For the first time on the PGA Tour, Webb Simpson played with a conventional-length putter on Thursday. Simpson, who had used a belly putter since college in 2004, fired an eight-under 62 at Waialae Country Club to take a share of the early first-round lead at the Sony Open.
He was nervous for his Tour debut with the short putter and he owed the big man upstairs for helping him get through this difficult obstacle.
“Today was a big day for me,” said Simpson, who used the short putter last fall at the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan. “I was extremely nervous, first round on the PGA Tour with a short putter, but I just had a couple verses in my yardage book today that I kept reading, and I stayed calm.
“All thanks to God for giving me strength to just get through today. Today was a hurdle I felt like I needed to get over, and just real thankful.”
Simpson started on the 10th hole and birdied his first hole, but he made the turn at just one-under. He caught fire on his second nine and posted a seven-under 28 on the front.
“I made a lot of putts,” he said. “I didn’t hit it great on the back nine my first nine holes but then started driving it well. If you drive it well around this golf course, you’re going to give yourself opportunities. I was able to do that on the front — pretty much for really the last 10 holes.”
Simpson only needed 23 putts.
“It was one of my best putting rounds I’ve ever had to be honest,” he said. “I’ve been putting well with (the short putter), but it’s easy to putt well at your home course playing with your buddies.
“So today there was a lot of pressure and didn’t sleep that great last night, but had a good morning, talked to my wife, and good warmup, and it was big to see a few putts go in early. Real thankful for just how the day unfolded.”
Simpson was pleased he was able to overcome the pressure and expectations that went with making the big switch from the belly putter to a conventional-length putter.
“Just a lot of anticipation for me has led to being really nervous,” he said. “More than anything, I’m just glad to get started. I didn’t want to wait until 2016 because I didn’t want to be in a position where I felt like I was forced into the short putter.”
Another key for Simpson was to not second-guess himself.
“Trust and freedom were two big words for me today, and I was able to do that all day,” he said. “My tendency with the short putter is to have a tough time with long putts, but over the last few weeks, I’ve gotten better with it. Hopefully I’ll continue to get better.”