SAN MARTIN, Calif. – Ernie Els has long maintained that belly putters should be against the rules. Now he stands poised to win his first tournament with one.
'Right now I'm glad they haven't banned it,” said Els, who trails Frys.com leader Briny Baird by two shots going into Sunday’s final round at CoreValle. “If they ban it, that's also fine with me,' he said with a smile.
'As long as it's legal, I'll keep cheating like the rest of them.'
Els has given fellow Tour players grief for using long putters. Now he’s getting it back.
'Guys can have a laugh at me, that's fine,” he said after a third-round, 3-under 68. “I've done it to them. It is what it is. And until they ban it, you know, we can use it.'
Els said he decided to commit to the belly putter after missing the cut at the PGA Championship.
'I basically had to make up my mind with this belly putter,” he said. “I still felt a little – didn't know if I was going to use it in the long term. I decided now that I'm going to use it for the long term, I might as well get really comfortable with it.'
Paul Casey, who is tied with Els at 11 under, said he understands the rationale that led to Els' decision.
'I'm not a fan of the long putters, of being able to attach the golf club to another part of the body other than the hand,” said Casey, who was listening when Els discussed his putting woes. “But never say never. I tend to keep my mouth shut. I'm not a fan of it. Who knows?
'I've actually practiced with basically a longer version of my putter sticking in the belly and kind of like it. (But) for as long as I can, I'm going to resist.'
Casey, however, has made at least one equipment change after seeing another player have success with a club Casey didn’t have in his bag.
'I was playing with Tiger and we hit a very similar place in the fairway in Shanghai,” Casey recalled. “I had a ball sitting down just a little bit, so was his. He had a 5-wood and knocked it on the green in two and went on to make birdie. I tried to dig out. I didn't have the 5-wood. I had a 2-iron. Didn't quite pull it off, rolled down the bank, finished in the edge of the water. I think I made 6. Not having that club in the bag, the hybrid or 5-wood, whatever it is, I felt it cost me a shot, maybe two. So I sacked my 2-iron and put in a 5-wood.
'So yeah, I'm kind of with Ernie.'