RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Inbee Park benched her magical putter this week.
Frustrated with a cold putter of late, Park took her Odyssey Sabertooth out of her bag in favor of a new Odyssey Jailbird with an extra-thick Super Stroke grip before Thursday’s start of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Park used the Sabertooth to win the first three major championships last year. In fact, she used it while winning six LPGA titles overall in 2013.
The changes didn’t immediately bring help to Park’s game. She shot 74 and didn’t make her first birdie until her final hole. Park didn’t shoot worse than 70 on her way to winning here last year.
“Today was probably a little bit disappointing,” Park said. “There were very tough pins out there. I just didn't give myself a lot of opportunities. Obviously, the opportunities I had, I didn't make the putts.”
Park loves the way she is striking the ball this season.
“She’s starting the year with probably the best ball striking of her career,” said Brad Beecher, her caddie. “If she were putting like she did last year, she’d be killing it.
“She just lost her feel a little bit.”
Even with a cold putter, Park is off to a strong start this season. She beat Suzann Pettersen in a final round duel to win the World Ladies Championship on the Ladies European Tour last month. She has recorded top-10 finishes in all four of her LPGA starts.
Cold is a relative term with Park. She demoralized her competition last year with her putter. She was first in putts per greens in regulation in both 2013 and 2012. She has led the LPGA in that category four of the last six seasons. She’s 19th this year.
Park took 32 putts on Thursday.
“Today wasn't the best putting day, but I haven't been putting good with any putter,” Park said. “So, I'm just going to try to stick with this putter. Yeah, I just don't know what is wrong.”
But just in case she wants to go back to the Sabertooth, it's not far away.
“It’s in the car,” Beecher said.