Clark speaks softly, makes forceful points when discussing anchor ban

Tim Clark
Getty Images
Tim Clark impressed his peers with his well-reasoned opposition to the proposed anchor ban in a recent PGA Tour players meeting.
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 | 6:36 p.m.

SAN DIEGO -- Tim Clark would have been easy to miss among dozens of PGA Tour players who poured out of a hotel ballroom after a two-hour meeting on the proposed ban of the stroke used for long putters – except he was the only guy with a suitcase.

Clark didn't bring golf clubs to Torrey Pines, only an overnight bag. He didn't play in the tournament, but he paid his way to San Diego just so he could be at the mandatory player meeting, the one Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson did not attend. The special guest was USGA Executive Director Mike Davis, invited to explain the proposed rule on anchoring and to take any questions.

Clark wanted to be heard.

''I didn't realize until that night he wasn't in the field,'' Lucas Glover said. ''I thought it was very courageous of him to do what he did. He flew here. He spent his own money to get here and back for something he cares about. My opinion on it doesn't matter. He spoke his mind in a respectful way. He did not lash out. He asked honest questions and stated honest opinions. And I was proud of him. The way he handled himself was brilliant.''

No one has more to lose over this ban than Clark.

He has a genetic condition that keeps him from turning his forearms and wrists inward. Clark has anchored the long putter to his chest for about as long as anyone has seen him play. Despite the physical limitations – Clark has never ranked higher than 140th in driving distance – he has won The Players Championship, Australian Open, Scottish Open and twice the South African Open.

Based on several accounts of those in the room, Clark spoke with dignity and integrity.

''I think what he did to fly in for the meeting showed a lot,'' Keegan Bradley said. ''He's got something he wants to stand up for, and that's something I admire. He presented some nice points. When he talks, people listen.''

Exactly what Clark said remains private, another show of respect by his peers.

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem is headed back to San Diego this week to meet with the USGA before its annual meeting. Finchem said the tour's objective had always been to follow the lead of the USGA and R&A for rules. He also said there might be a place for two sets of rules in golf, though perhaps not in the case of anchored strokes.

Geoff Ogilvy felt the majority of players who don't use an anchored stroke are ambivalent about the proposed rule and that ''the passion is coming from 5 percent.''

He was impressed with Clark, especially with how prepared he was.

''He's been researching this the whole offseason,'' Ogilvy said. ''He basically put his position out there, and probably positions that Mike hadn't thought about or didn't acknowledge as importantly as Tim saw them.

''What Tim did achieve ... whether he had any effect on the USGA position, a big portion of the ambivalent people were on Tim's side when they walked out of the room.''



South Africa PGA golfer Tim Clark and Mike Davis of the USGA are as opposite as is their stated position on the proposed Ban of anchoring the putter against the body. Clark who started playing golf at the age of three and was taught by his father and Davis who was introduced to the game of golf at eight years old by his father is where any similarity starts and ends.

Tim worked hard at his game despite his physical limitation when putting a golf ball and earned his PGA Tour Card though he has yet to win a Major Golf Championship. Mike has spent a great deal of his professional life setting up USGA Major Championship Golf Courses. Clark uses a golf putting stroke that has been around over thirty years and has never been challenged by the USGA as unfair or illegal. Davis sets up golf courses that have been called fair by many of the PGA players as a test of the best in golf.

Davis was promoted to the position of Director of the USGA after 21 years as a veteran of the USGA. Now both men met face-to-face on a proposed ban which will affect the entire golfing career of Tim Clark while Mike Davis jumped on the coattails of the R&A and supports the Ban that could end Clark’s chosen career. Though Mike Davis said the USGA wanted to hear from everyone on the Ban, many think his mind and decision on the Ban is written in stone or anchored in cement.

The manner in which the ban was concocted by the R&A, after allowing the use of that putting technique without saying a word for over a quarter of a century, is suspect and does not follow the scientific method that was used by “Golf’s Ruling Bodies” when the ban on square grooves on club faces was enacted.
Although there does not appear to be a valid justification for creating the “new Rule” against something that has endured over thirty years, the R&A has also not provided any scientific evidence to support their action. “Scientific Evidence” is what they used when the rule changes to clubface groove markings were based on extensive research into the effect of such markings on spin generation for balls hit from the rough. But in the case of the Anchored Putting technique, no such study was entered into, whereas the “Committee” then completely abandoned a standard procedure and were at loss of words as to explain why. In clear layman terms, this amounts to “Gross Misuse of Power’” by a few to the determent of thousands around the world who use the long putter and enjoy playing the game of golf.

Peter Dawson, of the R&A, even stated that the three Major Championship wins by Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els, had nothing to do with their decision. No, it was the growing popularity of that putting method, a “tremendous spike” in usage and a “growing advocacy” among teaching pros and tour players.” The entire time that Tim Clark used the anchored method of putting, he never won a Major Golf Championship and nothing was ever said by either the R&A and USGA. Three PGA Tour professionals finally win a Major using the technique and it is “Banned.”

I may be in minority but I oppose the “Ban” on the anchoring method of putting a golf ball and thinks that Mike Davis may be a perfect example of the “Peter Principle.” That is the theory that employees within an organization will advance to their highest level of competence and then be promoted to and remain at a level at which they are incompetent.