PGA Tour Confidential: Farmers Insurance Open

Phil Mickelson
Robert Beck/SI
Phil Mickelson used a Ping Eye2 wedge at Torrey Pines.

Gorant: John Garrity's favorite Swede, Robert Karlsson, was a winner.

John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: He's not my favorite Swede, I just keep picking him to win a major. My favorite Swede is Nina Persson of the Cardigans.

Bamberger: Now let's turn to this week's edition of How the Wedge Turns, Torrey Pines edition. Phil Mickelson used a Ping Eye2 lob wedge with the old square grooves. The wedge was grandfathered in. How do you all feel about that? Does this make you think differently about Phil in any way?

Hack: My view of Phil remains unchanged. He's still fun and nutty Phil to me. Two drivers. No drivers. Ping Eye2 wedges. Can't blame him for experimenting. The club is approved for play.

Morfit: I think he's trying to highlight the absurdity of it all, which he's certainly done. He's such a thinker/overthinker, and a gear-head, making the move totally predictable.

Garrity: Yesterday's statement by the PGA Tour just confused me. They seemed to be saying that those old Ping wedges are okay because they conform to the new standard, not because of a loophole owing to the Ping lawsuit. If that's the case, if there's no advantage to using these clubs, then there is, indeed, no cloud over Phil. But I still think it's lousy P.R. on his part.

Evans: Phil understands the rule and he has a right to benefit from the loophole, but it does seem an odd irony that one of the best wedge players in the history of the game would be clinging to old grooves.

Dusek: McCarron was way out of line saying the Phil was cheating by using the Eye2 wedge. The club is legal for play, period. If you think it goes against the intention of the USGA's rules, fine, but criticizing someone else for playing a technology you chose not to play is wrong. You'd think one of the first adopters of the long putter would know that.

Shipnuck: All the nastiness wasn't just about the Eye2s, it was also about Phil. Other players used those clubs at Sony and the Hope but there was muted criticism, and it wasn't so personal. Phil has always rubbed a lot of guys the wrong way — hence the sardonic nicknames "Genius" and "FIGJAM" he's been tagged with — and this week's bickering was a manifestation of that.

Gorant: As Damon points out, Phil has gone his own way in the past — two drivers, four wedges, under-the-branch and over-the-pond with sidespin for nothing-but-net. The idea of him making an against-the-grain stand in his own self interest isn't that shocking to me.

Dusek: I was there when Phil laid into Dick Rugge at Liberty National for about 45 minutes, letting him know exactly what he thought of the USGA's changes to the groove rule. Callaway had a new groove that conformed to the updated standard, yet it spun the ball more than the USGA wanted. In the eyes of the USGA, the conforming groove didn't meet the spirit of the new rules. I think Phil is absolutely rubbing the USGA's nose in it.

Van Sickle: Tiger is known for his long memory about perceived slights. Phil also has a photographic memory in this area.

Gorant: This wedge thing is interesting and worth a discussion, but Golf Channel was the sound of one hand clapping on this issue. One person would badger players for juicy quotes, then run back to the other guy and relay what was said, egging on a reaction. Once they got one they'd throw it back to the studio where it would be breathlessly reported as news. Then they'd throw it to the analysts who would examine it from every possible angle while reshowing the clips. It didn't take long for it to start feeling like the whole thing was more about the Golf Channel talking to itself than anything else.

Herre: Kind of like the Daly retiring story, eh Jim?

Gorant: That's exhibit B.

Shipnuck: The whole grooves thing has been half-baked from the beginning, but I, for one, am loving all the fallout. Look at how many storylines and talking points are being generated! It is pretty inside baseball, but in the absence of Tiger it gives golf obsessives like us many things to stew about.

Van Sickle: This whole thing was just about Phil making a point for his guys at Callaway, who submitted those wedges with conforming grooves that were not approved by the USGA. Phil knew exactly what kind of attention he'd get with the move. It was very calculated, and I expect him to go back to Callaway wedges shortly, having made his statement to the USGA.

Bamberger: I see it differently. We watch these golfers more than we listen to them, to see how they reveal themselves. And Phil is saying, really for the first time, "I don't care what anyone says." I don't see it as Gary does, as a ploy for Callaway. Phil's using an old Ping club is not good for Callaway.

Van Sickle: On the contrary, Michael, Phil is flying the flag of defiant retaliation for Callaway's perceived mistreatment at the hands of the USGA. You stiff us, I mock your loophole and put your ill-conceived rule in a bad light.

Bamberger: Well, that's interesting Gary, and you may well be right. Phil is political and cagey. But wouldn't his first priority be to put in the 14 clubs that will give him the best chance of winning?

Dusek: For what it's worth, Stewart Cink (who plays Nike) just Tweeted: "Packing up for my trip to Northern Trust Open tomorrow. Should I give my 'new' lob wedge a try?" The link goes to an image of a Ping Eye2 L wedge.

Van Sickle: The debate shouldn't be about which player is using what. It should be about an ill-advised, contradictory legal solution to the grooves issue that the game now has to live with. Criticism should be directed at the organizing bodies for ever agreeing to this settlement instead of affirming their authority to make the rules for the game.

Dusek: Exactly, and Mickelson seemed to hint at that in one of his statements, saying that McCarron was really expressing frustration about the rules, not the players who are using the rules (legally) to their personal advantage. What's interesting to me is that a lot fewer players are switching to a softer, spinnier ball than many people prophesized. Instead, players are trying to hit different shots that don't require as much spin and check. When you look at the first three events of last season and this season, scrambling stats and driving accuracy stats are almost identical.

Van Sickle: Hard to judge from Torrey Pines, which was soaked by rains before the tournament and played fairly soft. Might have been a good week to stick with the regular ball, given the soft conditions.

Evans: There is no way that the players, en masse, are going to give up distance for more spin. It's unrealistic in today's game.

Herre: This week's players' meeting in L.A. ought to be interesting. Phil was trying to make a point by playing the Eye2, and he succeeded.

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