Simpson's incredible putting transformation
May 11, 2018
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Webb Simpson’s birdie run from 13-15 at THE PLAYERS
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – It would be fitting if a tip from former THE PLAYERS champion Tim Clark produced the newest member of the club to win at TPC Sawgrass.
A year ago Clark approached Webb Simpson on the eve of THE PLAYERS Championship and offered his fellow former anchored putting buddy a tip.
Simpson was in the putting wilderness after being forced to switch from his near life-long method of belly-putting thanks to the anchor ban.
The former U.S. Open champion had ranked inside the top 53 players for Strokes Gained: Putting from his debut year in 2009 through the 2014 season with a high mark of 15th.
But after switching he plummeted to 174th in 2015 and 177th in 2016.
He was lost.
“Tim asked me how I've been putting, and I told him, pretty inconsistent. He asked me had I ever tried the claw grip, and I said no. So I tried it. I liked it,” Simpson explained of the encounter a year ago.
“So thanks to Tim, I started putting better last year.”
The combination of a mid-length putter that rests against the forearm – ala Matt Kuchar – and the claw grip has been a game changer.
He put it in to place and finished T16 last year.
Last season Simpson’s strokes gained ranking improved to 88th.
This season he entered this week ranked 10th.
This week he’s first - gaining an incredible 9.079 shots on the field so far through two rounds.
Round one was the 10th best of his career in the stat. Round two the fifth best.
“It turned his whole season around and turned his career around, getting it to where we thought it was going to be. The putter isn’t a problem anymore,” long-time caddie and friend Paul Tesori says of the change a year ago.
“For us, it’s nothing short of miraculous. We got to a two and a half year stretch where we didn’t know if we ever would see it again.
“We’ve had some battles. It’s been stressful.”
On Friday, Simpson officially made 142-feet, eight inches worth of putts. But this didn’t include an 18-footer he made from the fringe on the 12th hole and a 28-footer he drained from behind the 15th green.
Shot of the Day
Webb Simpson's 28-foot birdie for Shot of the Day
“Obviously I’ve been with guys who have shot some incredible rounds, but it was just amazing how many putts he made,” playing partner Jhonattan Vegas said.
“He hit the ball really well, but he was just making it from everywhere. I was rooting for him to break the course record; he definitely had it.
“The putt that shocked me was the putt he made on 15, which would have gone way far by but went in. Right there we knew he had something special at that point, so we were just rooting. We were fans at that point.”
Adam Scott, another of the players forced to change once the anchor ban came in, tipped his hat to Simpson’s transformation.
Scott himself has spent the last few seasons changing between a short and long putter, still searching for something he can reliably trust.
“There is some psychological stuff involved,” Scott said.
“In the two or three years between the making of the decision and the rule coming into effect we were being called cheats and all sorts out there.
“Then the not knowing what’s going to happen… how you’ll go. Learning a new technique and feels. Lots of things played into it.
“The guy spent thousands of hours in his life working on a particular method and he’s sent back to square one. So all credit to him.”
As much as anything Simpson himself is happy just to have belief in himself again. In the dark times it was hard not to wonder if he’d ever find a way.
“Confidence is so big, and it can change the way you think… Even more so maybe with putting,” Simpson said.
“Putting there's read, there's grain, there's speed… there's the stroke, the aimer, and then there's you.
“I had tournaments where I putted well, but I never had stretches of three months, six months, eight months where consistently I was a lot better.
“Once that kind of four, five, six months of good putting hit, I started to believe again that I'm a good putter. It had been a long time since I had really felt that and believed it.”
We believe it to now.