Clark consults legal counsel after anchoring ban
FORT WORTH, Texas – Disappointed as he was by Tuesday's news that the USGA and R&A would go forward with efforts to ban anchoring as of 2016, Tim Clark wasn’t all that surprised.
“If there really was a ‘comment period,’ we all know it was all smoke and mirrors," said Clark, standing on the putting green at Colonial Country Club, site of this week's Crowne Plaza Invitational. "Their minds were made up.”
Clark confirmed news that probably won’t come as a surprise to officials at the PGA Tour, U.S. Golf Association and R&A.
“We do have legal counsel,” he said. “We’re going to explore our options. We’re not going to just roll over and accept this.”
Given that the PGA Tour just two weeks ago was hit with a lawsuit by Vijay Singh over the deer-antler spray investigation, this hardly could be considered happy news by Tour officials or golf’s governing bodies. Yet Clark, who has used the anchored putting technique since college and for his 12 years on Tour, is passionate to his cause. While Clark wouldn't disclose which players are “on board” with the legal exploration, he referred Golfweek to his legal counsel, Harry Manion of Boston. Manion said he was representing nine PGA Tour players.
In addition to Clark and Carl Pettersson, whose names Manion confirmed Wednesday, there is Adam Scott. The Masters champion has used an anchoring technique with his broomstick putter since early 2011. Early Friday, Scott gave Manion the OK to go public with his name.
"We were asked to explain their legal options to them, and we have done that," Manion said. "We're confident that the PGA Tour will adhere to the position it took (in February when commissioner Tim Finchem stated that the PGA Tour did not think that "banning anchoring was in the best interest of golf or the PGA Tour")."
If not, Manion said, "I think what will happen next is that we will explore our options."
Manion is a founding partner of Cooley Manion Jones LLP, which employs 65 lawyers and is involved in "high-stakes litigation," he said.
An email inquiry seeking comment was sent to PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw.
From the time late last November when the USGA and R&A announced plans to ban anchoring, Clark kept his opinions private until he explored the topic and prepared his thoughts to present to his PGA Tour colleagues. He did so at the Farmers Insurance Open in late January, and players who were at the meeting that night said they were impressed with what Clark delivered.
This was during a time span advertised as a “comment period.”
“If you were on the outside looking and if anyone did take a serious look at the comment period and look at all the facts, you would think a different decision would have been made,” Clark said. “(But) we all knew what the decision was going to be, but a little part of me can’t help but think that somewhere at the USGA and R&A, someone with a voice of reason looking at it would have gone against the ban.”
So now? Clark said the first order of business is to find out which way the PGA Tour will go. In mid-February at the tail end of the "comment period," commissioner Tim Finchem announced that the Tour didn’t agree with the proposed ban on anchoring, that it didn’t think it was in the best interest of golf or the PGA Tour.
Within minutes of hearing the USGA and R&A confirmation that they would go through with the ban, the PGA Tour released a statement saying “we will announce our position regarding the application of Rule 14-1b to our competitions upon conclusion of our process, and we will have no further comment on the matter until that time.”
Said Clark: “The best thing would be to know exactly where (the PGA Tour) stands. Obviously, I don’t want them to rush to a decision because we would still like to have some input into that decision.
“I think they’re going to make a decision in a month or two. It wouldn’t be tomorrow, I would imagine, (but) I don’t think they’re going to hang on. Once they make (a decision), then we’ll see.”
Central to Clark’s argument, and the point he delivered to his colleagues back at Torrey Pines, is that “people have to realize, this is our livelihood.”
At 37, he has honed his skills through thousands of practice hours and always has had an eye on the future.
“A year ago, I thought I’d play well into my 40s," said Clark, a South African who won the 2010 Players Championship. "You plan on stuff like, Do you buy a house? Do you add an extension to your house? Then a year later they’re telling you, No, the way you’re making a living isn’t going to be around. It changes your whole future.”