Abracadabra! There’s nothing magical about long putters, says Ernie Els

Harry How

Ernie Els disputes purists’ perception that belly putters possess some sort of magical properties.

Don’t look for Ernie Els to be pulling any rabbits out of his golf hat any time soon, though the reigning British Open champ would prefer that the USGA and R&A make their proposed ban on anchored putting miraculously disappear.

Els, at Durban (South Africa) Country Club for this week’s Volvo Golf Champions, believes anti-anchorers have bestowed other-worldly abilities on long putters like the one he used on his way to winning at Royal Lytham last year. In the real world, however, a belly bat's like any other trick up a golfer’s sleeve -- you have to work at it to create the illusion that it holds mystical properties.

“For a lot of guys [in the past], they thought it was a magic wand -- you put your hands on it and you're going to make putts,” Els, who was against long putters until he was for them, told SuperSport on Wednesday. “But it's taken me a long time to get used to it.”

The winner of four majors, Els bagged a belly putter in 2011 after suffering some disappointing letdowns on the greens. But it wasn’t like he waved his Odyssey White Hot XG over his Hex Black Tour and -- voila! -- the golf ball amazingly found its way to the bottom of the cup (see: 2012 Transitions Championship and Zurich Classic).

In fact, had it not been for the mind-boggling Open meltdown by Adam Scott, a broomstick putter practitioner, Els might still be just another guy with a big stick trying to get up and down -- and perhaps the simmering cauldron of anchoring animosity would still be on the back burner.

"I was fortunate to win The Open Championship with the long putter. You know, making those putts on the final nine,” said Els. “I hit a lot of greens that week, but it's not a magic wand. You have to put work into it. You have to get used to it.”

Els said he’ll do what he must to play by the rules, but he -- like Keegan Bradley, Carl Pettersson, and a bevy of others in the belly brigade -- won’t be happy about it.

“I've seen guys use [a long putter] that go away from it, back to the short putter, so in all honesty, I'm not for it if they change it. But if so then so be it, I'm not the rules maker,” he said. “There are people that want to look after the game and the future of the game, and if they feel that they need to ban it, I'll go with it, but I'm definitely not for that. ... I'm not for it.”

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