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Els takes stance on belly putters

Last updated: 14th February 2013

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Ernie Els: Four-time major winner

Ernie Els: Four-time major winner

Ernie Els believes there is no logical reason why putters that are anchored against the belly or chest should be outlawed by the game's lawmakers.

In November last year, golf's governing bodies urged for the so-called 'belly putters' to be banned by 2016 since they require little "skill" and takes away the "challenge" of putting.

The golfing community was given three months to comment on the proposal by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and Royal and Ancient (R&A) - a period which ends at the end of February.

"Hopefully they don't ban it, because I really don't think ' there's any data that really confirms that they have to ban it," the 43-year-old Els - who has extensive experience with both kinds of putters - told members of the media at the Riviera Country Club on Wednesday.

"If there were 90 percent of the guys using it or if the guys using it were top of the putting ranks, guys making more putts from 20 feet, more putts from four feet...

"Give me something to go by to really make me believe that you have to ban it; then ban it. But I can't see them having a really great way of explaining to me why they would want to ban it."

The 43-year-old Els's statement this week is a dramatic about-turn from the four-time major champion, who famously criticized compatriot Trevor Immelman for using a belly putter. Els switched to a longer putter during the 2011 season however.

"As long as it's legal, I'll cheat like the rest of them," Els joked during the interview.

"I said it in jest but I have to stick with what I said back then. Then 10, 12 years later, I'm using it so I kind of contradicted myself a little bit if you want to take it like that.

"But I've putted great with the short putter. I wouldn't say that I'm putting exceptionally great now with the long putter, but I'm starting to feel comfortable. I've been on it now for a whole year and obviously won a major with it.

"It's helped me from short range a lot. But still, it's not like it's an automatic thing. You're not just going to stick it in your belly and make every putt you look at it. It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort to learn that way of putting."

Els had his part to play in the lawmakers' decision to consider banning the putters when he became the third player in a short span to win a major with the putter.

Keegan Bradley won the 2011 PGA Championship, Webb Simpson at the US Open in 2012 and then Els at last year's Open Championship.

When asked if he felt like he was partly responsible for the proposed ban, the "Big Easy' replied: "In all honesty, I'm not too sure what their whole reason is behind this whole thing because there's (only) a handful of guys using it.

"It's helped some careers. Some guys cannot putt another way so there's some stuff that you have to follow through.

"Because of those last two majors, going with Webb and going with myself, I think that had a huge influence in their decision."

"It's helped some careers. Some guys cannot putt another way so there's some stuff that you have to follow through.

"Because of those last two majors, going with Webb and going with myself, I think that had a huge influence in their decision."

The R&A and USGA's decision is based on the argument that golf clubs swing freely - as it has done throughout the history of the 600-year-old sport - and that no part of any club should be anchored against the body.



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