2013 Wells Fargo Championship: Padraig Harrington joins the belly putter brigade -- despite aversion to anchoring

Michael Cohen

Padraig Harrington is not the first PGA Tour golfer to sound vociferous opposition to anchoring before doing a 180 and adding a long wand to his bag. After shooting an 80 at Quail Hollow, however, Paddy may pull that putter out of the rotation.

Padraig Harrington may want to consider renewing his long-time opposition to long putters, after his maiden voyage with an anchored stroke in competition left him dead flat last in Thursday’s opening round of the Wells Fargo Championship.

Harrington this week joined the ranks of Ernie Els and James Driscoll as PGA Tour golfers who were against anchoring until they shoved belly bats into their own guts. Nine bogeys, 32 putts, and an 8-over tally later, and the noted Irish golf club tinkerer may be toying with another solution to one that he said, not even 12 months ago, should be outlawed.

“I’ve tried other people’s but never had one fitted,” the three-time major champion told Brian Keogh after missing a bunch of putts in the closing round of the 2012 Masters tourney. “I am against them. I don’t like the idea of attaching something to myself. I just doesn’t sit well with me.”

Harrington was hardly alone in his disdain for a practice he later adopted. Els likened anchoring to double-dealing (though he said as long as it remained legal he would “keep cheating like the rest of them”) and Driscoll told us in 2011 he would use a belly putter in 2012 even though the maneuver “should be banned." Els, of course, went on to win last year’s British Open and Driscoll continues to strive for his first tour victory.

As for Harrington, he believed prior to Thursday’s outing (his worst round on the tour since he posted an 80 during the 2007 U.S. Open, Keogh noted) that golf’s governing boards should prohibit anchoring. As recently as March, the R&A’s first-ever “Working for Golf Ambassador” challenged the game’s regulators to do anything less than proscribe the way Els, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, and Adam Scott (winners of four of the last six majors) navigate their flat sticks.

“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,” Keogh quoted Harrington as saying prior to the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Harrington said that TV broadcasters had made the use of long putters “controversial” and that soon after the ban takes effect (the USGA and R&A are expected to announce their decision this spring), the brouhaha will go the way of the grooves debate -- into the dustbin of history.

So why did Harrington make the change? To remain competitive.

“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,” he said. “So all of a sudden it’s hard for a normal putter. Is he doing the right thing, should he be using the long putter?

While Keogh noted that it was more than his work on the "shaky" Quail Hollow greens (he found only two fairways and one green in regulation, according to Keogh) that put Harrington 13 strokes behind a quartet of early clubhouse leaders, one has to wonder if Harrington has second thoughts about his putting switch-er-oo.

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