Amanda Balionis, CBS’s intrepid golf reporter, referred to Dustin Johnson’s TaylorMade Spider Limited Itsy Bitsy putter as “old faithful” during his post-round interview on Saturday. The moniker bestowed upon the mallet is somewhat amusing because Johnson has never been one to hitch his wagon to one putter for long, à la Tiger Woods or Jordan Spieth.
But of all the putters he’s used in the last five years, Spider Limited is the closest thing Johnson has to a trusty sidekick — and that’s saying something when you look at the bevy of putters he’s used over the course of his career. Spider helped Johnson ascend to the top spot in the World Golf Ranking in 2017 (a position he held for 15 months) and gain a new level of confidence on the greens. It made him nearly unbeatable when combined with his deadly driving and ball-striking.
It’s a rare combination Johnson has been chasing over the last few years as he’s searched for a putter that could replicate the success he had on the greens with Spider Limited. He’s tried traditional blades, blades with mallet-like properties, mini mallets and outside-the-box alignment lines, but success has been fleeting.
Coming off a stretch of three different putters in three tournaments, Johnson hit paydirt at the Travelers Championship with TaylorMade’s Truss TB1. The comedown came one month later when he shelved the putter in Memphis. But instead of seeking out the next magic bullet, Johnson opted to return to the Spider. It was a prudent decision.
Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to Johnson’s putter, but for at least one week, he’s rekindled the special relationship with his trusty wand. Saturday’s 65 was one for the books for Johnson, who picked up nearly five strokes on the field with the putter. After the round, Johnson’s brother (and caddie), Austin, told Balionis that he’s never letting DJ take the putter out of the bag after today. No kidding.
“I felt like I was in a lot of spots to get good reads on it,” said Johnson, who leads the field in Strokes Gained: Putting (6.705). “I was rolling it right down the line all day. I made a lot of putts.”
Austin knows the powers the putter wields. The mallet once belonged to him before big brother asked to borrow the mallet just minutes before teeing off at the 2016 BMW Championship. Johnson went to win the event with Austin’s black Spider — and the rest is history.
With a one-shot lead heading into the final round, the Johnson brothers will be hoping for a similar result on Sunday at TPC Harding Park. DJ will no doubt need another sterling showing from the most elusive club in his bag to make the dream a reality. Good thing he has “old faithful” by his side.