Sam Torrance was one of the first professionals in Europe to abandon a conventional putter for something that looks like a gimmick. They all laughed - until they looked at Torrance's results. He heads this season's Order of Merit, and today will take his earnings well past the pounds 400,000 mark in the Volvo German Open at the Nippenburg course.
At the age of 42, the Scotsman is playing a blinder. He has already won the Italian Open and the Murphy's Irish Open, and the German Open is also within his grasp. Yesterday he shot 66 in the third round, and he leads by one from the Australian Paul Moloney and by two from his arch-rival Colin Montgomerie.
The purist would argue that the controversial club should never have been given the all clear by the R and A. Torrance places the handle of the elongated putter beneath his chin, draws the club back with his right hand and lets the club swing. The theory is that if you're suffering over those dreaded three- and four-footers, the broomstick will take the worry out of the stroke. If you believe that, fine. The fact that the club is too long to fit in the bag doesn't seem to matter.
Gordon Brand Jnr has joined the coven and he appeared on the leaderboard here. The broomstick has swept up a lot of money on the European Tour this year: apart from Torrance, there's Mark James ( Moroccan Open), Philip Walton (Catalan Open and English Open), Wayne Riley (Scottish Open) and even Peter Teravainen, an American who remained anonymous until he won last week's Czech Open.
There is, of course, more at stake here than the mere matter of pounds 650,000 in prize money. This is the final lap in the race for Ryder Cup places and yesterday Ian Woosnam took up the baton. The little Welshman shot 66, and at nine under for the tournament he is within striking distance.
Woosnam began the week at 13th place in the Ryder Cup pecking order and he needs a top-five finish today to make the team on merit. The top 10 in the table qualify automatically, and the captain, Bernard Gallacher, chooses the remaining two. Nick Faldo will receive one wild card and Jose- Maria Olazabal will probably get the other.
Gallacher asked Faldo (17th in the Cup reckoning before this week), Olazabal (12th) and Woosnam to play in Stuttgart, and only the Welshman has responded. He says he is sick and tired of the Ryder Cup, but there is no doubt he would prefer to be playing against America in Rochester, New York, next month than watching on television. Gallacher wants him but has run out of wild cards.
Woosnam, runner-up to Curtis Strange in the US Open in Rochester in 1989, was Europe's most successful player at The Belfry two years ago with four and a half points out of five. This year he has left it late. He hasn't bothered to play in most tournaments and has done nothing in the ones he has played in. "My putting," he said after the second round here, "is killing me."
Woosnam was so confused on Friday he used a conventional putter and a broomstick. He played in the first two rounds with Torrance, who was able to give him a few tips on using the longer club. Yesterday Woosnam reverted to the short putter and had just 24 putts in his round compared to a norm of 30-plus.
"I've been bashing my head against a wall," he said, "and I just thought I'd go out there and relax and not put pressure on myself. The more little ones you knock in the more confident you get." Today he will discover whether he has left it too late.Reuse content