January 12, 2015 / 11:04 PM / 3 years ago

Looming putter ban a belly ache for some

Tim Clark of South Africa tees off on the fifth hole during the final round of the WGC-HSBC Champions golf tournament in Shanghai November 9, 2014. REUTERS/Aly Song

KAPALUA, Hawaii (Reuters) - Less than a year remains before PGA Tour players have to accept 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 has been using the anchored technique for 17 years, and the same putter for more than a decade, and he was vocal in his opposition to the proposal when it was first suggested in December 2012.

The PGA Tour also expressed initial disagreement with the move but later fell in line with the Royal & Ancient and United States Golf Association, acknowledging that the ban on anchored strokes would apply to its events from Jan. 1, 2016.

Several PGA Tour players who have been regularly using either belly or ‘broomhandle’ putters have already started experimenting with the shorter versions but Clark plans to stick with his long putter for most of this year.

“Maybe there’s a tournament where I‘m dead-last playing on Sunday and I might do something, but it’s not really a move I want to do this year,” Clark told Reuters while competing in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Resort.

“But at some point, I‘m going to have to do it because you don’t want to come out cold turkey next year and start using a new putting technique.”

Clark, who uses a long putter with the top of the shaft pressed against his chest and his hands spread well apart, has a good idea of how his technique will change for next year but he was not prepared to divulge details.

“I‘m not going to tell you just in case they try to ban those,” 39-year-old South African grinned.

DIFFICULT TO ADAPT

Clark said he would visit the Scotty Cameron putting studio in the San Diego area after the Feb. 5-8 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines to experiment with a revised technique but he knows it will not be easy to adapt.

“It is going to be tough, for sure,” said the two-time PGA Tour champion, who booked his place in the elite winners-only field of 34 at Kapalua by winning last year’s Canadian Open.

”Seventeen years of putting one way, I don’t think there’s too many of the 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.

“I‘m sure 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.”

Most players believe users of the belly technique will find the adjustment easier to make than the ‘broomhandle’ brigade, and a few could end up following the example of Matt Kuchar.

American Kuchar uses a putting stroke which will not be outlawed by the rulemakers’ proposal since his putter rests against his left arm and not against his chest, stomach or chin.

Asked by Reuters if he had been sought out by players for advice on his technique, Kuchar replied: ”I haven’t had that many guys ask me too much at this point but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more mid-year and late year.

”It will be interesting to see what guys do -- whether the guys that anchor go to a counter-balance style or something else.

“Whether it’s the Adam Scotts and Tim Clarks (broomhandle putters) or the Webb Simpsons and the guys who put the putter in the belly, there will be a lot of eyes focused to see how those guys transition.”

Editing by Frank Pingue

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