Padraig Harrington looks certain to get his wish and see long putters outlawed before he’s 50. The only problem is that he may have to wait another four years.
Less than 24 hours after Ernie Els used a belly putter to snatch the Open from broomhandle user Adam Scott, golf chiefs confessed that they continue to actively study ways to impose a ban.
R&A boss Peter Dawson said: “This may be the first time where we have had the winner and runner-up with long putters.
“Let me say, first of all, that the Open Chaampionship result is not does not have a direct bearing on the discussions about long and belly putters. They were going on well before what has happened yesterday.
“But the situation is that we do have this subject firmly back on the radar and that we need to clarify the position as soon as possible.
“I think you’re going to see us saying something about it one way or the other in a few months rather than years.”
Harrington insisted at Royal Lytham that the R&A should make the putter the shortest club in the bag.
But golf chiefs have ruled out that option - “What it doesn’t do is look at people with bad backs and difficulty in bending over” - and are instead planning to ban golfers from anchoring putters around a fixed point.
The bad news is that Harrington will almost certainly have to wait another four years - just eight months before a potential gold medal bid at the Rio Olympics - before the long putter is banished forever.
Changes to the Rules of Golf are made every four years and the next new rulebook will not be issued until January 2016.
Nearly 30 percent of the field used long putters at The Open and the numbers are increasing every year.
Open Championship chairman Jim McArthur said: “I think we had 27 long putters and 16 belly putters in a field of 156.”
The R&A insisted that a ban on the long putter would not take anything away from Els second Open victory.
Dawson said: “Absolutely not. The Championship is conducted under the rules of play at the time, and it doesn’t detract in any way from the winner as long as he obeys the rules of play at the time.
“Bobby Jones used concave-faced clubs for some of his major championships. They were outlawed later.
“Bobby Jones’ victories are in no way demeaned as a result of that, and I see that in exactly the same way.”
Harrington said: “The fact is if somebody invented the belly putter tomorrow, it would not pass.
“There’s no way they’d let it through.
“I just hope they don’t wait until I’m 50 years of age to change the rule because if the standard of putting goes up, it puts more pressure on the guys that aren’t using one just to compete.”
Dawson explained that the biggest complaint he hears from players is that it’s unfair that others have a crutch to lean on when they have failed as putters.
“The objections I find from those who object at professional level, at elite level, are that if people have become failed putters in the conventional way, why should they have a crutch to come back and compete against me when I haven’t failed in the conventional way,” he said.
“That’s the general argument one hears. But we’re also seeing now people who can putt perfectly well in the conventional way thinking that an anchored stroke gives them an advantage. I think that’s the fundamental change that we’ve witnessed in the last couple of years.”
Harrington said after his final round at the Open that there is no way the long putter would be approved today.
“The only reason it got through is the people that used it 20 years ago were coming to the end of their careers and people would have been sympathetic and didn’t want to finish Bernhard Langer’s career by telling him you can’t hold it like this, you can’t attach it to your arm.
“They didn’t want to say, oh, that’s it, you can’t play anymore, and that’s why it got by. If somebody came up with it tomorrow, there’s no way they’d let it through.”