Less than a year after insisting that the anchored putting stroke was wrong and needed to be banned Padraig Harrington put his career before his ideals and used a belly putter in competition for the first time today.
The results didn’t quite go to plan as he had 32 putts in an opening, eight over par 80 in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow - his worst round on US soil since he shot 80 in the second round of the 2007 US Open on Oakmont’s feasome greens.
Harrington explained afterwards that he plans to stick with the belly putter and while he admitted that it’s bad for the game of golf - he was named as the R&A’s first Working for Golf Ambassador in July 2011- he believes it’s good for his game.
His decision to use the belly putter contrasts wildly with his comments at the Masters and The Open last year but such has been his struggle on the greens that he has put those concerns aside in search of the midas touch that brought him three major wins in a magical 13-month spell between 2007 and 2008.
Having missed a hatful of putts in the final round at Augusta 12 months ago, Harrington was asked if he had considered moving to the belly putter and immediately ruled it out.
“I’ve tried other people’s but never had one fitted. I am against them. I don’t like the idea of attaching something to myself. I just doesn’t sit well with me.”
The Dubliner delved even deeper into the controversial issue of anchoring and the PGA Tour and PGA of America’s opposition to the proposed ban on anchoring the club to your body, as mooted by the R&A and the USGA.
Speaking ahead of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral in March, he said: “If they [R&A and USGA] are stopped from changing this rule, they have no function going forward or their functionality is extremely hindered going forward. That’s how big a deal it is.
“My attitude towards it is that every time someone uses a long putter, it is controversial because the TV commentators are making a comment on it. Every time they see a long putter, there is a comment.
“Six months after it is banned, it will all be forgotten. It will be the exact same as the grooves. I was a big deal and now nobody talks about the grooves and yet it was to my advantage.”
Harrington was asked about long putters in general during The Open last year, where he finished 39th behind belly putter user and eventual champion Ernie Els at Royal Lytham.
“I suspect that they (the R&A) are going to ban them,” Harrington said. “That’s more or less the consensus - they’re going to have a two-year grace a bit like the grooves.
“I just hope that they don’t wait too long - I hope they don’t wait until I’m 50 years of age to change the rule…”
“Guys wouldn’t be using them if they didn’t putt better with them. If the standard of putting goes up, it puts more pressure on the guys that aren’t using one just to compete.
“So all of a sudden it’s hard for a normal putter,” he added. “Is he doing the right thing, should he be using the long putter?
“The fact is, if somebody invented the belly putter tomorrow, it would not pass. I think we could all agree with that. The only reason it got through is the people that used it 20 years ago were coming to the end of their careers,” he said.
“People were 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.”
Putting wasn’t the main cause of his opening 80 at Quail Hollow, where he shot 79 in the third round in 2007 and 80 in the final round in 2005.
He hit just two fairways and one green as he covered the front nine in 42 and while he steadied up on the back, hitting five of seven fairways and five of nine greens, he totalled 32 putts and had just one birdie, tapping in from three feet at the par-five 15th.
His tally of 32 putts included three missed putts inside four feet - for par at the first, for birdie at the eighth and for par again at the 13th.
Until he holed an 11 footer for par at the 18th, the longest putt he had holed all day was a five footer for par at the third.
His 80 left him last of the early starters and 13 strokes behind clubhouse leaders Ryan Moore, Nick Watney, Robert Garrigus and Derek Ernst, who posted five under 67s to lead by one from Boo Weekley and Phil Mickelson.