Like Keegan Bradley a week ago at Firestone, Webb Simpson said Wednesday at the PGA Championship he does not think the belly putter or its largely prerequisite anchored stroke should be banned.
“Do I think they should be banned? No, and here’s why,” Simpson said, leading into a pair of points.
“You take a wooden driver compared to a 460 cc titanium (the kind used today), and to me that’s a lot bigger difference than a 35-inch putt to a 45-inch putter.
“Last year, in strokes gained putting (the Tour’s leading putting statistic), nobody in the top 20 used a belly putter or a long putter. If anybody says it’s an advantage, I think you’ve got to look at the stats and the facts.”
Maybe so, but it would hard for Simpson to explain the intrinsic advantage in the anchored stroke perceived by a growing number of players. After The Open Championship, Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson said 29.7 percent of the field at Lytham used a belly or long putter. If there is no advantage, major winners like Bradley, Simpson and Ernie Els have their peers and the governing bodies fooled.
“I think 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,'” he said.
Just three of the current top 20 in strokes gained putting use belly or long putters. Then again, most weeks, they comprise 14-15 percent of the field, per Dawson’s post-Open post-mortem. Three of 20 is 15 percent.
Simpson is preparing for the worst, however, practicing with a standard-length putter in the four weeks he has been away from the Tour. He said the biggest adjustment is hitting putts with proper speed – a common refrain.
The U.S. Open champion will make it work.
“But I think all players through the years learn how to adapt to certain situations, whether it’s conditions of the weather or who you’re playing well, and so I’m just them in that category,” he said. “I’ll just have to learn, relearn, how to use a short putter.”
The long and short of it, however, is whatever putter Simpson uses is ultimately not that important to him. For one, he’s already got his major. Second, he became a dad again on July 28, as wife Dowd gave birth to daughter Willow.
“I thought the second one wouldn’t be that emotional, and I was crying like a baby,” Simpson said. “It just reminds you that golf is golf, it’s not my life. I think more than anything I’m showing up (to the PGA), I’m refreshed and not putting any pressure on myself.”