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November 27, 2012

Webb Simpson


JOHN BUSH:  We'd like to welcome Webb Simpson into the interview room here at the World Challenge presented by Northwestern Mutual.  Webb making his second start at the World Challenge coming off of a season that obviously included the win at the U.S. Open.  Webb, welcome to the World Challenge.  Just get your thoughts on the week.
WEBB SIMPSON:  Yeah, it's good to be back, my second year here.  I've had a nice break.  I've had four and a half weeks off since the Grand Slam, and a lot of time with family, a lot of time at home, but I've been practicing a good amount the last few weeks.  So it is very‑‑ feels very good to get back in competition.
It's an honor just to be here.  To make an elite field of 18 guys is a good feeling and just shows that you've been doing the right stuff.  Excited for the week.
JOHN BUSH:  Recap your season for us, obviously the win at Olympic.
WEBB SIMPSON:  I would say a good way to sum up my season would be inconsistently great.  I won a major, had a bunch of good tournaments, but I was just inconsistent, and what marked my year last year I think was consistency.  Obviously happy with the year in a lot of ways.  There's a lot of areas of my game that need to improve.  I don't want to show up to tournaments wondering if I'm going to play well or not, so a great year obviously to win a major.  Our daughter was born in July, so a lot of things to be thankful for, but you know, as an athlete we're always looking to improve.  These next four weeks will be big for me, as well, before I get going to Hawai'i.

Q.  How have you found that your life has changed since the U.S. Open?  Was it harder than winning twice last year, the demands and all those things, and how have you dealt with it?
WEBB SIMPSON:  Winning twice last year definitely helped tremendously, to know what to expect after winning a major.  It was a lot to take on the first few weeks, but come mid July there was a new major champion in Ernie Els and then another one a month later in Kiawah.  So I knew it would die down, and I think the biggest thing for me to get used to was just corporate stuff, having more opportunities, trying to figure that out, a good balance for me, traveling overseas and playing in different tournaments.  That's been something to get used to, but they've all been good changes, and it's nice to be in a position where I can really pick my schedule and play where I want to play.

Q.  Obviously it looks like we're about to get an announcement on a ban of anchoring.  Do you feel‑‑ I mean, I don't know when the last time you putted with a conventional putter was, but do you feel that you were already a good putter and you became a better putter, or did you struggle with the short putter and then were a better putter with an anchored putter?
WEBB SIMPSON:  I think putting has always been the best part of my game.  The reason I switched in the fall of '04 is because I was becoming an inconsistent putter.  I would be very streaky both ways.  So I played in five events I think the first semester at Wake Forest, and I was probably the best putter in the field in two or three events, another two I was average or even below average.
I picked it up, you guys have heard me say this, as kind of a joke.  I was just messing around in the pro shop, but I found I picked it up pretty easily and I made some putts, I took it out on the course and I made everything.  My speed was really good, and speed is something I had struggled with with the putt shorter, so I figured I'd try it, and the way I view my career is I want to be a very good player for a long time, and what I see in Jim Furyk, what I see in Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson, the common denominator of those guys is they're consistently good.
I would trade a consistent putting year finishing 20th in strokes gained rather than half the year I'm the best and half the year I'm below average.  That's kind of the reason I've stuck with this so long is I believe I'm more consistent with it.

Q.  How is the ban going to affect you, and do you think it's fair?
WEBB SIMPSON:  Whoa, that's a loaded question.  Number one, I don't know what their definition of anchoring is going to be, so that I guess is to be determined.  But for me, I've been working with a short putter now for a couple years every time I go home.  I've heard rumors of this for a long time, so it was one of those things where I'm not worried.  I expected the day to come, and so I just wanted to be ready.  I didn't want to be shocked.  I basically said I'm ready to implement the short putter at any time now.  So if they said‑‑ which I guess they can't say we're going to do it next year, I just want to be ready.
And I've found a lot of the things I used to struggle with with a short putter, I've kind of worked through those things just in working with it at home.  So that's been good.  It's been good to kind of balance it out.
The other thing with the belly putter, I want to have the same technique, setup, posture as I do with the short putter, so I think having those techniques that I've kept up with over the years is making it easy for me to transition back.

