[PHOTO: Andy Lyons]
You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a strange decision. It’s the FedEx Cup St Jude Championship, the first week of the playoffs. Play well now and there’s a big potential payoff later. The Ryder Cup isn’t in the too distant future, either. This may not be the busiest stretch of the season, but it’s one with some of the highest stakes.
So why has their been a flurry of high-profile putter changes this week?
World No.1 Scottie Scheffler and world No.2 Rory McIlroy are among the two most notable.
Scheffler spent a large portion of his putting session before his Tuesday practice round testing two TaylorMade Spider X putters against his Scottie Cameron Newport.
McIlroy, for his part, arrived at TPC Southwind on Tuesday without the TaylorMade Spider X putter he had been using, and instead with a Scottie Cameron Phantom X 5.5.
New flat stick for Rory this week 👀 pic.twitter.com/dB9OQpg4Fc
— LKD (@LukeKerrDineen) August 8, 2023
US Ryder Cup hopeful Sam Burns made a putter switch, too. Burns moved into an Odyssey Jailbird from his 7s head.
So, why the switching, and why now? There are a few reasons.
1. Looking for a last-minute spark
The first reason is the most obvious. Players don’t make a putter switch if they’re feeling great about their putting. Scheffler and McIlroy rank 140th and 86th in Strokes Gained: Putting this season, respectively.
With most of the season behind them, now is a chance for a last roll of the dice, to see if mixing things up can generate some momentum.
“I’ve seen guys put a new putter into play for the first time the day of the tournament, and putt lights-out,” one caddie said. “Sometimes it’s just about trying out a new look.”
Burns ranks sixth in Strokes Gained: Putting this season, and the new putter he’s put into play is for exactly that reason. A new look to mix things ups. McIlroy is after the same thing this week.
“I just wanted a different look, just wanted to freshen it up,” he said. “Honestly, it was zero testing process. It was going into the garage, see what I had and just pull a couple out and go have a few putts. That was it.”
2. They’ve been working on it in the background
The putter McIlroy decided to put into play this week was from a batch he had built before his first putter switch of the season during the northern spring.
That’s because often, players have been brewing on making a putter switch long before they actually do. They work on some putters in the background that they know they’ll probably put into play eventually.
As Scheffler explains: “The guys at TaylorMade have done a lot of work for me with the putter,” he says. “I’ve always liked the visual of that Spider putter, but I really just did not like the feel. I’ve always struggled with putters that have a lot of weight in the back side of it, and this one is a bit different than a lot of the Spiders that they’ve made. The weight is more in the front, so it has the feel of a blade putter that I like but it also has a lot of that visual on the top where it’s easier for me to line up.”
Scottie testing a new putter, too. pic.twitter.com/K0x2YNxJE0
— LKD (@LukeKerrDineen) August 8, 2023
While the exact moment Rory or Scottie decided to switch was slightly impulsive, it’s been something on their radar for a while.
3. There’s time to under the change
Best-case scenario? One of the new magic wands sparks some magic, and they use it to run through the FedEx Cup Playoffs then win the Ryder Cup in Rome. But of course, the Ryder Cup is still almost two months away, and the playoffs run over three weeks. In other words, if their new putters don’t work, there’s plenty of time to bench it and start again, with minimal consequences.
“I’ve got my Spider with me this week if that putter isn’t doing what I want it to do over the first couple days. I may go back,” McIlroy says. “I sort of treat it like a 12-round tournament. You’ve got 12 rounds to play.”