Immelman round sparks putter row

Last updated at 13:25 20 May 2004

South Africa's Trevor Immelman cited his recent switch to a 'belly-putter' for a dramatic change in his game as he fired a seven-under-par 65 to hold an early one-stroke lead in the first round of the Tournament Players Championship of Europe on Thursday.

But his compatriot and world number three Ernie Els, trailing Immelman by two strokes, caused controversy at St Leon-Rot when he urged golf's rule-makers on both sides of the Atlantic to ban the belly-putter.

Els has had his share of putting problems recently but asked on Thursday if he might follow suit and make a similar move to Immelman he said: "I'm not interested in the belly-putter. It should be banned.

"I think nerves and skill in putting is part of the game and you should take a tablet if you can't handle it," said Els.

"It's become such an easier way to putt. You push the putter into your body and then you can make a perfect stroke.

"I've seen Vijay (Singh), who's a very good friend of mine, using it when we've practised together and it just doesn't seem right."

Official ruling

Els said he had spoken to Peter Dawson, chief executive of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, the ruling body in Europe, only this week about the issue.

"I've not given up hope the belly-putter will be banned," said Els. "The R and A and the USGA (United States Golf Association) are looking at it right now."

Els has tried a new approach with his ailing putting this week by looking at "striking the ball 100 percent instead of trying to hit the perfect putt all the time".

But Immelman was praised his own move to the belly-putter, a switch he made after watching world number two Singh.

"I came back to the British Masters and started messing around with the belly-putter after being inspired by Vijay at New Orleans, holing all those putts down the stretch" he said.

The 24-year-old Immelman is now looking to add to his game and move himself higher in the world rankings than the current 53rd place that he feels is lower than it should be.

"I've been able to sustain my good play tee-to-green and now roll in a few putts. The belly-putter is anchored to your stomach, the thing has to swing like a pendulum, so it has to release naturally."

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now