Woods follows Els in criticizing long putters

Updated: June 4, 2004, 8:53 PM ET
SportsTicker

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Count Tiger Woods among those who think mid-length and long putters should be illegal.

Ernie Els ignited a minor firestorm two weeks ago in Germany when he said mid-length putters should be banned because they did not require a traditional stroke.

World No. 2 Vijay Singh is the most prominent player to use a non-traditional putter. He goes with the mid-length belly putter, so-called because the player rests the head of the club against his stomach.

Woods, after his second round at the Memorial on Friday, was asked whether the belly putter should be legal.

"I never thought they would be," he said. "I thought the art of putting is to try and figure out how to swing both arms together.

"The art of putting is to figure out how to get your synchronization done with both arms and hands at the same time."

By contrast, long putters use a pendulum stroke, and Woods thinks the only hard part of that is to get the speed right, something he suspects comes with practice.

In Germany two weeks ago, Els -- ranked third in the world -- offered a similar opinion.

"I think the belly putter should be banned," he said. "I think nerves and the skill of putting is part of the game -- take a tablet if you can't handle it. It's easier when you push it into your body. It's resting against something.

"I've never had one in my hands. I will not say 'never' (for the future), but it does not feel right to me. Is it a proper stroke? We could have an argument there. But you will more often make a better stroke with a long putter."

Three days later, Trevor Immelman won the tournament with a belly putter, and defended his right to use it.

"I was inspired by watching Vijay and started messing around with the belly putter," Immelman said. "I thought I would just give it a try and it felt great.

"I didn't have the yips. I just felt it was a technical thing for me. I felt like I needed to be able to release it better to become a more consistent putter."

Despite the protests of the likes of heavyweights like Woods and Els, long and mid-length putters are unlikely to be banned anytime soon. The USGA and the Royal and Ancient Club of St. Andrews, which oversee golf rules worldwide, are probably too timid to take such bold action.

ALSO SEE