ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – When a golfer discards a putter that has won 13 major championships and 72 events worldwide, it is news.
When that golfer is Tiger Woods, it is earthshaking news, especially when the ground that shakes is named St. Andrews, the oldest golf course in the world.
Woods, who has won two British Opens here at St. Andrews, announced Tuesday he will switch putters for the 2010 championship, which starts Thursday. No golfer in the 150-year history of the British Open has won three titles at St. Andrews, although Woods expressed confidence in his decision.
He said the St. Andrews greens were running slow, and “I’ve always struggled when the greens are really slow. Using the new putter, he claimed, “It (the ball) comes off (the putter face) faster.”
Woods will carry a Nike Method 001 blade putter into battle, replacing the Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2 that he acquired at the Byron Nelson Classic in 1999.
The Nike Method 001 was used by two major champions in 2009 – Lucas Glover at the U.S. Open and Stewart Cink at the British Open.
Rather than straight-line grooves, the Method features a squiggly pattern of grooves in the face. These grooves are filled with a polymer substance, giving the putter a unique look. The Method is sold in five different models, with a common retail price of $249.99 in the United States.
“The putter is doing nicely in Japan,” said Kel Devlin, global sports marketing director for Nike Golf, “and it’s holding its own in the United States. We haven’t been very aggressive at all in Europe, reflecting our philosophy of not flooding any of the markets with the Method. We are waiting for it to build momentum.”
That momentum could be provided by Woods, who called lag putting “one of the big keys” to success at St. Andrews, which has seven huge double greens that serve as putting surfaces for two holes apiece.
“Since the inception of the Method, Tiger has helped us with the design,” said Nike tour representative Rick Nichols. “It has been his backup putter for some time, and he has practiced with it quite a bit. He just hasn’t used it in competition.”
Woods is coming off one of his worst putting performances. At his last tournament, the AT&T National, he failed to break 70 and tied for 46th. For 2010, he ranks 96th in putting on the PGA Tour with an average of 29.19 putts per round.
According to Nichols, the Method putter reduces skid when the ball comes off the clubface. This is intended to produce a quicker roll.
“I’ve always been tempted to change my putter on slower greens,” said Woods, who confirmed that he talked at length with caddie Steve Williams about making the switch.
Woods did not address the issue of whether he would continue to use the Nike putter after the British Open. He has his trusty Cameron Newport 2 with him here as a backup.
He also indicated he would carry a 2-iron in place of a 5-wood at windy St. Andrews, where golfers generally try to maintain a lower ball trajectory in the breezes that blow off St. Andrews Bay.
Woods travels with two 2-irons, one an older Nike TW blade and the other a newer Nike VR blade with one additional degree of loft. He said he would play the older one, which he has famously used for his low, bullet-like “stinger” shots.
After switching to a new golf ball at the AT&T, Woods will play the same ball here. Its internal construction is identical to the Nike One Tour D that is available to consumers, although the cover used by Woods is slightly softer.
“I would say at the AT&T he averaged 15 yards longer than he normally does,” Nichols observed. For the week, his official average driving distance was 324.5 yards.
In response to questions about his personal life, Woods avoided any confrontation Tuesday with the often pugnacious British media. He quietly declined to answer questions about his public image or about a possible divorce from wife Elin.
There was, it might be said, a Method to his attitude and demeanor.