Tony Finau made some significant changes to the putter — and they’re already working
FORT WORTH, Texas — The putter is a fickle monster. One week it’s your best friend; the next it’s bound for the trash can. Not even Tiger Woods, during the height of his career, was immune from having off-weeks on the greens.
The key for any golfer — professional or recreational — is to find a remedy that gets things back on track. Sometimes the fix is simply adjusting hand position or loft. Other times, it’s more arduous and includes making wholesale changes in an attempt to resuscitate the flatstick.
After finishing no better than T60 in his last three starts following a T5 at the Masters, Tony Finau went the latter route at Colonial, adjusting his grip and putter specs during a lengthy practice session on Monday evening with Piretti Golf’s Michael Johnson and Garsen Golf’s Bernie Garsen. The work paid off for Finau on Thursday, who grabbed the first round lead at the Charles Schwab Challenge.
Before this week, Johnson had never worked with Finau on his putting, but it didn’t take long for the two to start discussing stroke and setup on the practice green.
“I mentioned a few things and [Tony] kept asking questions,” Johnson said. “We were out there for three-and-a-half hours working on everything.”
Prior to Colonial, Finau ranked 100th in strokes gained: putting for the season on the PGA Tour. Dig a little deeper into the stats and one thing becomes apparent: He’s struggled mightily from inside 10 feet, ranking 200th on Tour from 4-8 feet and 197th from inside 10 feet — two putting ranges that are absolutely critical for success. Move out an additional five feet (10-15 foot range) and Finau suddenly improves to 43rd.
“Eight feet and in is where the money is at,” Johnson said. “Tony’s so good from long range because he has incredible feel. The session was more about looking at ways to improve things from that money range.”
One of the first changes Finau made was a switch to the claw grip from putts inside 25 feet.
“I practiced putting with the claw a lot just to put my left hand in a good position,” Finau said. “I’m left hand dominant when I roll the stick. I used to putt cross-handed for about five years; been putting conventionally now for a couple of years.
“But I just wanted to switch it up. I haven’t been putting great I feel like, and standing over the ball the most important thing is do you feel like you’re going to make the putt or not. Outside of everything else, do you believe you can make the putt?”
Along with switching up the grip on shorter putts, Finau made a drastic change to the overall weight of his putter, shedding a massive amount of beef from the grip alone. With his previous Piretti Matera Elite putter, Finau opted for a 150-gram Piretti Jumbo grip with a mammoth counterweight to offset the 375-gram head. But during testing, Finau started to notice he was gripping the putter too tight to control it with the extra weight, especially on short putts.
So he went to a significantly lighter, non-tapered Piretti-Garsen Quad Tour grip that came in at 55 grams, nearly 100 grams less than his previous putter grip. Finau had Johnson drop the overall head weight to 345 grams, giving the entire putter a more conventional feel. The putter was also shortened from 36 to 35 inches but the loft remained at 5 degrees.
“The claw and weight change helps keep the left wrist from breaking down,” Johnson said. “The lighter feel allows him to have more pace with the shorter putts and be a bit more aggressive.”
The changes seem to be working for Finau, who ranked sixth in strokes gained: putting on Thursday while converting 118 feet worth of putts at Colonial. For someone who’s so lethal from tee-to-green, a red-hot putter would make Finau extremely dangerous heading into the meat of the season.