Padraig Harrington, one of the most prolific tinkerers in the game, played with a belly putter for the first time in a competitive round at the Wells Fargo Championship. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the best day, shooting an opening 80, which included 32 putts.
While Harrington thinks the anchored stroke should be banned, he’s using the belly putter because he thinks it’s helping him stroke it better. Which is intriguing coming from the three-time major champion and R&A ambassador because it basically strengthens the argument for the USGA and R&A’s looming ban that is expected to be announced later this month.
“For the game, I definitely don’t agree with anchoring at all,” Harrington said, via ESPN.com (I don’t know how I missed this scrum, but so be it.) “I think it’s bad for the game of golf. [But] I’m going to use everything, if something’s going to help me for the next three and a half years, I’m going to use it.
“It’s the same as the box grooves [square grooves in irons that have been outlawed]. It’s hurt me deeply having the box grooves banned, but I knew it wasn’t for the good of my game; it was the good of their game.”
Last November, the USGA and R&A, golf’s governing bodies, issued a proposal to ban the anchored stroke used with a belly putter or long putter. It’s become a contentious matter in the past few months among those who are both for and against the new rule, which wouldn’t go into effect until January 1, 2016.
Following his round, Harrington was a bit elusive, but a group of reporters did manage to speak to him — at which point he spoke openly about why he believes the belly putter should be outlawed.
“The R&A support the rules of golf, and it’s well within the rules,” said Harrington. “If I hit it into the middle of the trees and I’m stuck behind it and I’m in trouble and I get free relief off the cart path, I’m going to take it. There is no doubt. [But] I don’t support the belly putter.”
I guess you could call his actions a bit hypocritical, but like Ernie Els famously said last year, “As long as it’s legal, I’ll cheat with the rest of them.”
Using the same logic, Harrington said he had no problem playing with the belly putter as long as it’s within the rules. Like many other belly-putter adopters have done in the past, Harrington came across it while practicing in a putting lab.
“I’ve been working hard on my putting stroke for a good while,” he said. “But the last month I’ve been, you know, the putting lab thing that measures your putting, so I’ve been working on that for a good while, and my putting stroke has been coming around. I was bored last Monday week, and I was like, ‘Oh, I wonder what that looks like,’ and I was surprised to see everything was better. In terms of the mechanics, it was a far better stroke.
“Obviously, feel it is an issue when you haven’t used it before, but it was great yesterday. It wasn’t very good today, but I will use it again tomorrow, no doubt. I just wasn’t quite as comfortable, which I kind of knew was coming. The grip of my normal putter is open and the grip of this is square, so I’m not quite used to it yet. There was a bit of resetting when I was over the ball, which, obviously, I prefer not to have. But that’s just familiarity, and it will be interesting to give it another go tomorrow.”
(AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin, File)