HONOLULU – Tim Clark hopes he has found the solution to the anchoring ban for longer putter, even if it makes it feel as though he is starting over.
"I feel like this is my rookie season because I don't know what to expect," Clark said Tuesday at the Sony Open.
Clark is using a putter from BioMech called "AccuLock" in which the shaft leans forward and allows the grip to rest against the forearm during the stroke. It's a large, square head with a hole the size of the golf ball in the middle, and the shaft is attached to the rear to give it a forward lean.
He said he has worked with it off and on for about six months and it still feels different.
"I could have gone with a shovel and it would have felt the same," he said. "I went with what felt the most comfortable. This method felt the best."
No player was more vocal against the ban on the anchored stroke than Clark, whose six victories worldwide include The Players Championship and the national opens in Australia, Scotland, Canada and South Africa.
For 19 years, dating to college at North Carolina State, he used a long putter that he anchored to his chest. Clark has a congenital problem with his arms in which he can't supinate his wrists, and the long putter was the perfect solution. Instead using it like a pendulum, Clark used a short putting stroke with the long putter.
Frustrated by the USGA's lack of empirical evidence that an anchored putting stroke created an advantage, he traveled to San Diego on his own for a players meeting and gave an elegant speech that helped shape of the opinion of several players. A month later, commissioner Tim Finchem said the PGA Tour opposed the rule.
The USGA and Royal & Ancient passed it anyway, and it went to effect at the start of this year.
Clark and Carl Pettersson have used long putters their entire careers, and argued they could never regain so many years of practice. But they have no choice, and Clark said this putter appears to be the best alternative for him.
Because of his arm problems, he cannot properly grip a short putter. The new putter allows him to use a "claw" grip with his right hand.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge. Who knows? Maybe it will be better," Clark said. "But that was 19 years with the long putter, and one putter that I used for 14 years. I wouldn't say I'm worried. It either works or it doesn't. But you can't wipe away 19 years of habits."