Shock as Harrington goes to belly putter

Padraig Harrington works with a conventional putter at Doral. This week he plans to use a belly putter in competition at Quail Hollow. Just over a year after insisting that he was against the belly putter and felt it was “only a matter of time before they are banned” Padraig Harrington has taken the shocking decision to join the anchored putter brigade in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow today.

The Dubliner, 41, has suffered on the greens over the past few seasons and bar his win in the Asian Tour’s 2010 Iskandar Johor Open, he has not won on either the European or the PGA Tour since capturing the most recent of his three majors in the 2008 US PGA at Oakland Hills.

An R&A ambassador, Harrington revealed the news on his blog, writing: “The main thing that I changed in the last week is my putter.  I was at home last week and I was messing around with a belly putter and it felt very good. 

“I decided to bring it with me this week and see how it would go in practice.  Having used it for the two days I am probably going to use it in the tournament; I putted nicely with it in the pro-am and so am happy to try it out.“ 

Having missed a hatful of putts in the final round of the 2012 Masters, Harrington was asked if he had considered moving to the belly putter and immediately ruled it out.

He said: “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 opposition to the proposed ban on anchoring the club to your body.

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 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…”

Harrington added:

“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.”

Harrington appears to be trying to extend his career by going to the belly putter. With the R&A and the USGA expected to announce their decision on the proposed ban in the coming weeks, his timing is unusual given his role as an ambassador for the R&A, who are the prime movers behind the bid to ban anchoring.

Harrington tees off at Quail Hollow at 7.50am local time (1250 Irish time) with Andrew Svoboda and Trevor Immelman.