Webb Simpson isn’t a big fan of the impending anchoring ban. In fact, you could say he hates it – well, for as much as the even-keeled Simpson is programmed to hate anything. He’s been jabbing the butt end of a putter into his belly button since his college days at Wake Forest, a strategy which has not only afforded him a career as one of the world’s best professional golfers, but a major championship.
That major triumph was, of course, last year’s U.S. Open, which places Simpson in the uncomfortable position of soon defending a title run by the governing body which first proposed the ban that he kind-of, sort-of hates.
Uncomfortable, that is, for anyone else. Simpson doesn’t see it that way.
“I disagree with my wife sometimes. I disagree with my caddie, with my best friend. I think that’s healthy,” he said by phone from his home in Charlotte. “I respect the USGA as much as anyone could. I just disagree with them on this issue. Many of the USGA people are my friends. I know them well; there’s no bad blood between me and the USGA. I still like them and respect them. I just disagree with them.”
It’s a relationship based on mutual respect.
Late last year, after the anchoring ban had been proposed, USGA executive director Mike Davis reached out to Simpson on multiple occasions, just to make his feelings known and find out if the U.S. Open champ had any further questions.
“He was very cordial,” Simpson reported. “He wanted to talk and explain it in person. I give him a lot of credit for doing that. The USGA did accept plenty of input, which I appreciated.”
While other anchormen have been flippant in their disdain for the decision-makers in this rule change, it is Simpson’s nature to be concerned that even failing to share the same opinion would forge some sort of falling out process.
“The U.S. Open is coming up and I’m so excited about it,” he explained of next month’s tournament at Merion Golf Club. “I hope it’s not awkward for me and the USGA. I hope they can take my disagreeing in a respectful way, because I don’t disrespect them. I just disagree. I disagree wholeheartedly.”
Unlike some of his anchoring brethren, Simpson isn’t considering any sort of legal recourse in the wake of this week’s ruling, in part because he doesn’t want to produce a chasm between him and the USGA.
“I’ve thought about it, but I don’t think I will,” he said. “I’m not too worried. I feel like I’m a great putter either way. I feel like that would draw a lot of attention to myself.
“It’s not my personality to want to take legal action. I certainly would love to hear how that group of guys will go about it – how it will work, how friendly it can remain or whether it will be tough. But as of now, I don’t see myself seeking legal action at all, no.”
Simpson steadfastly refutes the notion that he – or Keegan Bradley, Adam Scott or any number of anchorers, for that matter – will fail to find any success once the ban goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2016. He often practices with a short putter and maintains that situational putting, as opposed to lines and speed, will be the biggest transition over the next two-and-a-half years.
If it gets that far. Simpson is still optimistic – though it may be a cautious optimism – that the PGA Tour’s opposition to the original proposal will result in a local rule which allows anchoring, even if it causes the first-ever instance of bifurcation within the game.
“We’ve talked a lot about it in PAC meetings and among Tour officials and players. We’ve talked a ton about it. We’ve exhausted looking at it from both sides,” he explained. “I’m not exactly sure where [commissioner Tim Finchem] sits. I know he came out against the ban; I hope he doesn’t change his mind.”
In what is clearly one of the biggest hot-button issues in the game today, Simpson represents one of the anchors to the anchoring debate. And yet, he isn’t so absorbed in his side that he can’t see the big picture.
“I love watching great athletes deal with certain situations,” he said. Take LeBron [James]. He’s playing amazing basketball, but people will still say he can’t do certain things. I try not to get involved with that. I’ve just got to think about the reality. I’m good enough, Keegan is good enough, Adam is good enough. Those guys are just going to say what they have to say.
“But this is why we love sports. There aren’t too many banks where one lender is yelling at another lender because he can’t get a good deal.”