Why Rory McIlroy sent his caddie to a Memphis golf shop in the middle of an event
Chris Oden was just getting ready to help Memphis’ Edwin Watts Golf location close up shop for the night Friday evening when he was approached by a customer carrying two putters.
One was a TaylorMade Spider. The other: a Scotty Cameron Phantom.
“I need to get this putter cut down to the same length as this one,” the customer told Oden, a club fitting specialist at the shop about 10 minutes from TPC Southwind, site of this week’s FedEx St. Jude Championship.
“Those two putters are the same length,” Oden replied.
“No, this one (holding the Cameron) is longer than this one (holding the TaylorMade),” the customer said in a Northern Irish accent.
“You’re talking about an eighth of an inch, no one will notice that,” Oden told the man.
“Well, Rory does,” the man replied. It was then Oden recognized exactly who was in his shop: Rory McIlroy’s caddie, Harry Diamond.
McIlroy’s putter — or putter(s) — have been the subject of a number of headlines this week after the World No. 2 benched his gamer TaylorMade Spider for the second time this season. This time he subbed in a new Scotty Cameron Phantom 5.5 mallet.
“I just wanted a different look, just wanted to freshen it up,” McIlroy said Wednesday at TPC Southwind. “I’ve got my Spider with me this week if that putter isn’t doing what I want it to do over the first couple days, I may go back.”
Through two rounds, McIlroy’s putting was just below the middle of the pack in Memphis, losing just more than half shot to the field on the greens during the first two rounds. His ball striking carried him into a tie for 8th to begin Saturday.
But Friday night, he realized something was just slightly off with his new wand.
“It’s funny, I didn’t really notice it in practice, and then once I got into competitive play, I always put my right hand on my putter first to go in and out,” McIlroy said Saturday. “I just felt like where my right hand was at the top, it just felt a little too up. So I compared it to my Spider last night, it was like half an inch. It wasn’t like a huge difference.”
With the equipment trucks that follow Tour events usually departing on Wednesday to drive to the next site, McIlroy was on his own if he wanted to make an adjustment. That’s when he sent Diamond to Edwin Watts to get the two putters cut to the same length.
And it turns out, it wasn’t even a half inch the two putters were separated by.
“We put them on the board and measured them and the Scotty Cameron was slightly longer than the Spider,” said store manager Jim Hudson, who actually cut the putter. “We cut close to a quarter-inch off of it. Three-sixteenths. It wasn’t much.”
Oden said Hudson initially told him he was too busy with other clubs before the shop closed in about 30 minutes to cut the putter.
“You’re gonna wanna go ahead and do this one,” Oden told him.
Hudson took Diamond into the back room where the equipment to make the adjustments was and verified each move before he made it with McIlroy’s looper.
“It’s not every day you cut down a Tour player’s — much less Rory McIlroy’s putter in the middle of a playoff event,” Hudson told GOLF Saturday night. “Harry just kind of trusted the process there.”
It may not happen every day, but Hudson is no stranger to the attention to detail needed to work on a pro’s club. He worked on Scott Stallings’ clubs when he was working at Edwin Watts’ Knoxville location and he even bent a wedge for Patrick Cantlay earlier Friday.
Despite it being such a small difference, Hudson took care not to cut too much off, knowing he could not lengthen it again. He ended up making two cuts to get the length just right before installing a new grip and checking everything out with Diamond.
And just like that, after only paying $29.99 for a new SuperStroke grip, Diamond was out the door.
“In the moment, it was kind of just do what you’ve been doing for 19 years and after he left, reality kind of set in of whose putter you actually just worked on and what it could mean to him and his work,” Hudson said.
McIlroy talked to a Scotty Cameron rep Saturday morning who advised him to add a touch of weight to the putter to regain the swing weight it lost when it was shortened. It was done easily by changing the putter’s adjustable weights.
He was slightly better with the shorter flat stick Saturday, just barely finishing better than the field in SG: Putting with .007 in Round 3. His 68 put him T6, five shots back heading into Sunday and opened with a made eight-foot birdie putt.
Hudson was watching.
“To see him roll one in on No. 1,” he said, “gave me a little bit of confidence that it was going to work out pretty well.”