The time Tiger Woods used Mark O’Meara’s backup putter — and nearly won The Open
Nearly every golfer knows about the Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS prototype putter that Tiger Woods used to win 14 of his 15 major titles. But that’s not the only putter he’s used throughout his career.
As we highlighted in a recent story — “Every putter Tiger Woods has ever used in his career” — Woods once used Mark O’Meara’s backup Ping Anser 2 putter in the 1998 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. Funny enough, O’Meara won in a playoff against Brian Watts. But sitting just one shot out of that playoff was Woods, who was using O’Meara’s backup putter.
There’s a famous quote from O’Meara regarding the backup putter incident, but we wanted to get the full story from the man himself. Recently, at the 2020 Cologuard Classic, I caught up with O’Meara, who was more than happy to tell this classic tale about Woods.
During the time when Woods moved into Isleworth, just four houses down from O’Meara, the two were seemingly inseparable. They would play countless rounds together, including practice rounds during major weeks.
Before Woods found incredible success with his now famous Scotty Cameron around 1999, he apparently coveted O’Meara’s Ping Anser 2. He would ask to hit a putt with it on occasion, and O’Meara said Woods would make the putts about 90 percent of the time using it.
“You have to give me this putter,” Tiger once pleaded.
“No, this is my putter,” O’Meara said. “I need it. I don’t hit the ball like you, I have to putt well.”
“Then you have to leave this putter to me in your will,” Woods said.
O’Meara didn’t budge, obviously, but he did make a compromise.
“You know, I’m not going to let you putt with my putter because I putt with my putter. But if you want, you can putt with my backup putter,” he said.
So, for about three months in the summer of 1998, Woods took O’Meara up on his offer. That time period included the 1998 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, where O’Meara and Woods traveled together on Woods’ plane. On the way back, after O’Meara won the event and Woods finished one shot back, the ribbing began.
“We have to get the trophy out. It’s really cool, you gotta see it,” O’Meara said to Woods.
“I’m not touching that trophy,” Woods said.
Hours later, however, Woods finally caved. As Woods was holding onto the jug — one that he would later win three times (2000, 2005, 2006) — O’Meara offered two brotherly thoughts.
“No. 1, you see that trophy you’re holding? I truly believe that your name is going to be on it way more than one time,” O’Meara said. “But at least my name is on there before yours.”
“Well, what’s No. 2?” Woods asked.
“No. 2 is, you know that Ping Anser 2 putter that you’re putting with? My backup?” O’Meara said to Woods. “Why do you think it’s the backup? It always comes up one shot shy.”
As O’Meara explains, when the plane finally landed in Orlando and they unloaded their bags, Woods took the backup Ping Anser 2 putter out of his bag and put it back in O’Meara’s.
“M.O., I’m never putting with this putter ever again,” Woods said.
The teasing didn’t end there, though.
One day, O’Meara had Rickie Fowler over at his house in Houston, and he told Fowler that exact story. Curious about O’Meara’s original putter, Fowler asked to hit some putts with it on O’Meara’s backyard green.
“Yeah, this putter is really nice,” Fowler said. “It’s a little long for me, but it’s nice. It’s lighter.”
After taking a few strokes with it, Fowler leaned the putter against his leg and took a photo with his phone. O’Meara says that Fowler sent the photo to Woods.
“Tiger responded right away,” O’Meara said.
Woods’ text to Fowler read: “What the hell are you doing putting with my putter? That is not your putter, that is my putter. M.O. is going to leave that putter for me and don’t be putting with my putter.”
When I asked O’Meara if he had plans of ever giving his original Ping Anser 2 gamer to Woods, O’Meara replied with a “no” and a wry smile. Woods may have 15 majors and 82 PGA Tour wins, but he doesn’t have O’Meara’s Ping Anser 2 putter.