Belly putter benefits Immelman

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The Independent Online

Trevor Immelman yesterday provided the perfect advert for the belly putter, which his fellow South African Ernie Els wants to see banned, when he condemned Padraig Harrington to the 22nd runners-up finish of his career.

In a brilliant display on the greens the 24-year-old, playing only his second tournament with his new long putter, returned a best-of-the-day 65 to win the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open by one shot from the Irishman here at the St Leon-Rot club.

A thrilling duel between the two ended with Immelman holing a seven-foot putt on the last for a seventh birdie of the day and the defending champion Harrington missing from 10 feet and having to settle for a 66. "I'd rather have shot 72 and won," the Irishman said. "Next week or in six months' time nobody will remember I shot 66. It's going to be another second place."

It was not the perfect end for Harrington's five-year partnership with his caddie, Dave McNeilly, the Dubliner having decided to make a change because he felt they had gone "a little stale". Harrington looked anything but that as he made seven birdies, but he also had a bogey on his card and that proved the difference.

Joakim Haeggman, of Sweden, shared third place with Darren Clarke. With the third-round leader Gregory Havret collapsing to an 82, Els' closing 66 lifted him into a tie for fifth with England's David Howell and the Dane Soren Kjeldsen.

Immelman said he did not watch the leaderboards. "I was trying to make as many birdies as possible and when I asked my caddie coming off the 18th what the position was and he said we were tied it was all systems go to try to make another," he said.

He was indignant that Els had chosen the day he took the first-round lead to make his comments about wanting belly putters banned because he thought they gave players who use them an unfair advantage. After all Vijay Singh, Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood had all already won with belly putters."Yes I putted well, but I had 13 other good clubs in the bag, too," he said after finishing joint leading putter for the week with 106 putts.

The final round could only have been better had Immleman and Harrington been paired. Harrington levelled no fewer than five times, but when he went in front for the first time with a 14-footer at the 14th, Immelman replied in kind seconds later on the 15th.

Harrington looked set to lead again as he teed off at the 17th, but Immelman saved par with a 12-footer and when Harrington missed from 15 feet they remained locked together. It became a question of which one would birdie the last. Immelman did - with that putter.

The triumph lifted Immelman to third place from 20th on the European Order of Merit. Ironically, that list is led by Els, whose objection to long putters is that by anchoring them on the body a perfect stroke is easier. The world No 3 also thinks that more nerve is needed putting conventionally and the Royal and Ancient Club, golf's ruling body, are looking into the issue.

Harrington is ending a partnership with McNeilly that brought him nine titles around the globe in his rise to No 8 in the world. In the short term the Irishman is taking on Ronan Flood, an assistant bank manager who is the his sister-in-law's boyfriend. Flood carried Harrington's bag for a while before McNeilly became his regular caddie and will start working for him again at the US Memorial Tournament on Thursday week.

"Dave and I have been a very good team, but I just feel I need something new, something fresh, something different. We haven't really been working on the same wavelength for the past couple of months. Towards the end of the year I'll possibly look to try out some caddies, but most of the good ones in my eyes are working at the moment."

TOURNAMENT PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP OF EUROPE (Heidelberg, Ger) Leading final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 271 T Immelman (SA) 65 72 69 65. 272 P Harrington 70 68 68 66. 276 D Clarke 70 67 70 69; J Haeggman (Swe) 69 72 66 69. 277 D Howell 65 71 75 66; E Els (SA) 67 72 72 66; S Kjeldsen (Den) 70 70 71 66. 280 L Oosthuizen (SA) 69 68 71 72. 281 R Goosen (SA) 70 72 69 70; A Cejka (Ger) 69 64 76 72. 282 A Hansen (Den) 68 70 73 71. 283 N Price (Zim) 74 66 70 73. 284 R Green (Aus) 70 73 73 68; E Canonica (It) 68 76 72 68; D Carter 71 71 71 71; J-F Remesy (Fr) 71 68 73 72; S Hansen (Den) 70 71 70 73. 285 M Campbell (NZ) 73 68 78 66; D Lynn 72 72 75 66; K Eriksson (Swe) 69 69 74 73; S Scahill (NZ) 68 69 74 74; T Bjorn (Den) 71 68 72 74. 286 B Lane 67 77 73 69; A Marshall 73 70 73 70; J Sandelin (Swe) 69 70 76 71; P Price 68 77 70 71; G Havret (Fr) 65 71 68 82. 287 B Davis 73 72 74 68; N Sato (Japan) 72 70 75 70; J M Olazabal (Sp) 66 79 72 70; C Rodiles (Sp) 71 71 74 71; P Broadhurst 70 73 72 72; R Karlsson (Swe) 71 72 71 73. 288 C Hanell (Swe) 70 76 72 70; S Luna (Sp) 74 67 76 71; M A Jimenez (Sp) 67 77 73 71; A McLean 66 72 74 76; M Siem (Ger) 66 72 73 77.