Euro Tour WGC-HSBC Champions, China. Wonderful Westwood shoots 61

Lee Westwood  (Getty Images)

Lee Westwood/ getty images

England’s Lee Westwood caught Louis Oosthuizen at the top of the leaderboard after his wonderful third round of  -11 under par, 61, at Mission Hills in China, at the WGC-HSBC Champions. Both players are now at -18 under par for the tournament as Louis had a more modest third round of -2 under par to record his -18 under par total. Amazingly Lee Westwood has played in 41 WGC events, more than any other player, but he still has yet to record a win. A fact that is not lost on the 39 year-old Lee, who has been runner three times, the Worlds fourth ranked player said;

“ It does surprise me I’ve played more than anyone else, I didn’t realize I was that old! I know I’ve played a lot but I’ve never won one. As the week’s gone on, and we’ve played it and walked it more, I started to sort of get a feel for the golf course more and sort of see the lower scores around it. I played very solidly, got off to a nice start, birdied the first three holes and kept ticking over, birdieing the odd hole and finished strongly. I hit it good, hit it in the fairway, hit it close, and made a couple of 20 footers which has been missing.” 

Louis had standing still day, which has brought everybody else back into contention. By contrast to his round Brandt Snedeker matched The European Tour’s lowest round with a -12 under par, 60 , Brandt also had a putt for a first-ever 59 on the final green. Louis, the former Open Champion managed only four birdies and two bogeys in his -2 under par 70,  he spoke of his frustration today;

” Early I didn’t play really well and then started to find a little bit of form on the back nine, but just didn’t make any putts. Knowing all the birdies that were out there, you look at the leaderboard, but I’m still in a good position for going into tomorrow. I still gave myself birdie opportunities, just normal ones and the ones I hit really close I just didn’t make. So the putter went cold on me today, but I still hit good putts which is very frustrating.”

The two-time WGC winner Phil Mickelson shot a -6 under par 66 to be in third place alone on -15 under par, his compatriot Bill Haas, Ernie Els and Ian  Poulter are a shot further back on -14 under. American Brandt Snedeker leapt 31 places on the leaderboard, to be at – 13 under par, after his record round. Tomorrow is going to be an exciting event, could someone shoot a 59 to win this event, I think the possibility certainly exists.


Belly Putter Ban Imminent ?

It is commonly understood an official from the R&A will make presentations to the golf playing professionals at this week’s HSBC WGC Champions event in Shenzhen and then at next week’s Barclays Singapore OpenMike Davis, the chief executive of the USGA, has already held such a seminar with PGA Tour players. It is likely that they will take a formal vote in March, to decide if, and when, the ban will come into force. It is possible that a ban could be in place for competition from the start of 2013, or they may wait until the end of the current rules cycle which runs through December 2015. Either way it looks fairly certain that  they are going to eradicate the belly putter altogether. The catalyst for this action seems to be the fact that three of the last five major winners have used belly-putters. Strangely enough there is no mention of the broom-stick putter in this decision-making process, but if the ruling is based on Anchoring, rather than the length of the putter, jamming a putter under your chin, or chest would also be eliminated.

Davis Love 111, the US Ryder Cup captain, attended the meeting with the USGA representative in Georgia, he expressed the view that whatever path the authorities took, they should proceed with haste.

” If they said today, we met with the Tour and we’re going to change putters; Keegan Bradley is going to get himself a conforming putter and he’s still going to be a really good putter. He’s just going to have to make a change, but you’d rather not talk about it for three years and have it be a distraction.”

Webb Simpson, the US Open champion is already practicing with a conventional putter, in readiness of a rule change, although he disagree’s with the argument for a ban;

” I’m friends with a lot of the R&A and the USGA guys and I know they are trying to do it for the betterment of the game. But I don’t think it’s a good decision. If you look at the stats, last year there was no one in the top 20 of the strokes gained category who anchored a putter. So you have to throw out the argument of  it’s an advantage right there. There’s a bunch of arguments going around but I haven’t heard a good one yet.”

Players like Matt Kuchar, who use a long putter but do not Anchor it will be free to continue using such equipment if the ban itself is centered on the anchoring point and not just the length of the putter. It will be extremely interesting to see how this event pans out, is it really going to make the game better, or fairer, I actually doubt it.