Scotty Cameron once fixed Tiger Woods’ fabled putter in a parking garage
Tiger Woods was heating up.
Nine shots back of the lead heading into the weekend at the 1999 Buick Invitational, he was charging up the leaderboard on moving day at Torrey Pines, on his way to a 10-under 62 on the meaty South Course.
Watching the action on TV was master craftsman and Woods’ putter whisperer Scotty Cameron, who perked up when the 15-time major winner missed a makable putt. Woods wasn’t pleased, and his Scotty Cameron Newport Teryllium putter — the wand Woods had used to set or tie 27 records at the 1997 Masters — was about to pay the price as he slammed the head against his staff bag.
“We had tickets to go see the Harlem Globetrotters in downtown San Diego later that day,” Cameron explained on the latest episode of GOLF’s Fully Equipped podcast. “But when [Tiger] asks, I jump. Even today, when he asks, I jump.”
The word “jump” should be emphasized, because Cameron was about to take a major leap for one of his most important clients as he prepared to wind down for the day.
“[Tiger] missed the putt and hit the bottom of his bag with the putter,” Cameron recalled. “And I said, Oh, that’s going to affect [the putter]. I was having lunch with one of my people and told them: We’re going to get a call.”
Two hours later, Cameron was grinding on some putters when the phone rang.
“I knew it was [Tiger],” Cameron said. “All I said was, ‘How bad is it?’ He tells me [the putter] is messed up. I ask him where he’s at and get directions to his hotel where he’s staying under a name I can’t even say. He leaves the putter at the bell desk.”
At this point, Cameron had to explain to his wife what’s going on behind the scenes with Woods’ damaged putter — and she wasn’t having it.
“My wife’s mad, but I gotta go,” Cameron says. “I’m thinking maybe I can go downtown and stop by there. It was just an alignment issue; he’d bent the heck out of the neck.”
In preparation for “putter surgery,” Cameron loaded up his truck with a loft-and-lie gauge he drilled into his extended tailgate. He then bolted in the makeshift setup and secured it with bungee cord. Cameron tossed in a tool chest, flashlight for good measure (this will be important later) and hauled off to pick up his wife and 4-year-old daughter for the trek to San Diego. The Globetrotters would have to wait.
When he arrived downtown, Cameron pulled his truck into an underground parking garage and positioned it under the best light he could find, which isn’t saying much when you’re talking about a subterranean setting. From there, he and his daughter strolled into the hotel and picked up Woods’ famed putter.
“I have all the tools I thought I would need,” he says. “So I lay down the tailgate, take off the bungee cords and set up my loft and lie gauge. I have a crescent wrench and all my bending tools to get the neck straight. I know my wife’s hotter than heck in the truck.”
In a dimly lit garage with his daughter holding a flashlight by his side, Cameron spent the next 15 minutes in his truck bed getting arguably one of the most important putters in the history in playing shape for the final round.
Confident he’d performed successful surgery, Cameron walked the putter back to the bellhop and high-tailed it to the Globetrotters. His job was complete. Now it was up to Woods to see if the putter still worked.
“And damned if he doesn’t go out the next day and win the event,” Cameron said.
Woods tied Billy Ray Brown for the lead on the 71st hole and then capped off the final round with a knockout eagle on the par-5 18th to win by two at 22 under for the week. The triumph was the first of what would be eight victories for Woods at Torrey Pines.
To this day, Cameron knows in his heart that he’d do anything to put Woods in a position to succeed, something he did on that fateful evening in San Diego. He’s done it countless times throughout his illustrious career and is always waiting by his phone for the next time he has to “jump” for Woods.
“If he called right now, I’d take that phone call,” Cameron said. “I will always take that phone call out of the respect we have for each other.”
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