Tim Clark speaks softly, carries a long putter

Last updated 14:29 31/01/2013

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Tim Clark would have been easy to miss among dozens of US PGA Tour players who poured out of a hotel ballroom after a two-hour meeting on the proposed ban of the stroke used for long putters - except he was the only guy with a suitcase.

Clark didn't bring golf clubs to Torrey Pines, only an overnight bag.

He didn't play in the tournament last week, but he paid his way to San Diego just so he could be at the mandatory player meeting, the one Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson did not attend.

The special guest was US Golf Association executive director Mike Davis, invited to explain the proposed rule on anchoring and to take any questions.

Clark wanted to be heard.

"I didn't realise until that night he wasn't in the field," golfer Lucas Glover said.

"I thought it was very courageous of him to do what he did. He flew here. He spent his own money to get here and back for something he cares about.

"My opinion on it doesn't matter. He spoke his mind in a respectful way. He did not lash out. He asked honest questions and stated honest opinions.

"And I was proud of him. The way he handled himself was brilliant."

No one has more to lose over this ban than Clark.

He has a genetic condition that keeps him from turning his forearms and wrists inward.

Clark has anchored the long putter to his chest for about as long as anyone has seen him play. Despite the physical limitations - Clark has never ranked higher than 140th in driving distance - he has won The Players Championship, Australian Open, Scottish Open and twice his home South African Open.

Based on several accounts of those in the room, Clark spoke with dignity and integrity.

"I think what he did to fly in for the meeting showed a lot," golfer Keegan Bradley said. "He's got something he wants to stand up for, and that's something I admire.

"He presented some nice points. When he talks, people listen."

Exactly what Clark said remains private, another show of respect by his peers.

Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is headed back to San Diego this week to meet with the USGA before its annual meeting. Finchem said the tour's objective had always been to follow the lead of the USGA and R&A for rules.

He also said there might be a place for two sets of rules in golf, though perhaps not in the case of anchored strokes.

Golfer Geoff Ogilvy felt the majority of players who don't use an anchored stroke are ambivalent about the proposed rule and that "the passion is coming from five per cent."

He was impressed with Clark, especially with how prepared he was.

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"He's been researching this the whole offseason," Ogilvy said. "He basically put his position out there, and probably positions that Mike hadn't thought about or didn't acknowledge as importantly as Tim saw them.

"What Tim did achieve ... whether he had any effect on the USGA position, a big portion of the ambivalent people were on Tim's side when they walked out of the room."

- AP

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