Tim Clark of South Africa remains opposed to the ban on anchored putters, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, but said he will be ready for it when he tees it up for the first time in 2016 at the Sony Open in Hawaii a few weeks later.
The 40-year-old Clark (pictured), who has two PGA Tour victories including the 2010 Players Championship, might seem to qualify for a waiver because he cannot supinate his forearms and that makes it difficult for him to use a standard putter.
However, golf’s powers that be have not granted him one.
“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,” said Clark, who has used an anchored putter for 18 years.
“The major switch for me to the short putter is a lot of muscle memory and retraining of how you use a putter. I’m going to try and do something that’s not vastly different to what I’ve been doing in the past.”
Use of the anchored putter dates to 1924, when Leo Diegel bent over and pushed the butt of his putter into his belly, and the first patent for a belly putter was submitted by Richard Parmley and approved in 1965.
In 1966, Phil Rodgers won two tournaments on the PGA Tour using a 39.5-inch belly putter, using a technique suggested to him by Paul Runyan, who twice won the PGA Championship.
Orville Moody captured the 1989 U.S. Senior Open. becoming the first player to win a major on any tour using a belly putter, and there immediately was talk that the long wand might be outlawed.
After nearly two months of debate, the USGA and R&A announce that long putters would continue to be legal under the Rules of Golf.
In 1991, Rocco Mediate won the Doral Open, becoming the first player to win on the PGA Tour with a putter anchored to his sternum.
The debate continued in the ensuing years, with golf analyst David Feherty providing some comic relief when he said on the air: “You shouldn’t be able to use a belly putter unless you actually have a belly.”
Vijay Singh of Fiji even used a belly putter for several victories when he was No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings in 2004, but the pendulum began to swing when players started winning majors with long putters.
It started with Keegan Bradley at the 2011 PGA Championship, followed by Webb Simpson at the 2012 U.S. Open and Ernie Els of South Africa at the 2012 Open Championship.
When Adam Scott of Australia captured the 2013 Masters with a putter anchored to his sternum, the wheels for the ban already were in motion, with the USGA and R&A having announced on Nov. 28 a proposal to ban anchored putters beginning Jan. 1, 2016.
Commissioner Tim Finchem of the PGA Tour originally announced that U.S. circuit was against the ban, but eventually Finchem fell into line with the governing bodies.
So with Christmas out of the way, there are golfers all over the world trying to get used to new putters and putting styles, although some like Scott already switched and seemed to be doing just fine.
It will be interesting to see exactly what methods and putters will be chosen by holdouts such as Clark and Bernhard Langer of Germany, the best players on the Champions Tour, and how they fare.
It’s a new day for the ancient game, which can be traced back to 1332.