Q.  Do you think, assuming there is going to be a ban on anchoring you would switch to next year, even though it wouldn't go into effect until '16?
WEBB SIMPSON:  Yeah, I would switch as soon as I felt ready, so the way the process has looked like already for me is playing rounds at Quail Hollow with my buddies, and then it's going to be playing pro‑ams.  I'm just going to take it one step at a time until my comfort level gets better and better.  If I feel ready by Hyundai, I'll be putting with a short putter, and if I don't feel ready for two years, I'll wait.  I'm just going to go when I feel most comfortable.

Q.  And secondly, in your opinion, why do you think this is being looked upon as change?  What do you think caused it?
WEBB SIMPSON:  I think a few things.  I think obviously Keegan and I and Ernie winning majors has been a big thing, and I think what I've heard is a lot of ‑‑ the U.S. Junior Amateur, a lot of these kids are using it as well as the U.S.Amateur, so one of the things I've heard more than other things is the tradition of the game.  It's not keeping with the tradition of the game.
I think that's the overriding thing more than anything that I've heard.

Q.  You've talked about the driver head and some other things being more negative in terms of impact on the game.  Have you expressed those views to anybody with the governing bodies, and if so, what kind of reaction did you get?
WEBB SIMPSON:  You know, it's a tricky situation for me because I know a lot of those guys well.  I know Mike very well, I know Jeff Hall very well, I know a lot of those guys, they're friends of mine.  And I think they've been great.  They've known that, hey, you're my friend, you'll be my friend no matter what, we'll continue the relationship, but it's okay to disagree.
It's an issue where you're going to have a lot of TOUR players over here and a lot over here.  But yeah, my argument the whole time is to change something that drastic, it needs to be based off facts and not so‑called what certain people think the tradition of the game looks like.  So that's why I've thrown out that nobody in the top 20 last year in strokes gained was using a belly putter or long putter.  This year I believe one person, I believe it's Carl Pettersson.
So that's the number one fact I've looked at to see, okay, is it really helping certain guys.  You look at how many guys are using a belly putter, long putter, and then you've got to look at other stuff.  You've got to look at the driver.  Long putter is nothing new.  I saw a highlight the other day, some guy in the early '80s was using a long putter.  I think it's becoming more popular obviously, but yeah, in 1985 if you drive it 280 you'd be the longest guy on TOUR; now if you drive it 280 you'd be the shortest guy on TOUR.  I think there's a lot of other things:  Golf ball, hybrids, there's a lot of other things that have caused bigger impacts on the game than a belly putter.  That's my stance on it.
But look, I'm not going to be one of those guys that says this is a terrible decision.  I'm just saying to make a change this big, show me the facts, and hey, they're the governing body, so we'll see what happens.

Q.  Two‑part question.  Would you consider legal action?  And do you see any value in using a long putter if you can't anchor it?
WEBB SIMPSON:  I mean, honestly, in my heart, for me to seek legal action would be‑‑ if I get to a point where I want to use a belly putter that bad.  And so whether I want to get on the team with the guys that are or not, I don't know yet.  But whether I'm going to use a belly putter or long putter unanchored‑‑ well, first of all, I don't know what the definition of anchoring is going to be from their standards because you've got a guy like Matt Kuchar who we know whose putting style is kind of up against his left forearm, which I've heard isn't anchoring.  And then I've heard you take a guy who uses a long putter, and a lot of guys the putter doesn't touch their body, it's their hand.  So is it going to be the club touching their body or their hand?
First of all, I think we've got to get a definition out, and I guess they'll address that one of these days coming up.  But yeah, I don't know.
Bottom line is I'm ready.  I'm not worried.  I think the biggest thing is there's a few rules that I would like to see changed, and it's tough because you have a lot of people that make up the mix of who you've got to go to and through to get the rules changed, and it's something I voiced in the PAC this year.  In the PAC, Tim, Ross, all the guys, it's been a great‑‑ they've been great at hearing us and going to the governing bodies and working with them.  So I think at least the relationships there are working well together.

