Tiger Woods is searching for more than a new putter.
As the British Open begins Thursday, the world's once greatest golfer isn't just in a slump in both his professional and personal life. It's more like a bottomless bunker. The soon-to-be divorced Woods can't even find peace on the greens where life was always simple.
Woods no longer scares rivals. His predominant image used to be the celebratory fist pump; with that missing, all that's left is the spitting, thrown clubs and F-bombs.
Yet his followers know the old Woods can return oh-so-quickly on the Old Course. The three-time British Open winner adores St. Andrews, where golfers have struggled for five centuries.
"I'm just like every other player in this field," Woods said, "really looking forward to getting out there and playing the Open Championship."
Just like any other golfer. For once, Woods sounds sincere. He enters July without a victory this season for the first time in his career. He sports only a pair of fourth-place finishes in six events.
Like any golfer, Woods is looking for a reason. And after all that rehab talk therapy during a 20-week layoff earlier this year, Woods is forsaking his longtime Scotty Cameron putter. That's the same putter Woods used to win the Open at St. Andrews twice before, but also the same putter he used to miss 15 putts inside 10 feet at the AT&T National two weeks ago.
"It's one of those things where I've always struggled on slower greens," Woods said. "I've always putted well on faster greens. This [Nike Method] putter does come off faster with the new groove technology. It rolls the ball better and rolls it faster. So these greens, I've had to make very little adjustment in how hard I'm hitting it compared to if I had my older putter."
Blaming it all on a putter seems too simple. Woods hasn't won a major since his 2008 knee surgery. He's now 34, and the idea of winning five more majors to surpass all-time leader Jack Nicklaus' 18 seems more daunting than when Woods was surpassing different benchmarks at a young age.
The young lions on the PGA Tour -- like Anthony Kim, who grew up idolizing Woods -- are now capable of beating him. It won't get easier as Woods ages.
St. Andrews may be a sanctuary or just another purgatory. Either way, Woods may see his career's future path.
Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more at TheRickSniderReport.com and Twitter @Snide_Remarks or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.