Equipment rewind

The incredible backstory of the putter Jim Furyk used to win the U.S. Open 20 years ago


Ross Kinnaird

Every year at the U.S. Open there are good stories. From the champion's tale to the travails of the unknowns. Reporters routinely capture these moments and share them with the world. The role the player's equipment plays in these yarns, however, is sometimes overlooked. Such was the case at the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields, won by Jim Furyk. Here we go back 20 years to the story of Furyk’s Bettinardi Baby Ben putter as well as taking a look at the rest of his bag.

Just five days before the start of the 2003 U.S. Open outside of Chicago, Dave Billings, president of Dogleg Right Golf, received a disturbing piece of news from the USGA: The backweighted Superline putter his company produced was ruled nonconforming. The USGA claimed the putter did not adhere to the plain in shape statute and recommended a few changes that would make the club legal. "The club had a backweight that does not wrap completely around the club," said Dick Rugge, senior technical adviser for the USGA at the time. "That was the primary problem."

Under normal circumstances, such a ruling wouldn't be a big deal. But these were not normal circumstances. Jim Furyk had used the Dogleg putter in each of his last three events—including two top-10 finishes—and was heading to Olympia Fields C.C. for the U.S. Open.

Billings contacted Furyk, who was understandably upset. No player wants his putter—especially one he's had success with—taken from them right before the national championship.

Beginning Monday, Furyk started practicing with a new Ben Hogan by Bettinardi Baby Ben putter at Olympia Fields, the USGA granted Billings an emergency appeal on Wednesday in Chicago. The appeal, however, was denied. According to Billings, the USGA allows players who have been using a putter that the association decrees nonconforming to continue using it for a reasonable period as they adjust to something else. However, the request to allow Furyk to continue using the Dogleg Right putter was denied as well. Billings then took the putter to Nike's tour van and made the necessary alterations. By then, however, Furyk had already decided to go with the Baby Ben—a smaller version of the Hogan Big Ben mallet.

Armed with the new putter, Furyk got off to a fast start—taking just 25 putts in the first round and boosting his confidence. It translated to the rest of the week.

"I'd never putted with a Bettinardi putter until this week," said Furyk, who declined to discuss the nonconforming issue. "I liked it for alignment purposes, it has a big line on the top. I was real comfortable with it. I gave it a try and was in there working with Bob's rep all week, just making little adjustments, making adjustments, getting the line and loft. And I felt like I was really comfortable with it and I putted very well with it this week. I made some key putts and some great putts. It’s kind of an interesting story."

No kidding.

What Jim Furyk had in the bag at the 2003 U.S. Open

Ball: Top-Flite Strata Tour Ace

Driver: Titleist 983K (UST Proforce Gold 65X), 8.5 degrees

3-wood: TaylorMade 200, 15 degrees

5-wood: Orlimar TriMetal, 19 degrees

Irons (3, 5-PW): Ben Hogan Apex Plus Forged Cavity

Wedges: Titleist Vokey 200 (50, 56 degrees); Ben Hogan Colonial (60 degrees)

Putter: Ben Hogan by Bettinardi Baby Ben

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