KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – If golf decides to ban long putters, U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson will be ready.
Simpson said Wednesday he ordered two Scotty Cameron putters that are conventional length and has been practicing with them at home in case the Royal & Ancient Golf Club and U.S. Golf Association decide later this year that anchoring a club to the body will not be allowed.
Neither organization has said which way they are leaning.
"I don't want to be surprised by it," Simpson said. "I'm almost kind of telling myself to expect it, and we'll see what happens."
Simpson has been using a belly putter for years, and when he won the U.S. Open at Olympic Club, he became one of three major champions to use such a belly putter in the last year. Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship last year, and Ernie Els won the British Open last month. Els rallied from a six-shot deficit on the last day to beat Adam Scott, who uses a long putter that he anchors near his sternum.
R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said the day after the British Open that long putters were "firmly back on the radar" of the governing bodies, and that a decision is expected in "months rather than years." Dawson said discussions were centered on the rules of golf, instead of an equipment decision. If a change fell under the rules, it could not be enacted until 2016. The rules are changed every four years.
"This decision has not been taken," Dawson said. "Please don't think that it has."
Simpson and Bradley are considered good putters who happen to use the belly putter. There have been questions over players who are not considered good putters — Els has struggled in recent years, as has Scott — gaining an advantage.
Former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell — who holed his share of clutch putts in 2010 at the Ryder Cup, U.S. Open and in beating Tiger Woods late in that year — said he has spoken to USGA executive director Mike Davis.
"They feel their research has shown that putting under pressure down the stretch on the back nine on Sunday, when you can anchor the putter to a part of your body, that just takes one extraneous movement out of the putting stroke. Putting under pressure with that type of putter is easier. ... But having said that, if it was so easy, everyone would be using one, you know? They have their advantages and disadvantages. It just so happens that a lot of very good players in the world now are using long putts.
"Let's level the playing field again," McDowell said. "Let's get everyone with a short putter back in the bag as the game is meant to be played."
Some players would argue that it took them years of practice with the long putter. Carl Pettersson, for example, has used a long putter his entire PGA Tour career.
Simpson suggested a long putter shouldn't be singled out.
"Do I think they should be banned? No, and here's why," he said. "You take a wooden driver compared with the 460cc's titanium, and to me that's a lot bigger difference than a 35-inch putter to a 45-inch putter."
He also said no one from among the top 20 in the PGA Tour's new "strokes gained" statistic used a long putter.
"To me, to change something that big and to cost manufacturers millions of dollars, you've got to have some pretty good facts," Simpson said. "Just because some of us are winning majors or winning tournaments with the belly putter, I don't think that's a good reason to say, 'Hey, we're going to take them away.' So that's my real take."
RED SOX NATION: As the defending PGA champion, Keegan Bradley was responsible for hosting a dinner for past champions on Tuesday night. He also had to provide the champions a gift, and the New England native stayed true to his roots.
He got each of the champions a Boston Red Sox cap and a 100-year anniversary baseball.
The gift package was topped off by a personalized Red Sox jersey, with the player's name on the back. They were assigned numbers corresponding with the year they won the PGA Championship — 91 for John Daly, 97 for Davis Love, 5 for Phil Mickelson.
Tiger Woods didn't get four jerseys. He got No. 7, the year of his most recent PGA Championship. Other multiple winners at the dinner were Vijay Singh (2004 was his most recent) and Dave Stockton, who last won the PGA in 1976.
ELS AND HIS CADDIE: Ernie Els has been using two caddies over the last couple of years — his regular looper, Ricci Roberts, and former NHL player Dan Quinn, who lives in south Florida and recently won a celebrity golf tournament in Nevada.
They split the earnings no matter who was on the bag, and they typically trade off majors.
But not this week.
Roberts, the South African who has been on the bag for all four of Els' majors, is working again this week at Kiawah Island.
"We all had a bit of a chat last week and we decided to bring Ricci back here for the PGA, and probably through the FedEx," Els said. "I think Dan is going to take over when I go to Asia and play Fry's and so forth. I think Ricci earned his spot here for the PGA this week."
KIAWAH MEMORY: Jose Maria Olazabal, now the European captain, is the only player at the PGA Championship who competed in the Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island in 1991. He and his late mentor, Seve Ballesteros, were 3-0-1 in their team matches.
Olazabal was asked for a memory of Ballesteros at Kiawah, and the story he shared spoke of how Ballesteros never gave up.
"We were hitting the ball all over the place," Olazabal said. "I remember the second hole, the par 5. He snap-hooked the tee shot way left into the water and I have to drop it on the ladies tee, that's how bad he hit the tee shot. I hit it onto the fairway."
The American team was in the fairway and just short of the green in two. Ballesteros hits Europe's fourth shot into the trees in the right, and Olazabal had to chip it back out to the fairway. There was water in front and behind the green, but the Americans were still hitting their third shot. It was hopeless.
"I look at Seve and I said, 'What the hell are we doing here? Let's pick up and go to the third hole,'" Olazabal said. "Seve said, 'Just hold on a second. If we chip and putt, we make 7. ... Well, if they miss the chip and hit it in the water and drop it and chip it onto the green and make two putts, what do they do?'"
Olazabal did the math and came up with 7.
Olazabal said Ballesteros told him, "So we still have a chance. Let's go."