LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Just two weeks remain before PGA Tour players have to adapt to a ban by golf’s rulemakers on long putters being anchored to the body and Tim Clark is among those who expect “some challenges along the way”.
South African Clark, one of the leading critics of the rule change along with former major winners Adam Scott, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson, has been using the anchored technique for 18 years and the same putter for more than a decade.
Clark was publicly vocal in his opposition to the proposal when it was first suggested in December 2012 but says he “will be just fine” with a revamped putting method when the 2015-16 PGA Tour resumes early next month.
“Nearly two decades of putting one way, I don’t think many guys out here that have putted with a short one for that long would like to switch to something else that they haven’t used,” the 40-year-old told Reuters.
“There’s going to be some challenges along the way but I feel what I’m going to do will be just fine, though you’re only going to really know when you start in competition.
“The major switch for me to the short putter is a lot of muscle memory and retraining of how you use a putter. I’m going to try and do something that’s not vastly different to what I’ve been doing in the past.”
Clark, who has landed two career victories on the PGA Tour, has not qualified for the opening event of 2016 — the winners-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions to be played at Kapalua on the Hawaiian island of Maui from Jan. 7-10.
The South African’s first opportunity to test out his new putting technique in competition will come the following week, at the Sony Open in Honolulu.
LACK OF EVIDENCE
Like Clark, 2012 U.S. Open champion Simpson was opposed to the rule change, repeatedly citing the lack of evidence in the PGA Tour’s ‘strokes gained over the field’ putting statistic to support the suggestion that anchoring gave players an advantage.
“To change something that drastic, it needs to be based off facts and not what certain people think the tradition of the game looks like,” said American Simpson who switched to the belly putter in 2004.
“Very few people ranked in the top 20 in strokes gained in recent years have been using either a belly putter or a long putter.”
However, Simpson, 30, a four-times winner on the PGA Tour, says he is prepared for the rule change.
“I’ve been working with a short putter for quite a while,” he said. “I expected the day to come and I wanted to be ready. I didn’t want to be shocked.”
Former world number one Tiger Woods, a 14-times major champion who ranks among the game’s greatest players, has always adopted a purist approach when it comes to putting.
“The art of putting is swinging the club and controlling nerves, and having it as a fixed point is something that’s not in the traditions of the game,” said Woods.
“We swing all other 13 clubs. The putter should be the same. It should be a swinging motion throughout the entire bag.
“One of the things I was concerned about was the kids getting started in the game who were starting to putt with an anchoring system. Everyone always copies what we do out here,” added Woods.
Most players believe users of the belly technique will find the adjustment easier to make next year than the ‘broomhandle’ brigade, and a few could end up following the example of Matt Kuchar.
American Kuchar uses a putting stroke which is not outlawed by the rulemakers’ proposal since his putter rests against his left arm and not against his chest, stomach or chin.
“It will be interesting to see what guys do — whether the guys that anchor go to a counter-balance style or something else,” Kuchar told Reuters.
“But we always seem to find a way. Most guys found a way out here on tour and they will figure out a way to putt well.”
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)