TOLEDO, Ohio – When it comes to golf equipment, Mark O’Meara is a lot like many average golfers. He may not be familiar with the design and construction of golf clubs, but he certainly likes to experiment with the latest and greatest.
Furthermore, O’Meara is willing to change the makeup of his bag at almost any time.
This would explain why he switched his Titleist driver, Titleist irons and Ping putter coming into the U.S. Senior Open here at Inverness Club.
He adjusted quickly, shooting 5-under 66 in the opening round to share second place with Michael Allen, two strokes behind Olin Browne.
O’Meara, 54, won 16 PGA Tour events, including two majors in 1998: the Masters and Open Championship. He defeated Allen in a playoff to win his only previous senior major title, the 2010 Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship.
It was hot Thursday in Toledo, and O’Meara was even hotter after missing an 8-foot birdie putt on the first hole.
It made him mad – mad at himself, mad at Inverness’ tricky greens, mad at his putter.
Well, maybe not too mad at the putter. After all, he was using this new creation for the first time in competition.
So the steaming-hot O’Meara proceeded to birdie Nos. 2, 3 and 4 with putts of 7, 9 and 4 feet, respectively.
“Love that putter,” he said.
He should. On the back nine, he added birdies at 10 and 11 with putts of 8 and 14 feet, respectively. Then he saved par at 16 (from 12 feet) and 17 (22 feet).
What was this magic putter? A new Ping Anser Milled 2. Ping is in the process of releasing the new Anser Milled series, which consists of seven head styles.
O’Meara used an original Anser 2 putter to win both of his major championships, so the Anser Milled 2 was something of a no-brainer.
The putter is a custom design. O’Meara’s instructor, Bruce Davidson, got together with Ping master craftsman Lou Beebe to fashion a light version of the Anser Milled 2. They removed some of the 303 stainless steel from the back, heel and toe. They replaced it with aluminum. The head weight went from 343 grams to 316 grams. It was perfect for O’Meara, who likes putters on the light side.
The putter was shipped from Ping headquarters in Phoenix to Inverness, arriving Tuesday morning.
The putter beat O’Meara to northwest Ohio by more than 24 hours. After playing in the British Open and Senior British Open, O’Meara headed home to Houston for two days. He didn’t show up here until Wednesday afternoon.
So O’Meara played one quick practice round and decided to go with the new putter.
That’s not all he decided. Except for the putter, O’Meara’s bag is full of Titleist equipment. For the U.S. Senior Open, he changed things around.
He went from one Titleist 910D3 driver to another. Both have 9.5 degrees of loft. “They are identical,” O’Meara said, “except that the shaft in one of them was tipped a little bit more to make it stronger. That’s the one I’m using now.”
O’Meara also made a change from one set of Titleist AP2 irons to another set of AP2 irons. He had been using AP2 712 irons (2012 model) but went back to AP2 710 (2010 model).
If there is a lesson to be learned from O’Meara, it might be this: Messing around with new golf clubs is fun, so don’t be afraid to make a few substitutions.