POTOMAC, Md. – Tiger Woods has put a new putter in play this week while practicing for the Quicken Loans National.
Whether or not the mallet-style putter stays in his bag for Thursday’s opening round is the big question.
“I’m trying something out,” Woods said. “The way I’ve been putting, just thought I’d look for a change. That’s all it is. And hey, you know, it rolls it good. You never know.”
Woods’ putting has been a weakness over the last several tournaments. Tuesday he ditched his custom Scotty Cameron Newport 2 and used a TaylorMade TP Ardmore 3 model while playing a practice round with Harold Varner III, Billy Hurley III and Rod Pampling.
Woods played in the Bahamas all last week and experimented with several TaylorMade putters. He said he wanted to try something with a little more “swing” than his current flat stick.
“I like feeling like that toe is moving and swinging, but this one just has a fraction more swing than mine does,” Woods said.
Mallet-style putters typically offer more stability than the blade-style putters Woods has favored in the past. They usually are larger with greater perimeter weighting and a higher moment of inertia, characteristics that could benefit any player struggling on the greens. The Ardmore 3 has plenty of toe hang, meaning it is not face-balanced and should benefit a player with an arcing stroke.
The Newport 2 was in the bag for 13 of Woods’ 14 major victories. Woods has tried several different putters in tournaments at times throughout his career, and he doesn’t yet know if he’ll make the switch for the 1:20 p.m. Round 1 tee time with Bill Haas and Marc Leishman.
The Ardmore 3 that Woods used Tuesday is part of TaylorMade’s Tour Preferred line of putters. The first Tour Preferred putters were released about two years ago, and they feature a grooved face insert. According to TaylorMade, the aluminum and polymer grooves in the Pure Roll face insert slope downward at a 45-degree angle to grab the ball at impact and pull upward to create forward spin.
Woods’ putter is similar in shape to Justin Rose’s Ardmore 2, but Woods’ putter is slightly shorter from front to back. Woods’ putter is grey with a single white alignment line. It also has a red face insert and a short slant neck. Woods’ Newport 2 GSS does not have any alignment lines, just a single dot on the topline to help him put the sweet spot directly behind the ball.
Like the Newport 2 GSS and the Nike Method 3 mallet he tried several years ago, Woods’ Ardmore 3 has significant toe hang, but this putter is larger than the putters he has used in the past. The combination of the single line and the ball’s-width hole in the back of the head should make it easy to align.
TaylorMade signed Woods in January 2017 after Nike got out of the golf equipment business. He put new TaylorMade irons in play for the first time at the Wells Fargo Championship last month and added TaylorMade Milled Grind wedges to the bag for the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.
Considering he hasn’t used a TaylorMade putter in competition, Woods was asked if the company prefers he use one of their models.
“Of course they would,” Woods said. “(But) it’s my discretion. If I find something that helps me play better, then so be it. If it doesn’t, then it’s not going in the bag.”
Woods’ short game was more than efficient throughout the Florida swing, but he couldn’t make anything at the Wells Fargo at Quail Hollow or the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village. He’s fallen to 89th on Tour in strokes gained putting.
“I’ve been down in the Bahamas the last week, so I’m really gonna give it a good test today and tomorrow because it’s not Bermuda (greens),” Woods said. “I’ve been playing Bermuda the entire week. So this is very different and I just want to see how it rolls out here. Put it through its paces.”
Woods also used the TaylorMade mallet to warm up before the round. He arrived on property at 11 a.m. and went through a roughly one-hour practice session before teeing off on No. 10 around 12:30. He rolled in a birdie putt at the par-5 10th hole to start the afternoon and looked sharp, hitting mostly 3-wood off the tee.
Woods is set to tee off at 7 a.m. Wednesday for his pro-am round, after which he’ll need to figure out if recent putting struggles warrant a drastic change come Thursday.
The one major Woods won without the Cameron Newport 2 GSS was the 1997 Masters, where he used a black Scotty Cameron TeI3 Newport that featured a Teryllium insert, like the insert that two-time U.S. Open winner Brooks Koepka has in his putter.
It appears TaylorMade has been aware Woods might change putters for a while. There are photos of a camouflage-colored putter headcover in Woods’ bag that features red TPs and an embroidered TGR logo on it. However, it’s possible TaylorMade manufactured several putters for Woods and made customized headcovers for them when Woods signed his endorsement deal with the company 18 months ago.