Webb Simpson is all in with his new, standard-length putter.
He’d better be. His old putter is permanently out of commission, on display – in two pieces – in the trophy case of his home course at Quail Hollow Club.
That’s because long anchor putters such as the one Simpson used to win the U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour events, will be banned in 2016. This will be the last time the Wells Fargo Championship, which begins Thursday at Quail Hollow Club, will see the longer putters.
Players have been able to prepare for the rule change since 2013, the year it was announced. Simpson, a Raleigh native, was one of those who didn’t immediately switch to the standard club.
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But before he left for last fall’s Dunlop Phoenix Tournament in Japan, Simpson decided he needed to begin feeling comfortable with the standard putter on his terms, rather than wait another year before he would be forced to.
With his wife, Dowd, as a witness, Simpson grabbed the 44.5-inch putter that played such a key role in his 2012 U.S. Open victory, put it over his knee and snapped it in half. It stayed behind in Charlotte, while the new putter accompanied him to Japan.
“It was great that I only took the new putter to the Dunlop Phoenix,” said Simpson, who had been using a long putter since his college days at Wake Forest. “I didn’t have a game plan for it. I was going to have to do the best I could with what I had. I wanted to fully commit to the short putter. I didn’t want to have (the long putter) there in case the (regulation) putter went bad.
“The old one? It’s in the trophy case now.”
With the rule change looming, anchored putters have basically vanished from the tour. Adam Scott, who won the Masters in 2013 with a long putter, has gone back and forth between long and short this season. He’s been using a long putter for the past several tournaments, including at the Masters.
Scott will be joined by former N.C. State player Carl Pettersson, David Hearn and Kyle Reifers (Wake Forest) with the soon-to-be banned putters at Quail Hollow this week.
“It just seemed like the sensible thing to do,” Scott said of his switch back to a long putter during the Masters in April. “I’m not here to just see what happens. I’m here to get the job done, and the odds are more in my favor of doing that with the longer putter considering I’ve used it the last four years.”
Simpson is more willing than Scott to do his experimenting with the shorter putter during live competition.
“I still have the rest of the year to work with it,” Simpson said. “I think this is the best time to do it. I mean, you can go play with it while you’re home in Charlotte (in the offseason) for two months. But a putting green is a lot different than a tournament. I think it’s better to experiment with it during the season; it’s a free test.”
Switching to the regulation putter hasn’t affected Simpson’s statistics much except in one area: his strokes gained putting – minus .444 – is substantially off of his .301 mark of 2014. His putting average of 1.764 is nearly the same as in 2014 (1.765), and his putts per round average of 29.16 is marginally higher than his 28.83 a season ago.
“It’s a work in progress,” Simpson said at the Masters. “It’s something I’m trying to continually get better at. But that’s what I try to do with my long game all the time too. You always look to get better.”