May 09, 2016
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM
- Rickie Fowler holed plenty of crucial putts with his Scotty Cameron Newport 2 Prototype in 2015. (Jonathan Wall/PGA TOUR)
Professional golfers will tell you every club in the bag plays an important role during a tournament week.
But as we've seen over the years at the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course, there's usually one club in the bag that separates the winner from the rest of the field.
Here's a look back at the key club in the bag for the last five PLAYERS Championship winners.
2015: Rickie Fowler (Scotty Cameron Newport 2 Prototype)
Rickie Fowler knew it would take an absolutely flawless finish to even have a shot at winning THE PLAYERS Championship. And even that might not be enough.
Trailing by five shots with six holes to play, Fowler proceeded to do the unthinkable, going birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie down the stretch to secure a spot in a three-man playoff that he would eventually win with a birdie on the 17th hole.
After struggling with his putting over the first three rounds — he never ranked higher than 43rd in strokes gained putting — Fowler caught fire during the final round, making over 105 feet worth of putts while finishing the day ranked first in strokes gained putting (plus 3.992).
Fowler used a Scotty Cameron Newport 2 prototype putter make a 14-footer on the 15th that started the improbable and ended with a must-make 17-foot birdie on the 18th.
The prototype he used to make countless key putts has been in his possession since the 2014 Norther Trust Open. Struggling with his putting, Fowler started working with the tri-sole design — the tri-sole allows the center section of the head to be soled at address, which promotes a smooth takeaway and follow through — that's been a part of the Cameron line since the late 90's and has been used by countless players over the years, including Tiger Woods.
Fowler's flat stick was actually reserved for the 14-time major winner, but when he made the move Nike Golf, the box containing a few Newport 2 GSS putters remained at Cameron's putter studio.
That was until Fowler unearthed the box during a visit to the studio prior to the 2014 season. While the putter looks almost identical to the standard Newport 2, there were some subtle adjustments made to the neck placement, bumper radius and face depth that was made it shallower for more consistent contact at the ball's equator.
Fowler had his name stamped on the bumpers and a silver mist finish was added to reduce glare. The putter (D6 swingweight) was set at 35 inches cut with a lie angle of 70 degrees and a loft of 3 degrees with a classic stepped shaft.
2014: Martin Kaymer (PING Karsten Series Anser 2 putter)
The oldest club in Martin Kaymer's bag proved to be the most important at the 2014 PLAYERS Championship. Nursing a one-shot lead on the iconic par-3 17th, Kaymer faced a diabolical downhill putt to stay in front of Jim Furyk with one hole to play.
Making the putt even more difficult was the fact that the setting sun made it difficult to see the correct line and the severe left-to-right break. Trusting his instincts, Kaymer used a PING Karsten Series Anser 2 putter to drain the must-make putt.
"It was fairly dark already, so it was very, very tough to see the entire line, but I've done that — obviously I've made that putt in the practice rounds and you know it will break a lot," Kaymer said. "It was downhill, downgrain, but at the end of the day, you just trust your instinct. You pick a line approximately there and there. I think it was three, three and a half feet, left to right putt, but you need the right line and the right speed. So there's always some luck involved."
A hole later, Kaymer would use the putter again from just off the green, rolling it to within 3 feet of the hole for a one-shot win.
The Karsten Series Anser 2 Kaymer used to drain the critical par putts has been in his bag for the last few years and was used to sink the winning putt at the 2012 Ryder Cup.
The heel-toe weighted blade was designed with an elastomer insert in the cavity that improved feel while providing "steel-faced performance". A white line was also added to the flange to improve alignment.
Compared to the classic Anser, the Anser 2 head features a thinner neck and re-designed flange shape. It's also slightly longer heel to toe.
2013: Tiger Woods (Nike VR_S Covert 5-wood, 19-degrees, Mitsubishi Diamana Blue Board 103x shaft)
Accuracy is a valuable tool at TPC Sawgrass. Just ask Tiger Woods, who all but left his driver in the bag for the tournament and relied on a 19-degree Nike VR_S Covert 5-wood off the tee.
Woods hit 68 percent of his fairways for the week and rarely got in trouble en route to his second PLAYERS Championship title. Thanks to warm temperatures and favorable wind conditions, Woods noted during the tournament that 5-wood was more than enough club to reach the fairway and give himself a shot at attacking the pin.
"My 5‑wood was getting out there near 300," Woods said after the first round. "The ball is just traveling today. It's so hot, so warm, and you get the right wind, and it's going a long way."
Woods added the new Covert 5-wood during the 2013 season, at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, after using a Nike SasQuatch 2 since 2007.
“The 5-wood that I used is the SQ, so it's, what, three versions ago,” Woods said. “I finally put one in play that I felt comfortable with. I hit it a little bit further, so there's a little bit bigger gap between the 3-iron and the 5-wood but I can hit this 5-wood a little bit higher, so I can actually take something off it and throw it up in the air, which is nice."
2012: Matt Kuchar (RIFE Island Series Barbados belly putter)
Holding a three-shot lead with three holes to play, Matt Kuchar watched from the fairway on the par-5 16th as Rickie Fowler rolled in his second straight birdie on the par-3 17th to cut the lead to two shots.
Needing a birdie putt to maintain the three-shot cushion, Kuchar hit his approach to 15 feet and calmy rolled in the putt with a RIFE Island Series Barbados belly putter he started working with at the beginning of the tournament.
“We made Matt a brand new Barbados with a special bend and bore angle that would fit his putting style better," said Jim Barfield, RIFE's V.P. of Tour Operations. “It has 5 degrees of loft and a 70 degree lie angle. I joked with Matt’s dad on Monday and said it was a magic putter that we put together for him.”
The putter certainly felt like a magic wand in Kuchar's hands. He finished the week 2nd in Strokes Gained/Putting, 5th in Putts Per Round (27.5 avg.) and 5th in Putts Per GIR (1.642 avg.) with the new putter, en route to the biggest victory of his professional career.
2011: K.J. Choi (TaylorMade R11 driver, 9 degrees, Matrix Ozik XCON F6M2 shaft)
The 2011 PLAYERS Championship will be remembered for the short par putt David Toms missed on the first playoff hole, but that shouldn't take away from K.J. Choi's impressive driving display during the tournament.
Choi only recorded six bogeys, one double-bogey and ranked T-10 in driving accuracy on the way to his only PLAYERS Championship title. Following the win, he donated his 9-degree TaylorMade R11 driver to the tournament.