FORMER Scottish Open champion Tim Clark has claimed the European Tour performed a U-turn over its decision to support the proposal to ban anchoring from golf at the start of 2016.
According to the South African, the Wentworth-based organisation was set to join the PGA Tour in opposing the move by the R&A and USGA and he admits to being “shocked” and “troubled” by an apparent change of mind.
“The interesting thing is that, a week-and-a-half ago, we thought the European Tour would follow what the [PGA] Tour was going to do,” said Clark, one of the players set to be affected if the ban is implemented, in an interview with the Golf Channel.
“I guess, in a span of five or six days, they completely changed their position. So that was a shock. We thought these guys have a good handle on what is going on and they’re going to do the right thing. Obviously they changed their minds and we’re not sure why. Obviously that was a bit troubling.”
Contacted by The Scotsman, the European Tour declined to comment on Clark’s claim, saying its statement issued just over a fortnight ago pledging support for the proposal “covers everything from our point of view”.
Clark, who won the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond in 2005, has anchored a long putter to his chest since his college days and seemed to play a pivotal role in the PGA Tour coming out against the move by the game’s rulemakers.
When the matter was discussed at a players’ meeting during the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines earlier in the year, Clark flew to San Diego to attend it, even though he wasn’t playing in the event.
According to those in attendance, Clark delivered an elegant speech at that meeting and, having apparently helped shape the opinion of several players, the Tour subsequently said it was not in favour of the proposed change.
“What we have here is a different method of putting,” said Clark, who partly attributes his use of a long putter to a medical condition in his arms. “It’s not wrong. It’s not against the values of the game. It’s still a stroke.
“People who come out and say: ‘It’s not a stroke, you don’t get nervous,’ I can’t believe that. I’ve been using it for 15 years. I get nervous. I miss putts under pressure. Putting essentially will always come down to 99 per cent brain and mindset and confidence. If I felt I was cheating, I wouldn’t be using it.”
Both Clark, who won the Players Championship three years ago, and Adam Scott, who also took part in the Golf Channel interview, were asked if they would consider taking legal action if the ban goes through.
“There’s no way I want to be in a situation where I’m the only guy using something out there. So that would never be something I’d ever look to do,” insisted Clark, while Scott added: “I haven’t given it that much thought at all. Because you can’t make decisions on assumptions and foresight like that. I can only go with what is happening right now and we’re dealing with this the best way we feel we can.”
Scott, who came close to winning the Open Championship last year using a broomhandled putter, has claimed the proposed ban is being based on “zero evidence” and believes there is nothing wrong with “professional athletes who are competitive wanting to find better ways” to putt.
“We have a great game,” said the Australian. “We have great Tours and should be working together on this. I’m shocked that they [the R&A and USGA] went ahead and proposed the ban before getting Tim Finchem’s point of view. Why would they want to rock the boat like this? I just don’t think golf is at a point where it needs a shake-up.”
Following a 90-day consultation period, the two bodies are now “reviewing and evaluating” the responses from the game’s stakeholders and have vowed to “take time” before coming to final decision.
“We’ve got two bodies representing professional golfers that stand for something in the game and that should be looked at carefully,” added Scott.
“I sincerely hope that the R&A and the USGA just don’t go back in this review period with a closed mind and dust it off.
“We try and do all the right things because we are the image for the game of golf.
“So I think this process shouldn’t just be dismissed quickly. I think they should be getting together and putting their heads together. We’ve got a great game and we should be trying to preserve that and not having this be something that brings golf down.”