Webb Simpson, defending champion of the Wyndham Championship that begins Thursday at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, has heard the chatter about golfs ruling bodies potentially outlawing the use of long and belly putters.
It is expected that as early as next month, golfs ruling bodies the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient will make a final determination as to whether players will be allowed to anchor clubs to their bodies. If the decision is made to ban the anchoring of clubs, its expected to take effect in 2016, giving players like Simpson, Carl Pettersson, Tim Clark and others time to wean themselves from the putters they now use.
My theory is Im going to be ready for it, Simpson said at the PGA Championship last week. I ordered two Scotty Camerons (putters) a month ago and Ive been working with them.
I dont want to be surprised by it. Im almost telling myself to expect it and well see what happens.
Keegan Bradley became the first player to win a major using a belly putter when he won the 2011 PGA Championship. Simpson became the second when he won the U.S. Open in June. Ernie Els used a belly putter to win the British Open last month against a field in which about 25 percent of players used anchored putters.
Theres an element of irony to Els victory given his public pronouncements that belly and long putters should be outlawed. Once he changed to the belly putter in April 2011, Els hasnt entirely changed his stance. He has been quoted saying As long as theyre legal, Ill keep cheating like the rest of them.
Its a subject has been debated vigorously in recent months as the popularity of anchored putters has increased. Last year, no player using an anchored putter ranked among the top 20 in strokes gained putting on the PGA Tour.
This year Pettersson ranks 11th in strokes gained putting and Bradley is 15th.
Proponents of anchoring putters argue that if its so good, everyone would do it. Most players, obviously, still use traditional length putters.
I dont see why they should change it. I dont like the way they say its easier to putt with a long putter, an anchored putter. It isnt easier, Pettersson said last week while finishing tied for third in the PGA Championship.
If it was easier everybody on tour would use a long putter or a belly putter. You have to practice and develop a stroke with the long putter just like you do with the short putter. Theres no guarantees of making it easier.
I think the long putter has been around for 30 years, and I think it would be a shame if they did ban the long putter. If youre going to ban the long putter, you might as well ban the hybrids, the big drivers, the ball that goes 300 miles. This is the way the game has gone, and it would be a shame."
Simpson falls in line with Pettersson, saying there have been bigger equipment changes in recent years that have had a more significant effect on the game.
Do I think they should be banned? No, and heres why: You take a wooden driver compared to a 460cc titanium (headed driver) and to me thats a lot bigger difference than a 35-inch putter to a 45-inch putter, Simpson said.
Last year, the strokes gained putting, nobody in the top 20 used a belly putter or a long putter. If anybody says its an advantage, I think youve got to look at the stats and the facts.
To me, to change something that big and to cost manufacturers millions of dollars, youve got to have some pretty good facts. Just because some of us are winning majors or winning tournaments using the belly putter, I dont think thats a good reason to say were going to take them away.
Graeme McDowell, who uses the short putter and has been in contention at the last three majors on Sunday, advocates banning anchored putters.
I think talking to (USGA executive director) Mike Davis and the USGA, they feel like their research has shown that putting under pressure down the stretch on the back nine on Sunday, when you can anchor the putter to part of your body, that just takes on extraneous movement out of the putting stroke, that putting under pressure with that type of putter is easier, McDowell said.
Its just a kind of physical fact that if you can take just one element of movement and motion out of the stroke that holing putts would be easier.
If anchoring putters is banned in 2016, golfers will be forced to adjust.
Would I adapt? Pettersson said. Well, Id have to. Ive got a high school diploma. What else am I going to do?