as Cunningham explained, he quoted Knox $2,000 for the putter, and he says Knox was “ready to write a check.” Knowing how golf works, however, Cunningham decided to let Knox use it free of charge.
“’When you’re done using it’ -- which all putters end up on the shelf eventually -- ‘just give it back to me,’” Cunningham told Knox.
On Wednesday afternoon prior to his pro-am round, Knox said, “it’s in the bag right now, so we’ll see how today goes and hopefully tomorrow it’s in the bag.”
Knox’s one-off Bettinardi-Mizuno putter is equipped with a SuperStroke Traxion Pistol GT Tour grip.