The Masters - Simpson leads long-putter charge at Masters

With time possibly running out on long putters, Major winners Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley and Ernie Els will lead a charge looking to complete a grand slam for golfers using the controversial club at next week's Masters.

Reuters

A proposed rules change by the game's governing bodies would ban from 2016 the practice of anchoring a putter to steady the stroke, a style used by three of the last five Major winners.

The Masters, featuring the fast, sloping greens of Augusta National Golf Club, is the lone Major yet to be conquered by a golfer using the controversial putting technique.

Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open winner, and Bradley, the 2011 PGA Championship winner, were Masters rookies last year and believe they will be much better prepared for a run at the winner's green jacket in the April 11-14 tournament.

"I love the golf course so much. It's my favorite course in the world," North Carolina's Simpson told the Augusta Chronicle. "It sets up great for me.

"Tee to green, it suits my eye so well. I love the doglegs. I grew up with pine trees so it just fits my eye so nice. It just takes some time to learn it and get adjusted to it and respond to it."

Simpson struggled with his putting at Augusta National last year and soared to a final-round 78, but the 27-year-old said he is capable of winning this year.

"I was nervous as can be the first round, but I was ready," he said. "It was something I'd wanted to do since I was a little kid."

Simpson said he was thrown off by a change in the speed of the greens, which were rain-softened during practice rounds and became much faster as the week progressed.

"Early in the week the greens were soft and slower and then kind of got quick overnight," he said. "It was tough for me to get used to it."

Bradley became the first player to anchor a long putter and win a Major with his triumph at the PGA Championship.

He said he was at a "huge disadvantage" as a Masters rookie.

"I learned you've got to really know that course," said Bradley, who finished strong with a 69 to tie for 27th.

Bradley, 26, has been cramming for his next Masters test under the tutelage of Ryder Cup partner Phil Mickelson, making a recent road trip to Augusta with the three-time Masters winner.

"Being out there with Phil is an inspiration and makes me want to win this tournament, just by the way he carries himself around there," Bradley told the Augusta newspaper.

Two-time Masters runner-up Els, 43, who used his belly putter to win the 2012 British Open, also gave Bradley an Augusta tip earlier this season.

"He was just telling me it's a big myth at Augusta that you have to hit these big hooks around the corner," Bradley said. "He told me, 'The straight ball is still fine.'

"That's kind of what I hit, so it made me feel better. It's good insight from a guy who has played really, really well there."

Bradley said he would be more business-like this time.

"I've never been to a place that's exceeded the expectations by so much," Bradley said. "When you walk up the 11th fairway and you see 12 and 13, it's shocking, the first time.

"It's got a magical feel to it almost, and that's the part of it that I think you need to put aside when you're playing the tournament."

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