Notes Belly Putter Debate Continues

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SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- Ernie Els thinks they should be banned. Tiger Woods believes they give players an unfair advantage.
 
Ask Vijay Singh, though, and there's nothing wrong with using a belly putter.
 
'It's not banned, it's legal,' Singh said Wednesday. 'I'm going to play with it right now. There's nothing more to say about that.'
 
There seems to be no neutral ground on the belly putter, except among those at the U.S. Golf Association, who seem to be in no hurry to rule on its use.
 
'We do not have any agenda item with respect to taking action with long putters or belly putters at this time,' said Fred Ridley, president of the USGA. 'It is something that we discuss.'
 
Ridley said he once used the belly putter, and said it did not eliminate the skill factor in putting by anchoring one end of the club to the player.
 
'The bottom line is you still have to get the ball in the hole regardless of its dimension, and it's not an easy task,' Ridley said.
 
AUGUSTA MEMBERSHIP
From the time he was elected USGA president, Fred Ridley has brushed off suggestions that his membership at male-only Augusta National conflicts his role as head of a golf organization that promotes golf for rich and poor, male or female.
 
Ridley said in February that he where he plays golf doesn't have any impact on his job as USGA president.
 
He was in no mood to elaborate Wednesday at the U.S. Open.
 
'I have talked quite a bit about that issue,' he said. 'I really don't think it would be useful today that we hash all that out. There's really nothing new to say.'
 
Still, that was more than what Walter Driver said.
 
Driver is vice president of the USGA and chairman of its championship committee. The question about their memberships at Augusta National was asked of both men.
 
When Ridley finished, the reporter looked at Driver.
 
All he did was shake his head.
 
Ridley also is a member at Pine Valley in New Jersey, perennially ranked as the best course in the United States. While Augusta National allows women to play, Pine Valley doesn't even let women on the property.
 
NOISY FINISH
Tiger Woods played the back nine at Shinnecock Hills early Wednesday for his final tuneup with hardly any distractions - until the 18th tee.
 
Woods stopped his swing on the way down when he heard the click of a camera. After glaring at a group of photographers, he hit his drive into the right rough.
 
He decided to hit another tee shot, but the same thing happened. Instead of regrouping, Woods cursed his breath and picked up his ball.
 
'That's the last shot you're getting,' he muttered as he walked toward the fairway.
 
ALL ENGLISH
Sergio Garcia was raised speaking Spanish, but his thought process is becoming increasingly English.
 
Garcia has a South African caddie who converses with him in English. He's primarily playing the PGA Tour, where everything is done in English.
 
Now he finds himself talking to his golf ball in English.
 
'I've sometimes gone to a putt and talked to myself in English, `Come on, let's hole this one,'' Garcia said. 'And probably after I hit the putt and hit the ball I'm like, `What was that?''
 
Garcia, born and raised in Spain, said he finds himself thinking mostly in English on the course.
 
'There's been a couple of funny times where I've stopped and thought, why am I talking English to myself,' Garcia said. 'But whatever gets the ball in the hole.'
 
WOMEN GET TO PLAY PEBBLE, TOO
Women finally are getting a chance to play championships at two of the most famous golf courses in the world.
 
Along with announcing that the U.S. Open will return to Pebble Beach in 2010, the USGA said Wednesday that Pebble Beach has asked to host a U.S. Women's Open for the first time.
 
The year has not been determined, but it will be after the '10 U.S. Open.
 
Last month, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club said the Women's British Open would be held at St. Andrews in 2007, the first time a women's championship has been contested at the home of golf.
 
'I think that's wonderful,' LPGA Tour commissioner Ty Votaw said. 'Those are two indications that women's golf is stepping and growing in the right direction, and that decision-makers in golf outside the LPGA are recognizing the value women's golf can bring to prestigious golf courses like St. Andrews and Pebble Beach.'
 
Pebble Beach held a U.S. Amateur the year before it had the 2000 U.S. Open, where Tiger Woods won by 15 shots with a record 12-under 272.
 
This time, it wanted the women.
 
'We had not had a Women's Open and felt it was the right thing to do,' said David Stivers, executive vice president of Pebble Beach Co. 'It's a great opportunity for women to showcase their games on such a great venue.'
 
Annika Sorenstam will be in her 40s and possibly retired by the time the Women's Open goes to Pebble Beach. Michelle Wie, if she's not playing the PGA Tour, will be in her early 20s.
 
Votaw got the news as he was preparing to speak at a dinner for players at an American Junior Golf Association event in Daytona Beach, Fla.
 
'These are players who in '07 and sometime after 2010 will be playing, and I'll mention these two developments tonight when I talk to them,' he said. 'They'll do something no other generation of women golfers have been able to do.'
 
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