Tiger Woods is fighting tooth and nail to shake putting slump at Quicken Loans National

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Tiger Woods is fighting tooth and nail to shake putting slump at Quicken Loans National

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods is fighting tooth and nail to shake putting slump at Quicken Loans National

POTOMAC, Md. – Tiger Woods had already been grinding for six hours and presumably had nice, air-conditioned digs waiting for him somewhere in the suburban D.C. sprawl. But he wasn’t done yet.

Woods went straight to the practice green for more at TPC Potomac after a short media session. He kept rolling the rock for 25 minutes underneath an imposing sun, with no shade or clouds to stop it. He looked like a man on a mission.

“Overall it was a good day, but not the day I really wanted,” Woods said.

He’s doing everything he can to get out of a nasty putting slump and placed a new TaylorMade Ardmore 3 mallet-style in the bag for Round 1. The speed was good and it looked like he was rolling it alright out there, but makeable birdie putts continued to slide past the hole.

Woods shot Even-par 70 in the opening round of the Quicken Loans National, good for a T-48 slot before Friday’s 8:20 a.m. Eastern tee time with Bill Haas and Marc Leishman. He finally settled on the new putter Wednesday afternoon after a 90-minute practice session on the greens, and it sounds like he’s sticking with it for the foreseeable future.

“I put my (Scotty Cameron) putter down and I hit a few putts with it. It just didn’t feel right, wasn’t looking right,” Woods said. “So, time for it to sit on the bench a little bit. I’m sure it will come back eventually, just one of those things.”

The new flat stick did deliver on two significant putts Thursday afternoon, first from six feet to save par at 11 and then from nine feet for birdie at 16, which got Woods back to Even par on the day.

Woods went with a slow burn out of the gates. He made five straight routine pars and got into trouble at No. 6 after hooking a driver way left off the tee. The ball took a good bounce off a tree, but it was still about 30 yards short of the fairway. He tried to get a 3-wood to the green but landed short and in a hazard, eventually carding a double bogey.

From there Woods fought like he always does to get in around Even par after an early misstep, which he did with two birdies and no bogeys over the final 12 holes. He hit 7 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens and said the new putter did what he wanted it to. It just didn’t convert on birdie tries from 15 feet or less at hole Nos. 4, 8, 12, 13 and 15.

“I hit good putts, they just didn’t go in, which is fine,” Woods said. “I don’t mind that at all. I misread two putts on the back nine and so be it. But I hit a lot of good putts today on my line with the speed that I wanted, so it didn’t go in but I haven’t done that in a while. I haven’t been doing that. So that’s the positive sign, to keep doing that. Eventually they’ll start rolling in.”

Woods fought his entire career to stay on top of the world, he fought to get back playing regularly on Tour and now he’s fighting his putting stroke. That’s the biggest reason for the switch, and the reason he put in two combined hours on the practice green the past two days after his round was over.

There’s another reason he’s grinding so hard and working with this new mallet putter though. Woods doesn’t usually come out and say everything that’s on his mind, but he will drop hints. He talked with reporters for about five minutes Thursday and snuck a pretty telling line in there.

“I’ve always struggled on greens that are a little on the slower side and these greens aren’t very quick right now,” Woods said. “They won’t be quick in three weeks’ time either.”

This putter change is about the British Open as much as it is getting out of a funk. Seems obvious in hindsight, because Woods’ seasons have always been about getting up for the majors.

He talked at length Wednesday about how the ball rolls faster off the new putter face thanks to its grooves, which the Scotty Cameron doesn’t have, and that figures to help on the slower links greens at Carnoustie.

This is a big week for Woods as tournament host and he’d obviously love to contend, but he’s thinking further down the road too. Until then, the fight continues.

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