NORTON, Mass. — A new putter went in the bag for Tiger Woods on Friday, the second change he’s made this year and one that yielded immediate results.
But instead of the low score he was looking for, Woods salvaged a mediocre one that would have been far worse had he not gotten several putts to drop.
For the 13th time in 16 opening rounds on the PGA Tour, Woods failed to break par at TPC-Boston, where he shot 1-over-par 72 at the Dell Technologies Championship.
“I putted beautifully today, I really did,” said Woods, who gained more than 1.7 strokes on the field and was ranked among the top 15 players compared to being second-to-last at the Northern Trust last week. “I hit a lot of good putts, and just have to give myself more looks out of them. I didn’t hit the ball close enough today.”
Woods hit just nine of 18 greens and started ominously with his first tee shot — he started on No. 10 — pulled into a hazard, leading to a bogey. He was 3 over par through seven holes before making his first birdie at the par-3 17th.
And he twice saved bogeys with 6-foot putts or his round could have gotten out of hand.
For the day, Woods made just three birdies at a course where he’s finished outside of the top 11 only twice in nine appearances. He has a victory and two runner-up finishes at TPC-Boston.
But Woods will have a hard time contending if he doesn’t give himself more opportunities.
That wasn’t the issue last week at the Northern Trust, where Woods hit the ball beautifully but couldn’t buy a putt.
Not entirely by coincidence, Woods had a new putter this week, a TaylorMade prototype that looks like and feels like his old Scotty Cameron model — the one he started the year with and also the one he used to win 13 of his 14 major titles.
Woods switched away from the Cameron in June at the Quicken Loans National, going to a TaylorMade model that looked more like a mallet. The face has grooves that he liked, and the results were good: a tie for fourth at the Quicken Loans, a tie for sixth at The Open and — following a tie for 31st at the WGC-Bridgestone — a runner-up finish at the PGA Championship.
But during last week’s Northern Trust, where Woods tied for 40th, his putting stats were the fourth-worst of his career.
“We have been working on this putter since about the National time, the last couple of months, and trying to get a putter that looked exactly like my old putter,” he said. “But it has the grooves in it to roll the ball better. And we finally got one. And I liked it. I felt good with it.
“We had to adjust the loft on it just a touch the other day, and I found that my feels came back, the release is something that I’m very familiar with and it felt good.”
He is fortunate that nobody really pulled far away during the opening round, with the best scores at 67 after the early wave.
The Dell Technologies Championship is the second of four FedEx Cup playoff events. The field of 98 players will be cut to the top 70 and ties after Saturday’s round, with the top 70 in the FedEx Cup standings advancing to next week’s BMW Championship.
Woods, at 25th, is assured of making it to the tournament at Aronimink Golf Club. In order to qualify for the Tour Championship later next month, he will need to be among the top 30 after the BMW Championship.