Putting Changes Abound at Mercedes

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KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Frustrated with his putting for the last year, Sergio Garcia made a change Saturday.
 
Garcia used the belly putter in the third round of the Mercedes Championships, and had some positive results.
 
Garcia needed 30 putts in shooting a 7-under-par 66, his lowest round of the week. He took 33 putts in the first round and 32 in the second.
 
It was like Heaven and Hell, Garcia said of the difference between his putting Saturday and before. Today I can leave the course saying that I didnt hit any bad putts, and I havent been able to say that for over a year.
 
Garcia had to take his regular putter out of play in the second round (in accordance to PGA Tour rules) when the shaft bent after he tossed it to his bag. He tried using an 8-iron and 3-wood for putting before settling on a wedge.
 
Garcia said he planned on using the belly putter at some point this week regardless of Fridays incident. He brought the putter, which belongs to his father, with him to the tournament. It is a TaylorMade and measures at 42 and a quarter inches.
 
I was actually nervous on the first couple of holes, said Garcia, who stands at 9-under par, 16 shots off the lead. I didnt know how it was going to go. Im actually glad I tried it.
 
This was the first time the 23-year-old Spaniard has played a competitive round with anything other than a conventional putter. He said he got a little help from Vijay Singh, who also uses the belly putter, on the practice green Friday.
 
Garcia said he plans to use the new putter in Sundays final round, but the future is in doubt.
 
If it works like it did today, Ill stick with it. In three months I may go back, he said. Its a confidence thing, it comes and goes.
 
A Long-Term Commitment
 
Kevin Sutherland put a new putter in his bag this week as well. For just the third time in his career hes using a long putter.
 
'I've been using it for six years, more as a practice aid,' said Sutherland, who added he was so disappointed in his putting at the end of last season he decided to forego the conventional putter.
 
Like most players, Sutherland has tried a variety of ways to improve his putting. He went to the claw-grip the week before he won last years Accenture Match Play Championship.
 
He used a long putter in the final round at Milwaukee about five years ago and in two rounds at the Bob Hope.
 
This time, though, he says hes going to stay with it: Im using it. This is my putter.
 
Rocco Mediate went the other way. He traded long for short.
 
Mediate, who was the first player in PGA Tour history to win a tournament with a long putter when he captured the 1991 Doral Ryder Open, is using a standard Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball putter this week.
 
Hes gotten better round-by-round. He had 34 putts in Round 1, 31 in Round 2 and 28 on Saturday.
 
Its coming around. Im feeling more and more comfortable with it, said Mediate, who has shot rounds of 72-69-65 for a 13-under-par total.
 
Like Sutherland, he said he's committed to the new selection.
 
I was a bit out of sorts because I hadnt used it in 11 years, Mediate said. I came naked here. I didnt bring it (the long putter).
 
Hawaii Over South Africa
 
Ernie Els loves playing the Plantation Course, and it shows in his domination of this weeks Mercedes Championships.
 
But making the trip to Maui meant he and countryman Retief Goosen had to skip their national Open. The South African Open is also being contested this week.
 
It is sad we couldnt play it this year. Unfortunately, last year the Open was after this event, Goosen said.
 
Goosen and Els are spending two weeks in Hawaii as both are competing in next weeks Sony Open in Honolulu.
 
Last year I did the trip back (to South Africa), 36 hours or so to get back from here. Youre a little bit tired when you get there, Goosen said. This year I decided to make my traveling a little bit easier, try and stay a bit longer at one time.
 
Related Links:
  • Full-field scores from the Mercedes Championships
  • Full coverage of the Mercedes Championships