Steve Stricker is still tinkering with his clubs, this time it’s with an Odyssey Versa Jailbird 380 putter

A relationship between golfers and their putters is one of the most integral to sustained success. But when that relationship is on bad terms, making the switch to something new can be a difficult decision.

That’s the battle Steve Stricker is fighting as he tries to defend his Kaulig Companies Championship title this week at Firestone Country Club.

Putting, more so than any other facet of golf, is about personal feel and what fits an individual’s eye. A driver can be improved with technology and adjusted to fit a player’s swing, and once something comes along that performs better it’s easy to move on and put that new driver in the bag.

Steve Stricker putts on the seventh hole during the Kaulig Companies Championship Pro-Am at Firestone Country Club on Wednesday in Akron.
And while that can be the case with a putter — many players might benefit from a putter matched to their stroke — there is an added element of personal feel that just doesn’t exist to the same degree as a set of irons or a fairway wood. Sometimes, selecting a putter is as much about comfort as anything.

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Many players — Tiger Woods included — have used one putter (or one type of putter with small adjustments) for several years. While the other clubs in the bag rotate often, a putter can be a staple for much longer.

Stricker is one of golf’s best putters over the last several decades, often ranking near the top of the leaderboards at each stop on his career path. And for the past couple of decades, he’s mostly used the exact same putter, which has simply had elements of it renewed to extend its lifespan.

But, lately, Stricker’s trusty putter that had been a reliable sidekick for years — an Odyssey White Hot No. 2 blade — hasn’t been finding the same success.

Steve Stricker putts on the seventh hole during the Kaulig Companies Championship pro-am at Firestone Country Club, Wednesday, July 10, 2024, in Akron, Ohio. (Photo: Jeff Lange, Akron Beacon Journal)

That led to Stricker finally trying something new a few weeks ago — an Odyssey Versa Jailbird 380, which is a totally different style and head (the Jailbird is longer and has a mallet-style head, meaning it’s larger and has more weight). The results were mostly positive, though it’ll take time — even for a long-time pro — to get the feel down and be totally comfortable with it.

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This week, Stricker has been on the practice greens working with both. And it sounds like he’s switching back in the name of comfort and familiarity on the greens — maybe, probably.

“I think it’s going to be the old putter for now,” Stricker said at Firestone Country Club Wednesday. “There’s a lot of good things with that new putter I found. … But, yeah, it’s close. It’s a tossup, it really is. I don’t know if one of them are the answer, but I’m going to go with the old one, I think.”

Stricker has won two of the last three PGA Tour Champions events at Firestone (2021, 2023). He was a 12-time winner on the PGA Tour and he’s won 17 times on the Champions Tour. Through almost all of it, deciding which putter to use wasn’t one of the major decisions he had to make on a weekly basis.

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For the first time in a long time, that back-and-forth has now become a factor.

“We’re always looking for that little bit of an advantage out here and maybe a feeling that it’s better, and that’s why I’ve got with that new one I putted with a couple weeks ago,” he said. “I felt like my stroke was a little more solid, it flowed a little better, it’s a heavier putter. There were some good things I found from that, but there are also some things that I struggled with it, too.”

Clearing the mind can be advantageous. That, too, is what Stricker has been fighting. Considering he’s one of the favorites, Stricker struggling on the greens might be one of the factors that could open up the tournament.

“It’s trying to get a feel, and that’s kind of what I did with my old putter yesterday,” Stricker said. “My mind’s been racing, I’ve been feeling a little extra pressure trying to make a putt, and that’s not how you make putts. So I’ve been trying to ease my mind, slow down, get my tempo back.”

So the tournament favorite is going back to his long-time putter — for now, at least. It remains to be seen for how long.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek