by Jeff Skinner
I am sure somewhere on Tim Finchem’s desk there’s a big folder, maybe a red one, maybe marked Top-Secret and I bet it’s a thick one. It’s the one labeled “USGA Anchor Putter Rule.” Finchem has a heck of a To Do List lately and somewhere near the top probably ahead of “Vijay’s Deer Antler Spray” and behind “Increase Revenue Streams” lies the task “Anchored Stroke…What Now?”
This debate will only heat up and the players had a Players Advisory Council conference call at The Memorial this week but nothing is even close to being decided. At the last meeting in February the majority of players polled opposed the ban. But that was when it was a “proposed ban.” Now it’s the real thing and many players may have to rethink their position because they would be advocating that the PGA Tour plays under a different set of rules than the Rules of Golf. Many players are hesitant to carry things so far.
One thing that looks like a sure bet is that there will be a few more lawsuits. Tim Clark and eight players, including Adam Scott have enlisted attorneys to map out their possible strategies as the ban nears. Litigation looks like it’s the new buzzword in golf.
Clark is the only player with a legitimate, physical reason to oppose the ban. All the other possible litigants who wield long/belly putters are physically able to play with a standard putter. Clark has a condition that prevents him from rotating his forearms inward while they are close to their body.
This was the question that stumped me. If he can swing a regular club he should be able to swing a putter but according to him he can’t. John Garrity has a great profile of Clark and his dilemma on Golf.com. From the Garrity piece,” Silly little things are difficult for me,” Clark says. “Like carrying plates. I could not be a waiter.” To clarify his condition, he asks you to extend your arms with your palms facing. “Now turn your palms to the sky,” he says, confident that you’ll have no problem doing so. “If you think of holding a bowl of soup, that’s supinating” — Clark, known for his dry wit, misses the pun — “but I can only go to here.” He tilts his hands slightly outward to demonstrate the relative immobility of his forearms.
It will “jeopardize his career because he — unlike Adam Scott, Ernie Els or Keegan Bradley — can’t simply dust off an old putter and “go short.” “I can’t grip the club properly if it’s close to my body,” Clark says, “because I don’t have the means to tuck my elbows in.” (Full swings are no problem because on those shots he extends his arms, palms facing each other.)”
His is a very strange situation indeed. But with the ban coming it looks like he’ll sue but his only target won’t be the USGA. If the PGA Tour does what it should do and adheres to the Rules of Golf, then Clark’s biggest target is his own tour. The Tour voluntarily uses the USGA’s Rules of Golf and Clark will have to go after Finchem if they still play by the rules.
The USGA would only keep Clark from playing in one tournament, the U.S. Open and I am sure he’ll get his lawyers on that too but it is the PGA Tour and his fellow players that he’ll be fighting. I wonder how much support he’ll have then.