SAN FRANCISCO — Tiger Woods appears set to make a rare putter switch on Thursday when the PGA Championship begins at TPC Harding Park.
Woods has been practicing this week with a different version of the Scotty Cameron Newport II putter he’s used for a majority of his career, one that allows him to change the weighting; it is also longer.
Steve Stricker, who over the years has given Woods help with his putting, played a nine-hole practice round with Woods at Harding Park on Wednesday and liked what he saw.
“I asked him about the putter switch,” said Stricker, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain who assisted Woods at the Presidents Cup last year. “It’s basically the same putter with a bit more flexibility. He’s able to change the weights around a little bit, but the length is the difference.
“He’s got a little more length on there, and that’s just so he can practice a little bit more without back pain. That’s what excites him the most is that he was able to put in a lot of time with this putter, and watching him putt, it looked exactly the same to me. He rolled the ball great.”
Woods arrived at Harding Park on Sunday and played an 18-hole practice round. He played nine holes Monday, practiced on the range and putting green on Tuesday and played another nine holes Wednesday. After playing, he went back to the putting green for more work.
The Scotty Cameron model Woods has used for the majority of his career has a bit of its own legendary status. He first put it in play prior to the 1999 Byron Nelson Classic and used it for more than 11 years. During that stretch, he won 13 major championships.
In 2010, Woods switched to a Nike brand putter for a time, and when he returned to action following his fourth back surgery in 2018, he used two different TaylorMade model putters before switching back to the Cameron. Woods won the Tour Championship, the Masters and the Zozo Championship with the original Cameron. He has won approximately $94 million in prize money using that putter.
The Cameron he’s had so much success with has shown some wear and tear. It has numerous nicks and dings, but the weighting is on the back of the blade; the newer version that marking is on the front of the putter.
Over the years, Woods has experimented with other Cameron putters and had the one he is expected to use on Thursday in his bag last summer at The Open at Royal Portrush. But he decided not to use it during the tournament, where he missed the cut.
Woods said following his 40th-place tie at the Memorial Tournament three weeks ago that he didn’t adapt well to having more break in the greens. He was 56th in the field in strokes gained putting and had some issues with short putts.
At Harding Park, Woods has put a good bit of effort into lag putting, an important factor at a major championship, where hitting it close is more of a challenge.
“I expect good things from him if he can keep his body playable,” said Stricker, noting the back stiffness issues that Woods faces in even the best of times. “With this weather, it’s a challenge. It’s cool, it’s damp, and so I imagine that will probably be the biggest challenge for him this week is to be able to feel like his body is 100 percent and give it a rip.”