The back-and-forth of Tiger's putter
Each week, golf writer Bob Harig will take your questions and answer a few select ones on ESPN.com. Below are this week's selections.
Do you know if Tiger Woods uses that Method because he wants to or because Nike mandated it as a condition for standing by him when all his other sponsors left?
-- Tim Schott
I wonder why a story hasn't yet been written about why Tiger changed his putter to the Nike model he's using now. He won every major and every tournament as a pro with the Scotty Cameron putter and now he switches to a Nike putter? My curiosity stems from the post-scandal endorsement exodus and the fact that Nike was one of the few companies that stuck by him. I'm guessing this isn't a coincidence.
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Did they put pressure on him to change putters? Did they demand he change to a Nike putter to keep his contract? Has he chosen to underperform for the sake of money and his brand?
-- Kevin Govro
Harig: The story of Tiger making a move to a different putter has been written about and discussed often since he first made the move at last summer's British Open. To set the record straight, Woods won 13 of his 14 majors with the Scotty Cameron Newport 2. He began using it in May of 1999. Here was Woods' response to questions about the switch at St. Andrews:
"I've always been tempted to change my putter on slower greens and I've always struggled when greens are really slow," Woods said. "I've always [felt] more comfortable when the greens are quick. I've always experimented with other putters throughout the years but I've never put one in play until now."
Slow greens were certainly not an issue at Augusta, but Woods had a different version of the Method in his bag. Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, said he could not discuss contractual details, but said Woods "made the switch because of performance."
While that might not answer the question as exactly as we'd like, it is interesting to note that Woods has not used the Nike Method exclusively since last year's British Open. He has gone back and forth this year to the Cameron. From here, that does not suggest a contractual mandate.
It should also be noted that over the years Nike has worked with Woods to find a putter that he'd feel comfortable switching to. And even after he returned at the 2010 Masters, he still had the Cameron in his bag.
I told my wife that Charl (Schwartzel) would win after he made the chip on 1. I am not Nostradamus. I simply used the logic of "the guy I have least interest in that could win, will win." It has held true for every major except one starting with the '09 Masters.
'09 Masters -- (Angel) Cabrera wins in a playoff against the great Kenny Perry story and likeable Chad Campbell
'09 U.S. Open -- Lucas Glover wins on an ugly Monday finish. Three-way tie for second: Major lover Ricky Barnes, Phil and David Duval's potential comeback story of forever
'09 Open Championship -- Tom Watson, enough said.
'09 PGA -- Yang beats Tiger. Good story, I guess, but still.
'10 Masters -- Phil wins, great story, our one saving grace.
'10 U.S. Open -- Dustin Johnson tanks, Woods, Phil, Els are all in the top six. McDowell wins.
'10 Open Championship -- No one knew how to pronounce the winner's (Louis Oosthuizen) name until Saturday night.
'10 PGA -- DJ's "sand trap" fiasco, Bubba is incredibly likable, The German (Martin Kaymer) wins.
Bob Harig's mailbag
Who will get off to a fast start to the 2012 PGA Tour season? Should the tour change how it opens the season? Drop ESPN.com golf writer Bob Harig a line, and he'll respond to some of the best questions. Ask Harig a question
Harig: Your email suggests a common theme among a good number of golf fans, who seem to like the front-runners and established names over the unlikely stories and longshots. Other sports enjoy the underdog story, but not golf. At least not very often.
Upon reading your response to questions on ESPN.com, I can't agree more with your assessment of Tiger's reactions to questions following play on Sunday at Augusta. I have no doubt that he was still heavily focused on the task at hand because technically, the tournament was not over. He was coming from the scorer's table immediately after leaving the 72nd green and probably felt like there was chance he may be playing more golf.
However, the majority of professional golfers on any tour have had the decency to put that aside in order to be courteous in an interview. You bring up McIlroy, but don't forget the interviews by Adam Scott and Jason Day, who were even closer to winning the tournament. Obviously, McIlroy's interview had to be the most difficult, but the confidence that kid has in his own ability helped overcome some of the letdown he was feeling.
