McIlroy one off lead as Harrington goes belly-up at Quail Hollow
New long putter not to blame for opening 80 in North Carolina
Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney walk off the 16th green during the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina. Poor growing conditions have been blamed for the state of some of the putting surfaces. Photograph: Chris Keane/Reuters
World number two Rory McIlroy, who won at Quail Hollow in 2010 to claim his first PGA Tour title, made a strong surge late in the day at the Wells Fargo Championship.
He birdied six holes out of seven from the fifth on his way to a tie for second place on five-under par 67.
Meanwhile, ten months after wishing anchored putters would swiftly be banned, Pádraig Harrington used one in the opening round in North Carolina.
And despite shooting an eight-over-par 80 – his long game was more to blame – the three-time major winner said he would consider sticking with a belly putter until the proposed ban on anchored strokes comes into effect in 2016.
“The R&A and USGA support the rules of golf and (anchoring) is well within the rules,” Harrington told reporters at Quail Hollow.
“I think (anchoring) is bad for the game of golf. But 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 (square) grooves. It’s hurt me deeply having the box grooves banned. I knew it wasn’t good for my game, but it was for the good of the game.
“For the majority, I believe anchoring shouldn’t be there. It doesn’t look good. The commentators are talking about it. You (the media) are talking about it now. It’s a story, just like the grooves.
“As much as the grooves cost me dearly, I know nobody wants to talk about that now. Six months after they were gone, nobody talked about it. It will be the same with the putter. Once it’s banned, six months later everybody will move on.
“And there is no doubt there are individuals that it’s going to be tough on (Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Ernie Els and Adam Scott have won four of the past six majors between them using anchored putters).
“But it cost me a couple of shots a day, at least a shot a day, not having the box grooves because that’s my style of game. So it’s not like it hasn’t happened before.
“But for the game, I definitely think that I don’t agree with anchoring at all.”
Speaking after Els’ Open Championship win at Royal Lytham last year, Harrington said he was expecting a ban, adding: “I just hope that they don’t wait too long - I hope they don’t wait until I’m 50 years of age to change the rule.”
The R&A and USGA – the game’s governing bodies – subsequently proposed a ban only for Harrington, who is an R&A “Working for Golf” ambassador, to reveal on his website he would be using a belly putter yesterday.