Big Play The belly putter helped Vijay Singh, who holed this 82footer at East Lake, turn the flat stick from a weakness into something he can stomach

November 11, 2002

The only weakness in Vijay Singh's game has been inconsistent
putting, but he has found a cure with the belly putter. At last
week's Tour Championship he tied for fourth in putts per round
(28.5) and drained an 82foot bomb for eagle on number 15 on
Saturday (above), which helped propel him to a three-stroke lead.
Said Singh after his third-round 65, "I don't think I'll ever go
back to anything else, because I feel so comfortable with what
I'm doing." Singh's secret? The belly putter promotes a
mechanically sound stroke by anchoring the putter to the body,
which produces a true pendulum motion. It's like cheating, and I
can't believe the USGA hasn't banned it.

SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT Considering that the golfers played lift,
clean and place all week at East Lake, a winning score of 12
under doesn't sound that dazzling, but I attended the first two
rounds, and the conditions were brutal--fast greens, tucked pins,
gnarly rough and strong wind. The wet conditions all but
eliminated the short knockers, as big hitters Singh, Charles
Howell, Davis Love, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods finished among
the top seven.

TOE HOLD Mickelson was second in putting at East Lake despite a
flaw I see in many amateurs' strokes: addressing the ball with
the putter's toe off the ground. This causes a golfer to aim
slightly to the left, which leads to pulled putts. Mickelson has
won 21 Tour events with that stroke, but his flawed aim may
explain his tendency to yank putts under pressure.

EASY MONEY I've got another name for the Tour Championship--the
Cream Puff Classic. It's like dessert for the top 30 money
winners, a working vacation where even last place is worth
$80,000. My heart was in Madison, Miss., where players were
fighting to secure their Tour cards for next year at the Southern
Farm Bureau Classic. Brad Elder, the son of one of my colleagues
back in Naples, Fla., needed to win in order to crack the top
125. He was in third place when the tournament was called due to
unplayable conditions, a real heartbreaker for Brad and his fans.

Suttie operates the Jim Suttie Golf Academy at The Club at
TwinEagles in Naples, Fla., and is one of Golf Magazine's Top 100
teachers.

TWO COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF ABC (TOP) COLOR PHOTO: PORTER BINKS 1 COLOR PHOTO: PORTER BINKS 2 COLOR PHOTO: PORTER BINKS 3

THE TIP

The belly putter produces a fundamentally sound stroke, but one
that is slightly different than the action used with a
conventional putter. The ball should be positioned directly under
the point where the butt of the club is anchored to the body,
which is usually the navel (1). Unlike the putting motion with a
standard flat stick, the takeaway with a belly putter begins with
the arms, not the shoulders (2). Because of the putter's added
length and weight, the stroke will be longer and slower than the
swing with a conventional putter. Acceleration through the ball
comes naturally--there is no need to create it. Finally, the
length of the follow-through with the belly putter (3) should
always equal the length of the takeaway.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)