Peter Lawrie has joined the belly putter brigade in his first event of the season.
The Dubliner promised to make radical changes to his putting after a disapointing performance on the greens last term. And he was true to his word on his arrival in South Africa where he opened with rounds of 72 and 68 to share 56th place with the likes of Masters champion Charl Schwartzel in the weather-delayed Joburg Open.
“I told you I was going to take a drastic step this year,” Lawrie quipped after taking 31 putts with his new belly putter in a three under par 68 on Royal Johannesburg and Kensington’s West Course. “I’ve never used one before but I will give it a trial period.”
Lawrie is alarmed by the deterioration in his putting over the last few years despite qualifying regularly for the Dubai World Championship or season-ending Volvo Masters. He finished 152nd for putts per round last year (averaging 30.3 putts per round) compared to 119th in 2010 (30.1), 68th in 2009 (29.6) and 35th in 2008 (29.3).
As he told us before setting off last week: “Since I started on the tour in 2003 I’m now taking a stroke a round more on the greens. That’s four shots per tournament and that’s just massive.”
Lawrie used the belly putter from the start of the week and while he began with a three-putt at the first on the East Course in Thursday’s first round, he eventually tallied just 29 putts for his level par 72.
He had just one birdie and one bogey in that 72 but fired an eagle three, four birdies and three bogeys in a more adventurous 68 on Friday before thunderstorms forced played to be suspended for the day with many players still to finish.
While he took 31 putts - tallying an average of 30 per round for the first two days - the former Spanish Open winner was far more effective on the greens as he single putted five times and kept a three-putt off his card.
Just one of those single putts was for par (at the 175-yard 17th) while the other four yielded birdies at the seventh, 12th and 14th and that eagle three at the par-five 15th. His other birdie was a two-putt effort at the par-five ninth. His three bogeys all came from missed greens as he finished the day on three under par - - eight shots behind pace-setter Robert Rock.
While Rock added a 68 to his opening 65 to take a one-stroke clubhouse lead on 11 under par, Damien McGrane and Simon Thornton failed to finish due to the weather delay.
Joint overnight leader with Jamie Elson after his opening 63 on Thursday, McGrane opened with a bogey and two pars on the East to slip back to seven under and tied ninth when lightning forced play to be suspended.
Thornton, however, was in danger of missing the halfway cut for the second week in a row despite getting back to level par for the tournament with six holes to play.
After opening with a two over 73 on the West - the damage was caused by a quadruple bogey seven on the short fifth - Thornton fought back to card an eagle, two birdies and two bogeys in his first 12 holes.
Lawrie would end up missing the cut by a stroke. Damien McGrane 63-71 finished the second round tied for seventh on nine under, two strkes behind leaders Robert Rock, George Coetzee and Richard Finch.
Lawrie (-3) missed out by a shot while Simon Thornton (73-70) was four shots outside the mark on level par.