To switch or not to switch? Putter always in question

By Rex HoggardJune 25, 2017, 1:05 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – To PGA Tour players, a driver or 3-wood can become a part of the family and many are only prompted to change irons when forced by wear and tear.

But a putter, for a surprising number of professionals, is often little more than a rental.

A player’s relationship with their putter is complicated, and it’s exceedingly easy to fall out of love with the shortest club in the bag as evidenced in recent weeks.

Consider that Rory McIlroy spent the better part of two hours on Saturday before his round at the Travelers Championship experimenting with not one, not two, but five different putter models. It speaks to the ease a poor putting round or two can prompt a switch.

McIlroy went with a new model on Day 3 at TPC River Highlands and things didn’t go any better, with the Northern Irishman needing 33 putts on his way to an even-par 70.

At this rate don’t be surprised if McIlroy rolls up for Sunday’s closing round with enough putters to stock the local Edwin Watts.

“I made a decision this week I would give [his old putter] one more week and see how it performed,” McIlroy said on Thursday. “It's nothing to do with the putter. It's mostly what I'm doing with it.”

Most rational players share McIlroy’s sentiment that it’s not the putter that’s the problem, but then a few missed cuts can drive even the most rational types to extremes.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

In no particular order, players will dismiss poor putting performances until they can’t, which means they will give it a few weeks under different conditions to work itself out. If that doesn’t work, they’ll double their efforts in practice and introduce new drills to try to rekindle the magic.

If that fails, the last step is almost always an ugly divorce.

“I fall out of love with putters all the time,” Paul Casey laughed. “Having said that, I've always predominantly stayed with the same style of putter for the last decade or so, or longer. I've tinkered with different looks, different finishes, lines on top, no line currently.

“I think there is something to it that the best putters in the world have quite often stayed with putters for extraordinary lengths of time.”

Casey cited some of the game’s best putters to prove his point, from current players like Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker to legends such as Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Yet when pressed for how long he’s had his current putter in the bag the Englishman shrugged sheepishly, “Yeah, OK, six weeks.”

While the game’s most renowned putters may cherish the long-term relationship, for the vast majority of players it only takes a few missed opportunities to start looking for something new.

To the surprise of many, even one of the game’s best putters can succumb to the notion that a “new look” can help move things back in the right direction. Just last month Jordan Spieth benched his trusty Scotty Cameron for a new model. Although that experiment only lasted one week at the AT&T Byron Nelson, it was proof that no amount of previous success can keep a struggling player from venturing away from a proven combination.

“I’ve been working on the putting, trying to develop a feel that I can use consistently and kind of not have to think about the stroke and setup and instead focus on the line and speed, which I just have not been comfortable doing,” said Spieth, who maintained his lead at the Travelers Championship on Saturday thanks in large part to one of his best putting weeks since he won earlier this year at Pebble Beach.

If Spieth, who has used the same putter since he was a teenager and is widely considered among the game’s best putters, can succumb to a wandering eye in times of stress, what hope do players like Boo Weekley have?

Weekley, who will begin Sunday at the Travelers Championship a shot behind Spieth, has become something of an expert when it comes to the revolving door of new putters.

“I change putters like I change underwear, man. If it don't work, we're putting another pair on. If these are a little too tight, you know, we're changing something, buddy. Something's going to get done,” he laughed when asked how many putters he’s tried this season. “This year I've gone through probably close to about 20. Yeah, that's a lot of washing.”

One of the game’s best ball-strikers, Weekley has never ranked better than 145th in strokes gained: putting since the statistic was introduced in 2004. So it’s little surprise that the three-time Tour winner doesn’t need much prompting to switch to something new or, in this case, something old.

Weekley’s current Odyssey putter was destined for a garbage can at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational last month after Matt Every decided it was time for a change. Weekley’s swing coach, Scott Hamilton, saved the putter from a landfill and thought it might be perfect for his man.

On Saturday at TPC River Highlands it certainly worked, with Weekley needing only 27 putts and gaining 3.261 shots in strokes gained: putting, which is about 4 1/2 shots better than his average this season.

It was a refreshing change for Weekley, but then glory can be short lived for a putter. Sunday will be a new round and there’s always a replacement waiting in the wings.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.