Safety in putting

Sunday, April 06, 2008
By David Westin
Staff Writer

The belly putter that nearly carried Sergio Garcia to victory in last summer's British Open is out of the Spaniard's bag now.

Sergio Garcia led the 2007 British Open through the first three rounds but ended up losing to Padraig Harrington in a playoff.

(Jackie Ricciardi/Staff)

In an unusual move, it had been keeping company with the conventional putter he's put back into play.

On the first day of the WGC-Match Play Championship on Feb. 20, Garcia took his 3-iron out of the bag so he could carry both the belly and the standard putter and not exceed the 14-club limit.

He stayed with the short putter all the way, beating John Senden 3 and 2.

"I just had a safety net just in case I didn't feel 100 percent with the short one," Garcia said. "But I still have a little work to do. I've still got to get a little better at it."

Garcia lost his second-round match to Boo Weekley, 3 and 1.

Putting problems are the main reason the 28-year-old Garcia is winless since the European Masters in late 2005. He has 16 career victories worldwide.

Garcia came close to ending that drought at the British Open at Carnoustie in July.

He led through the first three rounds, shooting 65-71-68, but ended up losing to Padraig Harrington in an aggregate four-hole playoff after a final-round 73.

"It's time he got his mind and body in the right place," said fellow Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez. "He's a great player. He will be fine."

"I'm just trying to get better," Garcia said. "That's pretty much it. That's what we try every year and hopefully play nicely and do everything well and win as many tournaments as I can. I want to hopefully contend in the majors again and see if we can steal at least one of them. That's one of the goals and that's what we're driving for."

To that end, Garcia is working on his putting, especially his short putts.

All with the short putter.

Garcia alternates between two caddies during the season, but he's not going to switch putters again, he said.

"One of my goals is to get comfortable with the short one," Garcia said. "I'm looking forward to getting better at it. I'm working on my short game quite a lot. If I get it going in the direction I want it, I'll have a good chance to win tournaments."

He has enlisted the help of former tour player and putting instructor Stan Utley, who has worked with Darren Clarke, Rocco Mediate, Jay Haas and Craig Stadler.

Utley, the author of the book The Art of Putting , started working with Garcia at the Match Play Championship.

It was Garcia's tee-to-green play, not his putting, that led to his second missed cut in the past three years in the 2007 Masters.

Garcia averaged 26 putts per round, but hit only 11 fairways and 14 greens over the first 36 holes. He shot 76-78 and missed the cut by two shots.

His putting numbers weren't bad overall on the PGA Tour in 2007 -- an average of 28.62.

Garcia was averaging 29.67 putts through his first 12 rounds this season as his work with Utley continues.