FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) – Tim Clark considers his future in golf uncertain now that the game's two governing bodies have outlawed the anchored putting stroke.
“Man, this is getting really serious now,'' Clark said Wednesday from the Colonial. “You kind of deal with it and suddenly it's made, and you're like `Wow.' It's tough.''
The next step is whether the PGA Tour will accept the decision made this week by the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club. The anchored ban, which had been expected, begins in 2016.
“Obviously, now I guess, our tactics have to change,'' Clark, the 2010 Players Championship winner, told The Associated Press. “We had that 90-day so-called comment period, which really at the end of the day we figured was kind of bogus any way. … We obviously during that period tried to reason with the USGA and the R&A and come to some sort of a favorable decision for ourselves. We're just trying to come to a fair and just decision that obviously has a great affect a lot on our careers and futures in the game.''
The PGA Tour and PGA of America contended before the decision that the stroke commonly used for long putters wasn't hurting the game and there was no statistical proof that it was an advantage. The ban would apply only to the anchored stroke, not the use of long putters.
Four of the last six major champions used the anchored putting stroke.
The PGA Tour acknowledged in a statement the USGA's adoption of the ban and said the tour would now begin the process of determining whether “various provisions'' of the rule would be implemented in competition and, if so, how. The tour said it would have discussions with the player advisory council and policy board members over the next month.
“I would want them to go against it, not necessarily because I use the belly putter,'' 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson said on SiriusXM radio. “I thought this whole time, if I didn't use the belly putter, how unfair I feel like it is. Because they've had a chance in the last 40 years to ban it, and all of a sudden a few guys – myself included – win a major. And I feel like it's a panic reaction.''
Simpson made it clear that he was “not in favor of going against the USGA and the R&A and what they represent. I'm in favor of them going against their opinion on banning the putter.''
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in February the USGA and R&A would be “making a mistake'' to adopt the rule, though he also has stressed in just about every interview that it was critical for golf to play under one set of rules like it has for 600 years.
Four-time major champion Ernie Els, who won last year's British Open with a belly putter, said from the BMW PGA Championship in England, that the PGA Tour should accept the decision by golf's ruling bodies.
“They are looking out for the best interests of the game in the long run,'' Els said. “The argument forever will be they could have done it 25 or 30 years ago, so why now? But it is what it is and we are where we are, and they have made a decision so I think we are going to have to play ball.''
Clark, the 37-year-old South African who has five wins worldwide, changed from a conventional putter halfway through college because of a congenital problem with his arms that caused discomfort holding the short putter close to his body.
“There's been a lot of sleepless nights,'' Clark said. “A year ago, my future in the game, I could see it. I planned to play until I physically no longer could play. Now it's a case of I've been told no, hang on, that might change. You're going to change the way you putt here in a few years' time and now my future is uncertain.''
Clark contends that his method of putting has been an option since the game was invented and that changing the rule now makes no sense.
For people who talk about anchored putting going against golf tradition, Clark counters, “Well, why aren't we playing hickory shafts and a feathery golf ball and having a goat carry our golf bag. I mean, the game has evolved, every generation of players has involved.''
Matt Kuchar, No. 13 in the world ranking and the highest-ranked player at the Colonial, said he will play by whatever rules are in place but agrees with the USGA decision.
“I think you should have to control both ends of the club,'' Kuchar said. “I know the rule has existed and guys have anchored a club for years and years now. But just because it's been around for a while doesn't mean it's right.''
Defending Colonial champion Zach Johnson, however, believes the ruling is “extremely unfortunate'' even though it won't affect him.
“I don't see the need for it, I don't understand the rationale,'' Johnson said. “I think in the long run it hurts the game. If it was going to done, I think it should have been done a long time ago. I think we're so far into it now that, it just doesn't need to be touched.''
Johnson said he doesn't have any idea what the PGA Tour policy board will do.
“My guess is they're going to take the stance and the posture that is best for the PGA Tour and is best for golf,'' he said. “I personally wish that the USGA would have done the same thing.''