MODESTO -- If I became the king of golf, I would mandate more conventional putting.
It would be my second priority behind giving myself a plus-5 handicap index, but that is another story for another day.
In my version of a perfect golf world, I would toss all belly/long putters into the nearest body of water. That's not feasible for equipment manufacturers and their bottom lines, however, so let's search for a better answer.
Those long flatsticks, formerly dismissed as a last resort for yips-inflicted players, have gained access to the game's top stages. Ernie Els and Adam Scott, both users, went 1-2 at the Open Championship last summer at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Webb Simpson did the same at this year's U.S. Open, and Keegan Bradley became the first such practitioner to win a major at the 2011 PGA.
The United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient, the game's rule-making stewards, have noticed the trend. They are expected to make a statement by year's end.
Banning the putters at this point is doubtful. Any rule-change wouldn't happen until 2016, since the "Rules of Golf" are updated every four years.
But if you're reading the fairway tea leaves correctly and listening close enough to the sounds coming from golf's leaders, a rule change definitely is in play.
A consensus is forming, and here goes: Golfers who anchor those putters either to their midsection for belly putters or their sternum for long putters soon may be out of business.
The game's majordomos have concluded that anchoring the club anywhere is an unfair advantage, and I agree.
A pure stroke on the green means you swing the club with touching or connected hands. Nothing else comes in contact with the club. To me, that's a real stroke.
Sticking the handle beneath your chin with a split grip, and swinging the club with only your right hand, compromises everything. The anchor reduces pressure and soothes the nerves. Calming your anxiety remains one of golf's timeless challenges. Why do you think golfers sought such a device in the first place?
Yes, there are no guarantees. Hard work is mandatory regardless of the implement. But that's not the point. A fair playing field has been deemed to be lost, and it must be re-established.
The urgency was upgraded at this year's PGA Championship, where more than 50 of the 156 players swung either a long or belly putter.
Listen to Els, who struggled for years until he won the Open with a belly putter at age 42. "As long it's legal, I'll keep cheating like the rest of them," he said.
R&A boss Peter Dawson thinks the issue has reached the tipping point.
"The objections I find from those who object at professional level, at elite level, are all about if people who've become failed putters in the conventional way, why should they have a crutch to come back and compete against me when I haven't failed in the conventional way," he said.
Complicating matters is the fact that the long putters are more popular in the United States than anywhere else in the world. The golf economy has a dog in this hunt, and it still shows teeth.
Also to be considered is the length of the putter. Tiger Woods believes it should be no longer than the shortest club in your bag.
Critics will lump the long putters with other golf aids over the years as hybrids, titanium drivers and low-spin golf balls easily launched 350 yards.
That's wrong. The long-putter issue underscores one of golf's most pure exercises the actual swinging of the club.
If I'm in charge, it will remain a swing on the greens.
THE SHAG BAG Ripon's Andrew Bonner and Oakdale's Mabel Wong won their respective races for the Junior Golf Association of Northern California points title this year. They will be honored at the annual JGANC honors luncheon on Saturday, Oct. 27, at Silverado. ...Wong shot 75 and 74 last weekend at Greenhorn Creek in Angels Camp to win a Junior Tour of Northern California event. ...
The top pairings at the Frys.com Open will tee off back-to-back Thursday off the 10th tee at CordeValle south of San Jose. Els, Ben Curtis and Trevor Immelman start at 7:40 a.m., followed 10 minutes later by Camilo Villegas, Vijay Singh and Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III. Fan can ask Love why he benched his best team (Bradley and Phil Mickelson) during Saturday's fourball at the Ryder Cup. ... Beyer High graduate Matt Bettencourt begins at CordeValle off No. 1 at 7:30.
HOLES-IN-ONE David Woods, Turlock, 242-yard ninth at Del Rio CC (Bluff), driver. ... Judy Trask, Modesto, 80-yard second at Escalon, 4-iron. ...Wayne Bolitho, Sonora, 146-yard fifth at Mountain Springs, Sonora, 7-wood. ... Silver Lamb, Riverbank, 136-yard 14th at Manteca Park, driver. ... Kathy Hart, Manteca, 105-yard third at Jack Tone Golf, Ripon, 9-iron. ... Jerry Hott, Ceres, 111-yard 13th at Jack Tone, pitching wedge.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2302.