The time Tiger Woods used Mark O’Meara’s backup putter — and nearly won The Open

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.

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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.