The ultimate litmus test of Pádraig Harrington's putting is the "who would you rather" question.
Who would you rather hit a six foot putt to win a tournament? In Harrington's case, the answer is always himself. But after admitting that last week's putting performance in The Players was woeful, he might have chosen someone else had he been asked on Saturday night.
"What killed me for the week was my putting!:" he told his 43,000 Facebook followers. "My putting was terrible, particularly in the first three rounds..."
Of course, Harrington found the solution for the final day, when he shot 67 thanks mainly to Rory McIlroy-like ball-striking — "it was much better in the final round even though I didn't hole anything."
McIlroy's putting was also poor at TPC Sawgrass so the question is, who would you rather have standing over a six foot putt to save your life. Certainly not Harrington right now, despite his revelation that he sorted out his putting on Sunday.
You don't want "Sawgrass Rory" either, according to the PGA Tour....
Rory McIlroy’s strokes gained: putting at THE PLAYERS Championship, which ranked 60th in the field. … This is almost hard to believe. McIlroy lost more than 2 full shots to the field average on the greens for the week at TPC Sawgrass. Still, the World No. 1 tied for eighth four shots behind 12-under total it took to get in a playoff. In case you’re wondering, McIlroy ranked third in strokes gained: tee-to-green (2.515) and first in proximity to the hole at 28 feet, 1 inch.
In fact, Quail Hollow Rory is also hit and miss and while he holed putts from everywhere in 2010, when he shot a final round 62 to win his maiden title, he's also had his bad days there.
In 2013 - the year Harrington took out the belly putter for the first time and had a nightmare on horrific greens but blamed his chipping - McIlroy paid for his hubris when he said he wasn't a player who relied on his putting and promptly had one of those days on moving day, missing eight putts inside seven feet, and seven inside five feet (including two of less than three feet),
After holing little in Jacksonville last week, McIlroy has decided to putt more aggressively this week.
"I felt the ones that had a chance (at Sawgrass) weren’t quite rolling past the hole, they were just getting to the hole and sort of dying away. I was maybe just hitting putts a little too soft at times.
“I’ll try to get the speed a bit better and be a bit more aggressive on the greens and hopefully that will make a difference.”
He's also distanced himself, or at least rejected Patrick Reed's suggestion that he's part of a "cut-throat" generation of super competitors alongside the American, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day.
“I don’t know if I agree with Patrick that we’re all ‘cut throat’ and I would simply say that we’re all not afraid to go out there and win,” McIlroy said on the eve of the $7 million tournament.
“I would agree that the last few years we have all started playing a lot more aggressively than the guys in the past used to, and I feel like it’s a lot more drivers and the younger players today are being more aggressive in their approach to the game and it’s resulting in more birdies and so on.”
McIlroy said that fearlessness showed in Fowler’s playoff triumph in the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass on Sunday.
“You look at the way Rickie played those last few holes and he clearly showed he wasn’t afraid of hitting driver and hitting it straight at the pin,” McIlroy said.
“It was an amazing finish and a great win for Rickie, and I’m really pleased for him.
“But then I was looking at those last few holes they were playing and I was thinking to myself that when Rickie birdied 15 to go eight-under par, it was the same score that I was standing on the 16th tee.
Rory McIlroy signs autographs as he walks to the third tee during the pro-am for the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament at the Quail Hollow Club.
“So it just shows how bunched it all was last Sunday.” This week’s tournament is McIlroy’s third of five events in succession, a run that will also include next week’s European Tour PGA Championship and the following week’s Irish Open.
He said the return to Quail Hollow is always special, as he captured the first of what is now 10 PGA Tour titles here in 2010.
“It’s always been nice to come back to Quail Hollow as the course and the tournament will always be special to me,” he said.
“I’ve always played well here including in 2012 when I lost out to Rickie, so delighted to be back.”
Getting back to putting, the Strokes Gained Putting statistic provided by the PGA Tour tells you everything you need to know about how the Irish players have performed in the US so far this season.
Looking for someone to hole putts? Try Jimmy Walker, Henrik Stenson or Freddie Jacobson who pick up more than two shot a week on the greens compared to the field.
The Irish? Harrington (168th), Shane Lowry (163rd) and McIlroy (105th) are in negative numbers when it comes to Strokes Gained Putting. In fairness to McIlroy, these figures do not appear to include his putting in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play, which he won brilliantly.
As it turns out, Graeme McDowell is the man you need to hole a six foot putt. Despite a poor start to the year by his standards, he's 12th for Strokes Gained Putting but not playing in Charlotte this week.
Six footers? McDowell's the best of the Irish PGA Tour regulars, holing 75% from that distance compared to McIlroy's 69.57%, Harrington's 67.65% or Lowry's 63.16%.
In reality, the man you want from six feet is Tyrone Van Aswegen, a South African who "on June 19th, 2013, he became a U.S. citizen in a ceremony in San Diego, Calif., along with 750 other new Americans."
Never heard of him? Come back Shane, Rory and Pádraig. All is forgiven.