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Wed Apr 16 12:10:55 SAST 2014

US Open champ Simpson prepares for ‘belly’ ban

Simon Evans, Reuters | 08 August, 2012 19:330 Comments
PGA Championship - Preview Day 3
Webb Simpson of the United States hits a shot on the 17th hole during a practice round of the 94th PGA Championship at the Ocean Course on August 8, 2012 in Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Image by: Sam Greenwood / Getty Images

US Open champion Webb Simpson, one of three players to win a major with the controversial long putter in the past year, has already begun practising with a short putter in anticipation of a possible rule change.

Keegan Bradley’s victory at last year’s PGA Championship heralded the start of a wave of players switching to long putters — of the ‘broomstick’ or ‘belly’ variety — with Simpson and then Ernie Els, at last month’s British Open, also enjoying major success with the same approach.

The United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal and Ancient (R&A), the game’s two governing bodies, are expected to discuss the status of ‘anchored putters’ in September with a ban among the options being considered.

Simpson, bidding for a second title at this week’s PGA Championship, says the mere possibility of a ban, even if it may take up to four years to come into effect, is cause enough for him to start preparing for life without the long putter.

“My theory is that I am going to be ready for it,” he told reporters at Kiawah Island on Wednesday. “I ordered two Scotty Camerons (short putters) a month ago and I have been working with them.

“I don’t want to be surprised by it. I’m almost kind of telling myself to expect it and we’ll see what happens.

“I think all players through the years learn how to adapt to certain situations, whether it’s conditions of the weather or who you are playing with, so I would put it in that category. I’ll just have to learn, relearn to use a short putter.”

Simpson, who says the long putter helps him maintain a consistent speed, opposes a ban and believes the benefits of the club have been exaggerated with most of the top-ranked players still using the shorter variety.

“If anybody says it’s an advantage, I think you have got to look at the stats and the facts,” he said. “To me, to change something that big and to cost manufacturers millions of dollars, you’ve got to have some pretty good facts.

“Just because some of us are winning majors or tournaments with the belly putter, I don’t think that’s a good reason to say, hey, we are going to take them away.”

Opinion varies over whether a ban would be appropriate with Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell among several players who would like to see the long putters outlawed.

“I welcome it. I think in the game of golf, putting is such a big part of the game that, let’s level the playing field again,” said the 2010 US Open champion.

“Let’s get everyone with a short putter back in the bag as the game is meant to be played.”

McDowell has discussed the issue with USGA chief executive Mike Davis who, he says, told him that the technique used with a long putter makes it easier in the crucial final stages of a tournament.

“It’s just kind of a physical fact that if you can just take one element of movement and motion out of the stroke that holing putts will become easier,” added McDowell.

But the Northern Irishman suspects that any change will be phased in gradually.

“I think reading between the lines from what the R&A and the USGA are saying, I would say the change is coming. How imminent that change is is obviously a different question,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s something that’s going to take immediate effect. The players have got to have a little time to adapt. The equipment manufacturers have got to have a little time to kind of adapt their things that they are doing.”

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