ST ANDREWS, Scotland: Tiger Woods is tossing aside something he has loved and trusted for years, his putter, for a newer model in hopes of winning the British Open on the challenging greens of St Andrews.
Woods, still seeking his first victory in the wake of a sex scandal that destroyed his iconic image and forced a five-month layoff from golf, revealed Tuesday he will make the switch to cope with slower greens at the Home of Golf.
“I’ve always experimented with other putters throughout the years, but I’ve never put one in play until now,” Woods said.
“I’ve always been tempted to change my putter on slower greens. I’ve always struggled when greens are really slow. I always feel more comfortable when the greens get quick.”
Woods has made sensational putts in addition to his trademark long tee shots to win by eight strokes at St Andrews in 2000 and by five strokes in 2005, but this week felt he needs the Nike putter’s advancements to have similar success.
“This putter does come off faster,” Woods said. “It rolls the ball better and rolls it faster so I’ve had to make very little adjustment in how hard I’m hitting it compared to if I had my older putter.”
The symbolism was great between Woods having admitted cheating on his wife Elin, whom he never mentioned, and dumping a putter he has used since 1999, one questioner noting, “It must be like kicking a member of the family out.”
World number one Woods said he expects a warm reception from spectators at St Andrews despite confessing to affairs with multiple mistresses and a reportedly impending divorce upon which he would not comment.
“Scottish golf fans have always been fantastic. They have been great to me over the years,” Woods said. “I wouldn’t see anything different than what they have been over the years.”
About half of the 30 questions Woods faced on Tuesday regarded his personal life rather than the golf skills of the three-time British Open champion, whose 14 majors titles are four shy of the all-time record 18 won by Jack Nicklaus.
“(The scandal) doesn’t impact it at all. I’m here to play a championship,” Woods said. This is the Open Championship at St Andrews. This is as good as it gets. It’s the Home of Golf. I’m just like every other player in this field.”
Woods played two days last week in Ireland, then went home to Florida to spend time with his daughter Sam, 3, and son Charlie, 1, whom he called “the most important things in my life.”
“I went home and had a great time with my kids,” Woods said. “That was an incredible experience, to hang out with my kids. Normally I don’t come over, play two days and then go back home, but the reason why I did is obviously for my kids, and we had a great time.”
A British newspaper report says the children will stay with Elin Woods as part of a 750 million-dollar divorce settlement.
Woods said he has fulfilled the promise made on his return last April at the Masters to interact more with the public and respect golf more by cursing less, but said he did not know if he ever could fully rebuild his reputation.
“I’m trying to become a better player and a better person,” Woods said. “That’s all that really matters. I have two beautiful kids and I’m trying to be the best dad I can possibly be and that’s the most important thing of all.”
Asked if a victory would open a road to redemption, Woods shrugged off the notion, saying, “I would like to win no matter what. It really would be nice.”
Woods said he is not working with a coach after having parted ways with Hank Haney in May but would not rule it out in the future.