One was the Scotty Cameron model that Woods has used in 72 worldwide victories and 13 majors over the last 11 years. That’s the putter he was using when he missed one crucial putt after another on the back nine at Hazeltine to lose the PGA Championship, the same one in his hands when he missed a 7-foot birdie putt on the final hole last week at The Barclays.
The other putter that Rick Nichols brought him was a Nike model. Woods studied it with a meticulous eye, leaning the putter on its toe as he looked down the shaft.
Is the world’s No. 1 player so frustrated that he is willing to finally change putters? Is he fed up with missed putts that cost him a chance to win the last two tournaments?
Woods was only checking the alignment of the grip on his backup putter. He prefers it to be 1 degree to the right, which slightly closes the blade on impact. This grip was too square, and the glue had already dried before Woods could twist it where he wanted it.
He has several backup putters, which hardly anyone ever mentions.
“That’s because I haven’t needed it,” Woods said.
Woods is nowhere near panic mode with his putting. Even though he didn’t win his last two tournaments, he still has 12 top 10s in his 15 starts on the PGA Tour. Besides, Woods felt more at home during his pro-am round at the Deutsche Bank Championship on a course where he has won and finished second twice.
The greens at TPC Boston do not have poa annua, the strain of grass found at Hazeltine, which gets bumpy in the afternoon. The subtle breaks do not confound him like the ones at Liberty National a week ago.
“They’re rolling perfect,” Woods said. “They’re rolling great. I was telling Stevie (Williams), ‘Every time we come here, we think the greens are undulating.’ Not after last week.”
Woods is coming off a performance memorable for all the wrong reasons.
He made a late charge into contention at The Barclays, finishing with a 6-iron to 7 feet for birdie on the last hole that ultimately would have put him in a playoff. His putt never touched the hole.
It was rare to see Woods fail to deliver a key putt on such a stage, which is one reason there is so much attention on this putting. He is averaging 28.58 putts per round on the PGA Tour, an improvement over the last four years.
Steve Stricker, among the best in golf with a putter, played the first two days with Woods at The Barclays and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary except for the obvious.
“I don’t think he made as many putts as he normally does,” Stricker said. “The stroke looked fine. I didn’t see anything funky there, not that I was really looking at his stroke. I guess we’re just shocked when he doesn’t make one because he’s made so many over his career.”
Woods attributed so many missed chances at Liberty National on putts that often broke multiple times before reaching the hole. He worked some on his short game during his three days at home, no more than usual.
“I really putted well on the weekend, I just didn’t make a lot of putts,” he said. “When you’re lipping out a lot of putts, you’re not putting poorly. Those greens were a tough read for a bunch of people.”
Woods has a hard time finding much fault with anything this year, except for not winning a major. His five victories are twice as much as anyone else, and he still holds the No. 1 stop in the FedEx Cup standings going into the second week of the playoffs.
The big surprise is Heath Slocum, who was planning a trip to Switzerland this week for the Omega Masters on the European Tour until he won last week at Liberty National. That moved him from second-to-last place at No. 124 to No. 3, right behind Woods and Stricker.
Players have been debating whether Slocum earned too many points, and they tried to balance his rocket rise with the notion that he did beat a field at The Barclays that included the top 124 players on the PGA Tour.
The top 100 qualified for the Deutsche Bank (minus Paul Casey, who is injured), and that number will be pared to the top 70 players in points going to the third round next week at the BMW Championship outside Chicago.
Woods is virtually a lock to at least contest for the $10 million prize that comes with the FedEx Cup, especially the way he has played over the last two months – two victories, two runner-up finishes.
“This last stretch, I think I’ve hit the ball pretty good,” Woods said. “I’ve putted well in stretches. Some people have alluded to other things, but that’s not too bad for my last four events. The overall year has been very consistent.”
He missed the FedEx Cup playoffs last year recovering from knee surgery. The last time he played the Deutsche Bank was in 2007, when he tied for second, four shots behind Phil Mickelson. Woods took nine more putts than Mickelson that day.