Webb Simpsons tries to adjust to ban on anchored putters

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Sports,Golf,Kevin Dunleavy

Simpson tries to adjust to anchored putter ban

As the reigning U.S. Open champion, Webb Simpson will be in demand next week when the tournament is played in Ardmore, Pa. As the reigning champ who uses a putting method that likely will be banned by the sport in 2016, the questions will be more pointed than usual.

But don't expect Simpson to provide many controversial answers. In a phone interview Tuesday to promote an upcoming appearance in the Washington area, Simpson said he disagreed with the May 22 ruling by the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, but will comply without legal challenge.

"I'm not planning on [filing] a lawsuit or anything like that," Simpson said.

Some players, including Adam Scott, Tim Clark and Carl Pettersson, have said they have sought legal counsel. During last week's Memorial Tournament, Scott clarified that he had reached out to Boston lawyer Harry Manion to gather information and make his views known to the PGA Tour.

Simpson's approach has been to accept the ruling and its consequences, not that he agrees with it.

"They say they don't think it's good for the game. I don't understand that. I disagree," Simpson said. "A year ago Mike Davis said -- I'm not quoting him -- I don't see the belly putter or anchoring being a problem in the future. I don't know what changed."

One change is that Simpson (2012 U.S. Open), Ernie Els (2012 British Open), Scott (2013 Masters) and Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA) have combined to capture an anchored-putter grand slam, winning four of the last six majors.

Long putters, anchored to the chest or midsection, have been used for decades, primarily by older players who have lost their nerve on the greens. Many fans view long putters as good for the sport as they extend the careers of popular, aging stars such as Els, Fred Couples and Rocco Mediate. But opinion inside and outside of golf has shifted as younger players have had success.

"It's been legal for so long now, I don't feel like it's right to come in at this point and make it illegal. I don't think they have a strong case," Simpson said. "But saying that, I'm the U.S. Open champion, I love the USGA. I love what they represent. I love what they do for the game."

The 27-year-old Simpson is focused on transitioning back to a conventional style. He took to the long putter in his first year at Wake Forest after trying one out on Thanksgiving weekend in a round with his father and has used one ever since. In preparation for a potential rule change, though, Simpson said that he had been practicing with a conventional putter even before the recent ruling.

"I'll try to transition before [2016]," Simpson said. "I'm working with it, trying to get comfortable, trying to see what I need to work on with my stroke. I'll switch before they change it, for sure."

Note ยป Simpson will appear at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Manassas on June 17 to promote the Chase Sapphire Golf Experience, which gives cardholders a chance to redeem reward points by participating in clinics conducted by Simpson and Stewart Cink at six renowned courses in the United States.

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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