Horne makes change to belly putter and hits the front

He said it as if he was revealing a deep, dark secret, but Keith Horne was simply revealing what had catapulted him to a second round 63 at the Telkom PGA Championship.

“I wasn’t going to say anything, but I changed to the belly putter this week,” he said of his nine-birdie blitz that saw him move to 11-under at the halfway stage of the tournament and the clubhouse lead by one over James Kamte.

He had 25 putts in his second round which had no bogeys – in contrast to his first round where he made a double bogey on the opening hole and a bogey on 11.

“I had 27 putts in the first round,” he said, “and that was with a four-putt on the first hole, so the putting’s pretty good. That’s what’s done the trick really.”

He was initially coy to describe why he decided to make the change, but he opened out and went on to describe how he finds the putter head freezing on occasions as he stands over a putt.

“It’s not as if I’ve got the yips, or anything like that,” he said. “I just line it up, and then I’m saying ‘Move, move!’ – and then it moves, and often, I make the putt.

“But sometimes, the head comes back too fast and it’s not pretty,” he added.

And with the 40-year-old from Alberton with four Sunshine Tour victories to his credit playing his trade more frequently in Europe these days, he felt he had to do something which was making his life a bit difficult.

“I’m a pretty good putter, but I tend to be streaky,” he said. “I’ve been practicing for a month with the belly putter before I even used it in a round – and I started off with a four-putt, so that was not great,” he laughed.

In fact, he trialled it in the second round in Dubai on the European Tour: “I had already missed the cut by a lot,” he said, “and that was actually the first time I used it for a tournament round.”

But Horne, who has an honours degree in labour law, is nothing if not methodical about the way he does things. “It was always the plan to use it here,” he said. “I didn’t want to suddenly arrive and say I was putting terribly and take the belly putter.

“So I’ve been practicing very hard every day for a month before I dared bring it out, and the Telkom PGA Championship was the first tournament I had planned to start using it,” he added.

And even though he seemed to be hesitant to talk about the change and his reasons for it, he is not one to jump on the bandwagon when it comes to condemning the use of the longer putters.

“Just as it took some guys winning with the long ones, you can bet when someone wins something big with a short one again, everyone will be changing to short putters again,” he said.

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