Tiger Woods on his iconic Scotty Cameron: 'It keeps working'

Rob Schumacher/USA TODAY Sports

Tiger Woods on his iconic Scotty Cameron: 'It keeps working'

Equipment

Tiger Woods on his iconic Scotty Cameron: 'It keeps working'

By

Ol’ Blue Eyes had the voice.

Shakespeare the quill pen.

Leonardo the paint brush.

And Tiger Woods the Scotty Cameron.

Peerless artists, one and all, whose iconic relationships with their instruments fashioned mystical distinction that will live in eternity.

Woods’ canvas is the golf course, and in this particular case, the putting surfaces the world over where he’s left his colleagues and golf fans in awe. Since he put his hands on the most famous putter in the world in 1999 – a 35.25-inch, chrome-finished Scotty Cameron Newport 2 made from German stainless steel – he’s won 14 of his 15 majors, 65 of his 81 PGA Tour titles and $92 million with the club in his bag.

“Yep, it’s been pretty good to me,” Woods said with a hearty laugh as he walked down the fifth fairway at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course ahead of The Players Championship in March. “Seriously, it’s been a special club. It’s hard to describe how it’s always felt in my hands; how confident I’ve always felt with it.

“It’s been a huge part of my life on the golf course.”

The putter Tiger calls “Scotty” came into his possession right before the 1999 Byron Nelson Classic.

Just two years after destroying the field in his record-setting performance in the 1997 Masters with a Scotty Cameron Teryllium TeI3, Woods was struggling – by his standards. He was 102nd in putting average on the PGA Tour and had broken 70 once in 17 rounds.

He contacted Cameron, and the two arrived at a putter that Woods wanted to be squarer and more angular with the sweet spot moved to the exact center of the club.

Cameron built the putter, a heel-toe-weighted blade with a single dot on the topline. Woods thought the putter was a tiny bit too heavy – by a few grams – so Cameron mulled out material in the front and back of the putter head to reduce the overall weight and filled the dots with red paint – Woods’ signature color.

Using it in competition for the first time at the Byron Nelson, Woods shot 61 in the first round – tied for his lowest score in his pro career – en route to a tie for seventh. He went on to win eight of his last 12 starts that year, including the 1999 PGA Championship. He added nine more wins in 2000, including victories in the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship.

The putter didn’t leave his bag for 11 years.

“It felt amazing right away,” Woods said. “It just matched up with my stroke from the first time I used it. I’ve always been a person who likes the putter to swing. I went from the (Teryllium TeI3 model) I used in ’97 at the Masters and for some reason the Scotty Cameron felt more like my older putter when I was younger, my old (Ping) Anser 2. It had the same kind of look to it, but it had, more than anything, the same type of feel and swing I liked.

“With that feel and swing, it just had that older feeling I grew up with, and it felt so good.”

It is one of a kind – “There is nothing exactly like this putter,” Tiger said – and along with the one from the 1997 Masters, there are only two putters his son, Charlie, is forbidden from touching in the Woods’ compound in Florida.

It’s that exclusive, and Woods and Cameron have meticulously mended the putter throughout years of wear and tear.

Tiger Woods used his Scotty Cameron to drain this birdie putt and force a playoff with Bob May during the final round of the 2000 PGA Championship. Woods won it. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)

“Oh, I’ve bent it over the years,” Woods said with a smile. “I never feared it would be stolen, but I was always worried it would get damaged by me or something else. I’ve had to fix it and bring it back out. I’ve sent it to Scotty a couple of times to get re-blasted and a couple times to get worked on, but I haven’t done that in over a decade.

“It keeps working.”

And year after year it kept delivering. He was the world’s No. 1 for nine of the 11 years he started using the putter and was second the other two years. He ranked in the top five in putting during five of those years. And his highlight reel with his A-list companion is extensive.

In Woods’ memory bank, the one that stands out is the 7-foot slider he made on the 72nd hole at Valhalla to get into a playoff with Bob May in the 2000 PGA Championship. On the first playoff hole, he walked and pointed at the cup at the last instant as his putt from 25 feet disappeared. It gave him a one-shot lead he wouldn’t relinquish in the epic dual.

RELATED:

“Considering the circumstance, the pressure, the putt that was so, so, so fast, and the break, that was the one,” he said of the putt on the 72nd hole. “Dead center.”

Relationships, however, often have their rocky spots. In 2010 at the British Open at St. Andrews, for the first time in his career since he met the Newport 2, he didn’t have the putter in his hands. Moved by his history of struggling on slower greens, Woods put a Nike Method putter in the bag and for the better part of seven years, when he was able to play as he tended to a disorderly back, the Newport 2 collected dust.

Woods won three tournaments in 2012 and five in 2013, but then his back went haywire, and Nike got out of hard-goods development. So when he returned for an aborted comeback in 2017, and then again in 2018, the Newport was back. The exception was last summer when he used three putters in four weeks before realizing he needed the Cameron Newport 2, with which he won his fifth Masters this year.

“Obviously there have been times it hasn’t been cooperative, so I’ve had to bench it,” Woods said. “I’ve struggled with it every now and then. But you know, it’s one of those things where I bring it back out, go in the backyard, putt with it and then I go, ‘Ooh, there we go.’ Because it just feels pretty good.

“I just keep going back to it.” Gwk

 (Note: This story appears in the April 2019 issue of Golfweek.)

Latest

More Golfweek
Home