Q.  If you can look ahead years from now, can you look back and tell your kids, is there a source of pride that there are only three major champions who anchored the putter and you're one of them?
WEBB SIMPSON:  Yeah.  I mean, I think so.  I don't look back at U.S. Open and I think that I used a belly putter.  I mean, I think, as a lot of guys have said so far, I think Bernhard Langer spearheaded the statement that a long putter or a belly putter is still a learned skill.  In a lot of people's minds it might be the major is marked by a long putter, but I guess it would be cool to tell them, hey, dad got a major with a long putter.
Yeah, I don't know.

Q.  You mentioned earlier that you're working with the conventional putter in practicing, you might use it in pro‑ams.  How might that affect you with the belly putter in terms of maybe not practicing with it enough?  I'm sure you've got to work on that, as well, to putt well with it.
WEBB SIMPSON:  Well, I mean, when I go out and putt, I'm‑‑ right now I'm 50 percent of the time working with a short putter, 50 percent with the belly putter.  With the way I look at the hole and look at the green and the way I hold the belly putter is a little different than the way I hold the short putter, so all that, that is kind of the biggest change, not necessarily the length of the putter.  That would be to me the biggest thing is overcome is standing there on the green holding a short putter, taking my ball‑‑ all these things are very different from what I'm used to.  I know those things sound small, but those are the kind of things I'm going to have to work through, I think.

Q.  How has winning a major affected your belly overall and how has it affected your life?  Has it changed things to a point where you maybe didn't expect?
WEBB SIMPSON:  Like I said earlier, not really a whole lot has changed except for the fact of certain scheduling things, having the chance to play in tournaments maybe I didn't have a chance to before.  It's nice knowing I'm exempt on TOUR for five years in the majors because those are the hardest tournaments to get in.  I think more than anything it's a relief in the sense that every year I tee it up in Hawai'i, I know that I'm going to be in all the tournaments I want to be in.  So that's kind of been the biggest deal for me.

Q.  Despite what you just said, you could make the argument that Scott Hoch would have won a Masters if he made a belly putter because he would have knocked it in from 18 inches.  There's no shaking of the hands I suppose when you're using a short putter.  Do you understand that argument, that nerves is part of it, like hitting a shot‑‑
WEBB SIMPSON:  I mean, that's pure speculation, so you can't build a concrete argument off speculation.  So the Scott Hoch‑‑ I've seen a lot more guys than just Scott Hoch, maybe not a putt that big in that situation but there's been plenty of guys who have been good putters miss short putts.  People have said to me, having a belly putter takes the hands out of it.  Well, I was shaking in my boots the last putt at the U.S. Open.  So short putter, belly putter, I was nervous as can be.

Q.  Will it be more important to you to try to win a major with a short putter just to show that it wasn't the long putter that helped you win the U.S. Open?
WEBB SIMPSON:  No.  I mean, I don't really care.  And Ernie, I think he would be fine for me saying this, I think for the week he putted average to below average.  He hit the ball so well.  The putter is not what won Ernie Els the Open Championship.
I putted well, I putted very well on the weekend at the U.S. Open but I didn't putt great Thursday and Friday.  What won me the U.S. Open was the way I drove it.  I switched drivers that week for the first time in a couple years, and I actually switched on Wednesday afternoon, and I had driven it really poorly the first few months of the year, and I drove it great that week.
Yeah, I mean, I look back at that Open and I think‑‑ first thing I think about was the way I drove it.  I was in the fairway.

Q.  You mentioned facts on this discussion of a belly putter.  The USGA has shown some people or said to people they have some empirical evidence.  Have they shared any of that with you?
WEBB SIMPSON:  No, and it's not their fault they haven't.  I've tried‑‑ I'm kind of playing phone tag with a couple guys.  They've reached out, they've been great, wanted to talk to me, which has been very nice of them.  But the facts and the evidence, I haven't seen any.