In the past I've been somewhat critical of Phil Mickelson. ... But I must say, you will not find anyone on tour who plays to the gallery and media the way he does. You would have seen a much different interview by Phil walking out of the scorer's tent in that situation than what you saw from Tiger.
At some point, although he is one of the best to ever play the game and has brought golf to a whole new level, we're going to have to stop giving Tiger a pass because he is so "focused." Let's start expecting more professionalism of him when he is at work. Let's hold him to the same standards on the golf course and in the media room that we do everyone else.
-- Bill Caldwell
Harig: Tiger's brief interview with CBS following his 67 on the last day of the Masters continues to evoke reaction. The above email sums up the feelings of many, that Tiger did himself no favors with the way he handled himself. In an earlier mailbag, I tried to give Woods the benefit of the doubt by suggesting that he was not happy with the final result, he still felt there was a chance he could be in a playoff, that it was quite soon after the round.
Or maybe he just doesn't care for CBS, as he did talk to print reporters and answered the questions. Still, the sentiment from many is understandable. Woods could have saved himself some trouble by simply answering the questions better.
This is a question in response to the article about Tiger's putting at Augusta. I remember seeing a day of reruns on television around Tiger's birthday of his most famous wins. While watching the matches, I noticed the significant amount of time he took to walk around the green, look at the line and go behind the hole to size up each putt. Have you noticed this? I thought the big putts he missed on Sunday -- the 12th hole for par, the 15th for eagle, the 16th for birdie (although that was a difficult putt), and the 18th for birdie -- he didn't take as long to evaluate each putt as he did in the moments when he's done well. I thought he took quite a long time to line up his putt at the 18th on Friday, when he made it. What do you think?
-- Adam Benson
Harig: It is certainly possible that some of Tiger's problems stem from not reading the putts correctly. And if he doesn't study them as long, maybe he's not getting the right read. Then again, you can overanalyze this stuff, too. Is it the read or the stroke? Is it the pace of the putts? Woods has rarely said much about reading the putts wrong, but about not hitting them correctly.
I have not read or heard any explanation as to why Tiger winced in pain and then walked with a hesitant gait after his second shot on 18. What happened?
-- Dave Eenigenburg
Harig: Woods did appear to be favoring his leg or his knee after that shot, but the subject never came up afterward in the brief interviews and he did not mention it.
Given Adam Scott's improvement on the greens with a broomstick putter, has Greg Norman now revised his position as a result of his protégée's success? Norman has been scathing in his views on the putters (particularly since being beaten by Peter Senior on home turf a couple of tournaments in a row), but it would be interesting to know if he's changed his tune.
-- Neil Smyth
Harig: Norman, indeed, has in the past been outspoken about the long putter. Your reference to Peter Senior occurred more than 20 years ago, and Norman was clear he did not like long putters. But he has given his blessing to Adam Scott.
The Sydney Morning Herald caught up with Norman after Scott tied for second in the Masters. "When I spoke with Adam on the phone afterwards, I said to him, 'God bless you and the long putter. That's just what you need.' It is just the shot of confidence he needed, and I said to him, 'Just win, win, win with it,''' Norman said.
In "Ben Hogan: An American Life," (author James) Dodson recounts how Hogan laid up to perfect pitching distance on 18 with a 2-shot lead to ensure that he would not hit his approach past the hole. He got up and down and won the Masters ... now that's course management!
-- Jafer Patterson
Harig: The email is in response to an earlier mailbag item that wondered if anybody might ever lay up on the par-3 12th at Augusta in order to avoid the water and try to make a bogey that way. The answer here was that hitting a second shot as a layup is not an easy task, either. And a reference was made to the legend of Ben Hogan purposely missing the par-4 11th green to avoid the water.
Have a question? Send it to Bob Harig's mailbag at BobHESPN@gmail.com to see whether it gets used next week.
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