Published October 22, 2012
SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda – U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson isn't worried about a potential rule change that would ban long putters, and he's already practicing with a conventional putter.
That doesn't mean he agrees with a change, saying Monday that larger drivers have affected golf far more than putters anchored to the body.
The U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club are discussing a possible change to the rules of golf that would keep players from anchoring the putter to their body, such as the belly or the chest for the broom-style putters.
Three of the last five major champions have anchored their putters — Simpson, British Open champion Ernie Els and PGA champion Keegan Bradley. Simpson and Bradley are at Port Royal for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, a 36-hole exhibition for the four major winners which starts Tuesday. Bradley is filling in for PGA champion Rory McIlroy.
"I'm friends with a lot of the R&A guys and the USGA guys. It's nothing personal and I know they are trying to do it for the betterment of the game," Simpson said. "But I don't think it's a good decision."
Simpson said the PGA Tour's new putting statistic, known as "strokes gained," shows no discernible advantage for players using long putters.
"If the USGA bans it, I think it's going to be a whole other ballgame if the PGA Tour bans it," Simpson said. "It's going to be tough if they do ban it. It's going to be tough for a lot of people. Not players, I think it's going to be tough for the committees to really have their stance on it. If you look at the facts, last year there was no one in the top 20 of strokes gained category that anchored a putter."
"So the argument of, 'It's an advantage', you have to throw that out there," he said. "There's a bunch of arguments going around but I haven't heard a good one yet."
Golfweek magazine reported USGA executive director Mike Davis met with the PGA Tour's policy board last week at Sea Island to let it know it's getting widespread support for a potential ban.
Davis has said he expects to announce a decision by the end of the year, though he has stressed the USGA and R&A have not decided anything yet.
Simpson switched to a belly putter in 2004 and said he felt the club made him more consistent, something he believed would ultimately give him a longer career.
"What I found was that I just became a more consistent putter," he said. "I don't get hot quite as much, I don't get cold quite as much. With the short putter I was a real streaky putter. The best players in the game, who have had long careers, have been steady players, which is why I switched.
"But I'm not worried about it. I'm ready, and if they do it for next year, I'll be ready."
If there is a rules change, it likely would not be made until 2016. The Rules of Golf only make permanent changes every four years.
Simpson is more concerned with the rulings on other equipment.
"We all know that the R&A and USGA love to keep golf as original as possible," he said. "But I think with the changes in the grooves, the golf balls, the drivers — you've got a little persimmon head 20 years ago the size of a fist, and now a titanium head 460 cc. In 1980, the long drive guy was hitting it 285, and now if you hit it 285, you're one of the shortest guys on the Tour. To me, it's a bigger change to go from that size head to what we play now than the putter."