Harrington: If rollback doesn’t work ‘they can always change it back’

Ronan MacNamara
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Padraig Harrington (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Pádraig Harrington has defended the proposed golf ball roll back and feels golf’s governing bodies need to focus on the size of the driver head and the number of clubs allowed in the bag.

Rory McIlroy launched a passionate defence of rolling back the golf ball on X, formerly Twitter on Sunday morning and Harrington followed suit with a 1,000 word thread offering his opinions on various rule changes over the years.

Harrington defended the R&A and USGA stating that any decision they made was in the best interests of golf and he admitted that he was against the groove rule change but was for the ban on anchoring the putter.

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“I can’t think of a reason why our game’s governing bodies would not act in golf’s best interest.

“This is just one of many rules they change every few years. They don’t always get it right ‘penalty area’. But they act in the group’s best interest, if not always in the individual’s best interest. If it doesn’t work they can always change it back.”

On the groove change imposed in 2010, Harrington detailed how it hampered his game but since it was only himself and Phil Mickelson against the change at the time, it went ahead. The Dubliner said his bias got in the way of his decision making back then and the same thing is happening to players now over the roll back ruling.

“When in 2010 they changed the groove rule it was a serious disadvantage to my aggressive style of play but as there was only myself and @PhilMickelson against it, I rolled in with the common consensus that it was good for the game,” he explained.

“It was a battle I had no support or justification for, accept for my selfish bias. So why fight it if I’m only going to look bad and lose.

“When the anchored putter rule changed I laughed when players (all anchorers) tried to drum up support under the the guise of ‘who are these to tell us what to do’.

“They were so biased and feck them anyway for not supporting my dilemma in 2010 with the same statement (my biases showing up again).

“The governing bodies know they caved a little and watered down the rule which is why they’ve been stronger on rules since.”

The three-time major champion who led the Champions Tour with an average driving distance of 308.7 yards this year feels rolling back the golf ball will speed up the game and prevent older, shorter courses from becoming obsolete.

“Tour pro golf has a big lobby/voice but represents so few. Players don’t like changing what’s working for them (and by definition tour players are at the top of their game so it is working).

“A few might want to take the risk if they are comfortable in their position.

“I’m just not sure as to which player it’ll advantage.

“Will it give a bigger advantage to the long hitters who can’t always use their power now (a par four might take two strong hits going forward) or will it disproportionately help the slower guys if the new spin parameters don’t hurt them as much?

“The spin rate for me is a big change. Why hit it harder if it’s just going to spin more and end up going shorter?

“The big winner could be golf courses new and old.”

Harrington referenced the wait time on the second tee at Augusta National’s US Masters and feels rolling back the golf ball will reduce that and save time.

“You only have to look at the 20-minute wait on the second tee at the Masters which can never be made up in a busy field.

“And remember the quickest members are the old codgers who hit two woods up 20 yards short on every par four.”

The top players on the PGA Tour have resisted the idea of having two sets of rules for club players and elite amateurs/tour professionals. In his statement on Sunday morning, McIlroy said that the ordinary player can’t get access to the clubs he uses but Harrington disagreed.

“I personally don’t like bifurcation, I believe it’s great that we all play the same equipment,” the Dubliner said. “You definitely can buy any club or ball in my bag. I might get them a little bit earlier at times than you but you can get your clubs made exactly like mine without much difficulty.

“Most importantly enjoyment is based off your current expectations. If you expect to be 10 yards short of your playing partner and you hit it 10 past them you are happy no matter if it’s 300 or 200 yards. It’s always relative to your expectations.

“Now let’s change the driver head and the number of clubs in the bag. Remember the ball/driver and number of clubs have all been changed before and the game thrived.”

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