The Open Championship bandwagon has come and gone and yesterday was the chance to rake over the debris. In the traditional morning after gathering with those weary members of the media still hanging about, the officials of the Royal & Ancient had plenty to discuss.
Ernie Els' staggering victory on Sunday night, which arrived after a quite disastrous late collapse from Adam Scott, will linger long in the memory but the Big Easy's big win prompted some more immediate concerns in the wider scheme of the game. After Keegan Bradley at the US PGA Championship last August and Webb Simpson in June's US Open, Els became the third champion in the last four majors to employ the long or belly putter. In the South African's case it was the belly, while runner-up Scott is a user of a broom-handle contraption anchored to his sternum. It all sounds rather painful. It certainly was for Scott when his putting deserted him on the run-in and he bogeyed the last four holes to let the claret jug slip from his grasp.
The debate surrounding the use of such putters has grown in intensity as the number of players utilising them has increased, and Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the R&A, admitted that a decision could come soon on whether players can keep on using them.
"This may be the first Open where we have had the winner and the runner-up with long putters," said Dawson, who stressed that talks on the issue with his counterpart at the United States Golf Association are ongoing. "We appreciate there is much speculation about this and we need to clarify the position as soon as possible. I think you're going to see us saying something about it one way or the other in a few months, rather than years. This decision has not been taken; please don't think it has."
Dawson added that the talks between the governing bodies of the global game have moved from an equipment issue to a rules issue. Because the whole affair is now being treated as a potential amendment to the myriad golfing dos and don'ts, any change would not become effective until 2016 as the Rules of Golf are updated every four years.
"The initial determination has been that we are examining the subject from a method-of-stroke standpoint rather than length-of-putter standpoint, and that takes it into the area of the rules of play, the rules of golf, rather than the rules of equipment," added Dawson.
Jim McArthur, the chairman of the R&A's championship committee, revealed that there were 27 long putters and 16 belly putters on show in the 156-man Open.
The main objection to long putters fixed to a certain pivot point is that if a player cannot putt with a conventional club, why should they have a crutch to compete with those who can?
"That's the general argument one hears," Dawson said. "But we're also seeing people who can putt perfectly well in the conventional way of thinking that an anchored stroke gives them an advantage. I think that's the fundamental change we've witnessed in the last couple of years."
Despite the increasing controversy, Dawson insisted that the use of a belly putter should not sully Els's memorable triumph on Sunday.
"It doesn't detract in any way from the winner as long as he obeys the rules of play at the time," he added. "Bobby Jones used concave-faced clubs for some of his major championships. They were outlawed later. Jones's victories are in no way demeaned as a result of that and I see this in exactly the same way."
In the build-up to last week's showpiece, the R&A high command reiterated their desire to take a tough stance on slow play and McArthur believes progress had been made on that particular front.
"We were satisfied with how the pace of play went," Dawson said. "The first two rounds were pretty much on time and on the final day the last game came in about 10 minutes late. We talked to the players a lot during the rounds, which helped. Communication is certainly the way forward, and I think that worked."
Dawson added: "In my experience, it was the best run we've had for 10 or 12 years, from a pace-of-play standpoint."
Earlier in the year, the Open organisers revealed that they were lifting the ban on mobile phones among spectators. Problems with camera phones blighted the 2006 championship at Hoylake and prompted the ban. Despite a number of hard-pressed marshals expressing their concerns during the four days of competition at Lytham, McArthur believes the championship was largely problem free.
"We took a big risk here to be honest," he admitted. "We judged that the golfing public would support us and they have come up trumps because it could have been a disaster. Mobiles are now part of everybody's life. Some people's lives are actually in their phone. We took a chance and I think we were proved correct."
One thing we may not be seeing again at the Open, though, is the use of a "celebrity" caddie. On the final day, Argentina's Andres Romero employed his friend and Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez as his bag man during a carefree 82 that developed into something of a circus.
"Maybe it's something we need to just have a look at," said McArthur. "We normally get a list of caddies at the beginning of the week. The strange thing for me was that he [Tevez] never put the bag down, so when he was standing on the green, he was carrying the bag all over the place. It's just madness."