Paddy Harrington uses belly putter

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Padraig Harrington believes that anchored putting strokes should be banned and is fully behind the pending proposal to outlaw the method.

But that didn't stop him from using a belly putter on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Harrington, 41, a three-time major champion, practiced with a belly putter recently and used it for the first time in competition at Quail Hollow Golf Club, where he shot a first-round 80.

"For the game, I definitely don't agree with anchoring at all,'' Harrington said.

Both the United States Golf Association and R&A issued a joint proposal in November to ban anchored strokes, which are commonly used with a belly putter or long putter. The ban, however, would not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2016.

A subsequent three-month comment period on the proposal ensued, with the arguments sometimes contentious.

The PGA Tour and PGA of America are opposed to the ban; the European Tour, LPGA Tour and various other golf organizations are in favor.

The USGA makes the rules for the United States and Mexico, while the R&A governs the rest of the world. They are expected to make a final announcement on the proposal in a matter of weeks.

"I think it's bad for the game of golf,'' Harrington said. "[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.''

Harrington has 21 worldwide victories, his last on the PGA Tour coming at the 2008 PGA Championship. He has two top-10s this year but missed the cut at the Masters.

He is also an ambassador for the R&A but said there was no awkwardness for him in using the putter.

"The R&A support the rules of golf, and it's well within the rules,'' said Harrington, who struggled with his putter Thursday, needing 32 putts. "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.''

Harrington said he went to it somewhat by accident.

"I've been working hard on my putting stroke for a good while. 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.''