Q.  And on this topic of one last thing, the mentioned there are other rules that you'd like to see changed.  Do you see there being a case for having separate rules for the PGA TOUR or the professional game and the everyday game?
WEBB SIMPSON:  Yeah, well, we're the only that I know of, only professional sport that isn't run by our own rules.  Not to say that it's the USGA's or R&A's fault or Tim Finchem's fault, it's just when you're playing this game for a living, you've got your family traveling with you.  I've fortunately been in a position where I haven't had to worry about the last couple years making money to pay for certain things, but there's so many guys that do.
So when you have a couple rules that seem way more‑‑ that seem way better to affect a guy that plays once every two weeks at his home club rather than a guy whose every putt means something, every putt means more money than a mortgage.  These things matter; we're playing 30 events a year; it's our job.  These things are big deals; it's not just a one‑shot penalty; this affects our life.  That's where I think we still play under USGA's rules and R&A's rules, we still have a great relationship with them, but there would just be a few asterisks on the TV screen where there's a couple rules that these guys aren't going to get penalized for, and I don't see the big deal in that.  I don't think that would be confusing for TV viewers, and if TV viewers have a problem, then it's their problem.
That's the way I think.  I don't think maybe‑‑ I don't necessarily think we have to play under our rules, but I think there's a few rules that we ought to be able to say, look, we get the rule, let's let the everyday amateur have that rule, but for us it's a bigger deal than just a shot penalty in your club championship.
The biggest two that I have a hard time with are the bobbling on the green.  Another one would be the rule that happened to Carl Pettersson at the PGA.  If he wasn't in the last group on TV, A, no one would have ever known because he didn't know; and B, I find it so hard to be penalized for something that doesn't affect you.  So he hit a little piece of grass that was dead and it hit his club and it's a penalty.  Yeah, there's some gray area, but I think everyone would agree that's a situation where a rules official comes over and says, okay, we can clearly see that this had no effect on your shot, other players in his group would agree and we move on.
It happened to Brian Davis at Hilton Head.  Those are just a couple rules.  I can't think of any more off the top of my head.
But the ball on the green moving is an injustice that it's still a rule.  And I'll just be frank, it's happened to me so many times now.  I had a putt at Greensboro from 10 feet for birdie for on 9 on Sunday, and if I make it I'm one back, and I walk off the green three back, and it's one of those things, 150 PGA TOUR players agree it's a bad rule, 20 PGA rules staff agree it's a bad rule.  We shouldn't have it as a rule.
And I don't see the big deal in just making it a point that, hey, we're not going to do away with all these rules, we're just going to do away with this rule because we all agree it's not a good rule.

Q.  If you came to the final round of a tournament and only had one guy to beat, would you rather see Tiger or Rory as that guy?
WEBB SIMPSON:  I'm not going to pick because obviously you've got the greatest player of all time versus the guy who's playing better than anybody in our sport.  What Rory has done this year, Paul and I were just talking, is remarkable.  He's won 596 World Ranking points, which is 250 points above Tiger and Luke.  I think Tiger and Luke are fairly close.  To be ahead by that big of a margin is unbelievable.
But again, to choose a player over Tiger would be tough, given what he's done, and especially what he's done here.  Either one would be tough.

Q.  Coming off the great year you had last year, winning twice and everything, did you have a chance to sign a bigger equipment contract to leave Titleist?  If you did, was it a tough decision, and if it was a tough decision, did you turn big money down?
WEBB SIMPSON:  I mean, what I did, I'll be honest with you guys, I basically said I'm not going to try anything.  Titleist have been so good to me coming out of college and then up until whatever I did, a three‑and‑a‑half‑year contract with them.  They've been so good to me, and I've played great golf with their equipment, I didn't even want to try it.  I don't know whether I would have gotten paid more because I never even got that far.  I told my agent, Thomas, I said, hey, we're going to stay with Titleist no matter what; I don't want you talking to anybody.  I want to play good golf.  I know this equipment, I've played it my whole life, so I didn't even do anything.

Q.  This week is the last Q‑school in its current form.  Can you look back on when you got through Q‑school and sort of the domino effect that it's had on your career and where you might be without it right now?
WEBB SIMPSON:  Yeah, I think what propelled me most for Q‑school was I played eight Nationwide events end of '08, so I came in prepared.  If I hadn't have played those events, I don't think I would have gotten in.  But yeah, it set up everything.  I came out in '09 and played ‑‑ finished ninth and fifth in my first two tournaments.
It's going to be tough for guys that don't make it this year given it's the last year.  But it helped me tremendously, just gave me a quick start.
And I think it's not going to be that way anymore, but I think what they're doing is good.  I think better players will come out of the playoff system.  I know I'd rather have the three‑playoff series and play if I lost my card than a six‑round tournament.
JOHN BUSH:  Webb, thank you for your time.  Appreciate it.

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