THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
DORAL, Fla. — Tim Clark stated his case against the proposed ban on anchored strokes Wednesday night, saying he was frustrated by the lack of evidence from golf’s governing bodies that using a long putter provides an advantage.
Clark has used a long putter he anchors to his chest since he was in college. He became a key figure in the debate for his elegant speech at a PGA Tour meeting that helped shape the opinion of several players. A month later, commissioner Tim Finchem said the PGA Tour was not in favour of the proposed rule.
“What we have here is a different method of putting,” Clark said. “It’s not wrong. It’s not against the values of the game. It’s still a stroke. People who come out and say, ‘It’s not a stroke, you don’t get nervous,’ I can’t believe that. I’ve been using it for 15 years. I get nervous. I miss putts under pressure. Putting essentially will always come down to 99 per cent brain and mindset and confidence.
“If I felt I was cheating, I wouldn’t be using it.”
Clark has remained quiet on the debate since players met Jan. 22 at Torrey Pines with U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis.
The USGA and Royal & Ancient Golf Club proposed the ban on Nov. 28, and then provided a 90-day comment period because it was such a polarizing issue. Of the major golf organizations around the world, the PGA Tour and PGA of America are the only groups who have spoken out against the ban, which would not take effect until 2016.
The governing bodies felt an anchored stroke took too much skill out of the game. Its goal was to define the golf stroke as the club moving freely through the entire swing. They conceded in November there was no empirical data, only a recent spike in more players using long putters.
Clark, whose five wins worldwide includes The Players Championship in 2010, flew to Torrey Pines for the meeting even though he wasn’t in the tournament.
“We’ve taken it upon ourselves to find a better method and a better way to putt for us, and we’ve found that,” Clark said. “It shouldn’t be illegal. It’s just a different way to putt.
“How can anything be an advantage that everyone can use and everyone can try?”
He said his biggest complaint was that anchored putting has been around for some 40 years and the governing bodies didn’t say anything about them until three of the last five major champions won with a belly putter. He recalled Davis saying in April 2011 — four months before Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship with a belly putter — that the USGA did not see anchored putting “as something that is really detrimental to the game.”
Adam Scott, who began using a long putter two years ago and twice came close to winning majors, joined Clark for a meeting with a small group of reporters. He said the USGA and R&A have not considered the hours of practice that goes into using such a stroke.
“Now we’re making rules for the betterment of the game based on zero evidence? Incredible,” Scott said.
“What did they think when they allowed it?” the Australian added. “You’re dealing with professional athletes who are competitive, who want to find better ways. … What do they think when they’ve got super talented golfers putting in thousands of hours of practice with a long putter, short putter, sand wedge, whatever? It was just a matter of time. They’re going to get good.”
Clark was an All-American at North Carolina State using a conventional putter. He said he changed halfway through college because of a congenital problem with his arms in which he can’t supinate his wrists. He said it caused discomfort the way he had to hold the short putter close to his body, and with some trepidation, practiced for two months with a long putter before using it in competition.
The USGA and R&A are expected to decide in the spring whether to adopt the proposed rule against anchoring. While Finchem said he was opposed to the ban, he did not say whether the PGA Tour would go against the governing bodies.
Clark remains optimistic that the rule will not be adopted. Scott is hopeful the USGA and R&A are reviewing comments by Finchem and the PGA of America with an open mind.
“We’ve got two bodies representing professional golfers that stand for something in the game, and that should be looked at carefully,” Scott said. “I sincerely hope that the R&A and the USGA just don’t go back in this review period with a closed mind and dust it off. They’ve already made their mind up, and I think that’s foolish of them. I think I’d be taking it seriously.
“We try and do all the right things … because we are the image for the game of golf,” he said. “We are the ones who are seen on the TV, and we’re the ones at the U.S. Open and The Open Championship, as well. So I think this process shouldn’t just be dismissed quickly. I think they should be getting together and putting their heads together. We’ve got a great game, and we should be trying to preserve that and not having this be something that brings golf down.”