Tim Clark contemplates a future without anchored putters

Tim Clark is battling the building anxiety in his bones as the much-debated anchoring ban on long putters goes into effect next January1.

Clark is one of the few professional golfers who use a putter longer than standard length (34-35 inches). For the past 17 years he has used a “broomstick” style putter similar to the one former World No.1 Adam Scott used in his 2013 Masters victory, and the two-time PGA winner is feeling the heat as his time on the greens with said putter is quickly short.

"I don't want to think about it until I have to think about it. But I'm thinking about it anyways," Clark said at Kapalua Resort in Maui, where he is among 34 players entered in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the PGA Tour's first event of the new year.

But soon it won’t matter that he has used his “broomstick” for 17 years, nor will it matter that Adam Scott has relied on his long putter – and achieved career defining success – over the past couple of seasons. It won’t even matter that the mid-length “belly” putter that Keegan Bradley, Fred Couples and a host of others heave with their stomachs on the greens will no longer be legal, as any putting style that requires the golf club be “anchored” to the body will be outlawed by the US Golf Association and R&A in 2016.

South African Clark admits the ruling affected his play when initially passed in May 2013, but he has worked hard to put all thoughts of a ban to the back of his head and even bust back strongly last year by winning the RBC Canadian Open to qualify for this week’s winner’s only event.

"It did affect my game at the start, but then I decided I just had to go out and play some golf and stop worrying about it," Clark said. "Go out and just be a better putter."

Clark is currently ranked at 62nd in the world and he intends to use his Odyssey White Hot Two-Ball putter throughout the 2015 season right up until he is forced to relinquish it and switch to another model which falls in line with the rules.

But how can you break the habit of a lifetime overnight? Clark has known about the ban for almost two years, but before that has been using a broomstick putter since 1997 when he was All-American at North Carolina State. The Odyssey club he uses today has been a feature of his bag for 11 years alone. It’s going to be a hard habit to kick, and that’s putting it mildly.

"I've just never been big on changing [equipment]," he said. "I recently put a hybrid in the bag, a Titleist hybrid, and I was using another hybrid for eight years before that, so once I get something … when you change stuff, you have to practice a lot. Right?"

Opposed to the ruling

Clark has made no secret of his disdain for banning long putters, but accepts it is out of his hands now. After coming 94th on the PGA Tour in its strokes gained putting statistic last season, Clark has vowed to take a trip to Scotty Cameron’s putting studio in San Diego, California, following the conclusion of next month’s Farmer’s Insurance Open so he can have some hand-on time with some equipment and have Cameron construct a few new models with which to experiment.

Asked by Golf Digest if he had been practising with a new putter and if he’d worked out any new styles of which to play, he said with a grin: "I've got some pretty good ideas, but I'm not going to tell you just in case they try to ban those."