When Seung-Yul Noh got to New Orleans for the Zurich Classic, he was ready for a change on the greens. Having struggled with his stroke (he ranked 121st in strokes gained/putting), Noh worked with Nike reps on finding a new putter. The search resulted in a significant switch: Noh dropped his Nike Method 006 blade for the company's mallet-style Method 005, preferring the heavier weight of the larger head. Noh enjoyed the result too -- a solid week of putting (11th in strokes gained) en route to his first PGA Tour win.
Although not all have Noh's success, some players change putters about as often as kids want candy -- and tour reps armed with staff bags full of putters are more than happy to open their "candy stores" to any player willing to take a look. And look they do. When it comes to putters, tour players are like everyday players. The club is only safe until its next three-jack or blown three-footer.
According to several tour reps, it is not unusual to see 20 to 30 players each week trying a new putter or returning to an old one. Although many are players outside the top 50 on the World Ranking (with some searching anew each week hoping to catch lightning in the proverbial bottle), even the game's best are not immune to tinkering when it comes to putters. Among the top 50 on the World Ranking coming into New Orleans, 21 had made at least one putter change in 2014. That's more than 40 percent.
The reasons for such frequent shifting vary. Some players prefer certain types of putters on particular types of greens. Others simply are looking for a change of scenery to break out of a slump. It is one of the reasons the reps say most players have at least five putters, while a few have 50 or more.
Interestingly, though, none of the top seven (Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth) has made a move. In fact, only four of the top 20 (Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley) have tried a different putter so far this year.
That's not surprising considering that success and stability with the putter often go hand-in-hand. "I just know what to expect on the greens," Zach Johnson told Golf World last year. "I've been with my putter a long time now, and the thought of having something different in my hands just isn't very appealing." Johnson has used a SeeMore FGP model for close to a decade.
For players such as Steven Bowditch, however, swapping putters is an almost weekly occurrence. "Yeah, I do it probably every week," Bowditch said after changing to an old putter mid-tournament at the Valero Texas Open and going on to win the event. "I wanted to go back to a putter that I was completely comfortable with, not knowing that the putter before that or any other putter is going to make a difference. At least that one I knew what its tendencies were and was comfortable with it."
Comfort is not something Steve Flesch seemingly ever had with a putter. When he won the 2004 Bank of America Colonial after changing at the 36-hole mark from a Scotty Cameron by Titleist putter to an Odyssey DFX 2-Ball model, Flesch was asked about making the move mid-event. His reply seemed to sum up the borrowed-time feeling many tour pros have about their putters when he said, "If I were married to a putter, I'd be divorced many times by now."
Apparently, that means Noh and his new Nike are only in the honeymoon stage.
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Two new tour-inspired sole grinds (TVD-K, shown). Both feature Spin Milled TX3 grooves with 7 percent more volume than prior SM wedges.
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Lydia Ko used this driver in winning the Swinging Skirts Classic. The club has a redesigned variable-thickness face to increase ball speed.
Counterbalancing has been a big topic, but the talk has largely been confined to putters. At the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, however, Andrew Svoboda brought the benefits of counterbalancing full swing -- as in: through the bag. Using Boccieri Golf's Secret Grip, which weighs 92 grams with a 17-gram tungsten weight, Svoboda had his fairway woods, hybrids and irons all counterbalanced, as well as his putter. Svoboda finished T-2 in New Orleans, employing the method used by Jack Nicklaus in his prime as well as Sergio Garcia. . . . Former PGA champ Rich Beem had his old STX putter out (the same one he used in winning at Hazeltine National in 2002) at TPC Louisiana during practice rounds but couldn't pull the trigger on returning it to the bag. Instead, Beem used an Odyssey Versa 7 Black. . . . Justin Rose went smaller and higher with his driver at the Zurich Classic, changing from a 9.5-degree TaylorMade SLDR 460 to a 10.5-degree version of the company's SLDR 430 after TrackMan testing revealed he achieved a higher launch and lower spin with the club. . . . Robert Streb had a solid showing using a Scotty Cameron by Titleist GoLo Knucklehead putter. The club has a hosel neck considerably longer than other Cameron putters.