O’Sullivan putting it right

Denis O’Sullivan won’t suffer sleepless nights at the pending demise of the belly putter.

He just finished one of his most disappointing seasons on the European Seniors Tour largely because of a decision to switch from the traditional putter used during his halcyon days as one of the country’s finest amateurs to the soon-to-be-banned instrument.

However, his friends and admirers should not fear the popular Cork man’s career as one of the finest players on the seniors circuit is nearing an end. Far from it. Indeed, O’Sullivan is happy to report his game is close to where it needs to be after a switch back to the blade sparked a resurgence in form.

“Yes, I will certainly play the Seniors Tour in 2013 and hopefully beyond that, even though I turn 65 next March,” he said.

“I love being out there. Like many others it’s not just the money but the pleasure I get from the whole scene. I enjoy the travelling, I’m fit and well and above all my game is in great shape again.”

However, last September O’Sullivan readily admitted he was prepared to pack it all in. A naturally cheerful and optimistic character, his dalliance with the belly putter shook his confidence to an all-time low as he plummeted to 60th place on the order of merit with earnings of €17,037. It was not the place to be for a man who defied all predictions by becoming an instant success after turning professional at 50.

His winnings extend to more than €1.25m over the last 12 years, highlighted by a stellar 2000 when he finished third in the money list with €157,000 and won two of his seven professional titles. Few, if any, love their golf as much as O’Sullivan and when he realised his work on the greens wasn’t up to the standard he set for himself in previous seasons, he made the bold step to try something new.

“I opted for the belly putter and got myself into a lot of trouble,” he admitted. “I was okay on flat greens but where there were side putts and slopes and so on, I was in trouble. The result was four or five three-putts per round and my confidence was low.

“You know the expression about seeing the dog behind the hole, well I was seeing that dog behind every hole and it wasn’t nice. I was leaving everything short and even underwent hypnosis to try and get it right. That certainly helped and then I spent a month or so in Spain recently, went back to the regular putter and came home a different man.

“Now I’m really happy with my game. I’ve had a few rounds with Batt Murphy [the retired professional at Monkstown] and he says he’s rarely seen me hitting the ball better. His advice has even helped me to get a few extra yards off the tee. Although I have problems with my right knee and had the left knee scoped twice, I feel as fit as ever. My weight remains much the same and I’m already looking forward to next year.”

Not that O’Sullivan expects to make a small fortune once competition recommences in 2013. He accepts that unless you finish in the top 30 each week, you are not covering your costs on the Seniors Tour and with an ever-increasing number of regular Tour winners joining up, he may not automatically qualify on his career earnings for a whole lot longer.

“I drop down a place every time somebody like Philip Walton reaches seniors status because the money they won throughout their entire career is taken into consideration and they automatically jump ahead of me,” he explained.

“I have no problem with that because the Seniors Tour needs these players. But it’s not all about money. Most, if not all, of us are also doing it for pleasure because we love the golf and the competition and I look forward to giving it at least another 12 months.”

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