Thursday, February 04, 2010

Phil Mickelson will not use his controversial Ping Eye2 wedge this week at the Northern Trust Open. "My point has been made," he said.

Phil's motivation is exactly what I predicted it was -- a scripted move to effectively flip the bird to the United States Golf Association for banning square grooves in such a haphazard manner, and for not approving some Callaway wedges even though they were conforming. Phil's use of the old wedge was probably never going to be more than a one-week statement, and all the ill will and bad publicity guaranteed it was a one-off.
Randy Youngman wrote as much in the Orange County Register

Listening to him, and reading between his lines, it sounded as if Mickelson had planned to stir up the controversy to protest the USGA's decision to implement the 2010 rule changes related to grooves in irons. ...
"I think it was a ridiculous rule change and even worse timing," Mickelson
said. "It's cost manufacturers millions of dollars. It was
unnecessary. It was an attempt to show power. And the arbitrary
judgment of one man (who) can take a conforming club and rule it
non-conforming based on his emotion, this type of transparency has got
to change. It's killing the sport. It's killing the manufacturers." And, Mickelson added, "I was prepared for the controversy and debate. I wasn't prepared to
be singled out. I wasn't prepared to be accused of violating the rules."

Jeff Rude in Golfweek provided the most succinct and understandable version of Finchem's comments

pointed out the Tour's history, and its efforts in this instance
worth noting the Tour's record in the court room is below the Mendoza
Line, at best. The truth is that if it wasn't for Doug Barron the
circuit would still be on the legal schneid...
On Wednesday Finchem
offered a rare mea culpa, saying the circuit wasn't prepared for the
fallout the grandfathered implement caused. "The assumption was
made last year that very few, if any, players would use that club
because they're 20 years old," Finchem said.
Never mind, of
course, that he had a letter from Ping CEO John Solheim on his desk
nearly two years earlier warning about exactly that possibility.
Nostradamus didn't have that kind of vision.
But then finger
pointing is of little use now. All that matters is that a game that
once held itself above all others has now been linked, however
incorrectly, to cheating. More than 6.2 million times, according to a
simple Google search Wednesday afternoon.
made Solheim the focal point of his column on
Two decades after his late father, Karsten Solheim, fought
tooth-and-nail with the golf superpowers so that his toothy Ping clubs
weren't outlawed for play, his son John represents the quickest
solution to the game's messiest rules loophole in years. ...
John Solheim, the CEO of Ping, can make it all go away. Finchem spoke with Solheim on Friday, and the latter said he would be
willing to discuss a possible solution to the grooves rift, although
Finchem isn't sure what sort of demands he might make or leverage he
might exert. Solheim's got plenty of it. ...
There's much for Solheim to consider because the 1993 agreement between
the company and the golf powers is a deeply personal affair. A
quarter-century ago, Ping's player-friendly clubs were effectively
marked for extinction by rulemakers and Karsten spent a small fortune
on lawyers fighting for the company's economic survival. The Eye 2
agreement was a result of that legal wrangling.
Karsten Solheim, perhaps the greatest innovator in golf history... created the
square groove -- not to mention the astoundingly successful Anser putter -- as part of his legacy. Small wonder, then, that on principle alone, his son isn't likely to dismiss the Eye 2 stipulation lightly.

nailed it with his lead in the Orange County Register
The U.S. Golf Association knew pro golfers were entitled to use a certain U-grooved wedge even if it
outlawed such a clubs. It did so anyway ...
There is no short version, but let's try to summarize it before recess.
The USGA announced a ban on U-grooves, or square grooves, because it wanted to discourage players from bashing drives into the rough and then spinning shots close to the hole. It was tired of Woods and
Mickelson and Singh and others hitting five of 18 fairways and shooting 67.
But it ignored the fact that Karsten Manufacturing, which puts out Ping equipment, already had sued the USGA over this and, in the settlement, agreed to stop manufacturing the club as long as the USGA
refused to ban it.
Thus the Ping Eye 2 wedge remained available to PGA Tour players even though it does not conform to current rules.

her Los Angeles Times piece on the McCarron-Mickelson grooves dust-up
McCarron said Tuesday he knows he was wrong in one respect. "I shouldn't have brought any player into this," he said. "But
I've also heard from a lot of guys that everybody should be on the same
playing field. This issue should have been resolved before Jan. 1."
But it hasn't. Stay tuned.

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