The Daily Mail took Harrington to task for skipping the BMW PGA at Wentworth last year but admitted it was tough to criticise a man who is a model professional

The Irish have strange relationships with their sporting heroes and Padraig Harrington is no exception to that rule.

"Well what did old squeaky clean have to say today?" is a question I've heard more than once over the years. For every person that regards Harrington as some kind of secular sporting saint there's a cynic who doesn't buy it.

Now that he's faced with a tough decision on whether or not to use a controversial Ping wedge at Riviera this week, the Irish public is waiting to pass sentence. If Harrington resists, he will be a hero to some and a fool to others. If he succumbs to the temptation, he will be called a knave by the purists.

Having dealt with the man for a decade I have absolutely no doubt that Harrington is nobody's fool and as aware as the craftiest PR man of what is the right thing to say and do.

That said, his integrity, is beyond reproach.

His detractors are few and far between and reside mainly in Spain as a result of spats with Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia. The falling out with Olazabal came about when Harrington effectively questioned the Basque's integrity during a Seve Trophy match at El Saler. Did Ollie repair a spike mark or a pitch mark? Harrington raised the question and alienated Chema and a young Garcia in the blink of an eye. His relationships with both have improved but the frost has been replaced by indifference. Harrington is not a man who backs down often in an argument.

His stance on "groovegate" is no surprise - the bodies picked an easy way out and made a mess of it - and he is genuinely torn over what to do. When he was blissfully unaware of Ping wedges last summer, he was resigned to the new groovecrules but confident that as one of the best short game exponents of all time, he would still have an edge over the field in the post box-groove era.

Now he finds himself in a position where one of his biggest rivals is using a club that gives him a massive, competitive advantage.

Asked about this year's major venues, Harrington said he was looking forward to all four because there was no player with a distinct competitive advantage over him on any of the courses in question.

Perhaps that view changed when he saw players putting Ping wedges in their bags in Hawaii last month.

His Irish fans have already started praying that he resists the temptation to use his newly acquired 60 degree Ping lob wedge at Riviera this week and upholds the spirit of the rules. As if Mickelson didn't give the PGA Tour enough food for thought last week. Harrington's suggestion that a gentleman's agreement not to use the clubs might save the day is a stroke of genius.

No doubt he has spoken to both Phil Mickelson and Tim Finchem at this stage. Having convinced the CEO of the European Tour, George O'Grady, not to increase the quota of events required for membership last year, he is evidently a persuasive man. He is also keenly aware of his responsibility to the game. Like Caesar before the Rubicon, he faces a massive decision that will have huge repercussions for the game. Turning back might seem unnatural to such a fearless warrior but in this case, it may prove a wise decision.