Ping: Oh, no -- not this old argument

Ping: Oh, no — not this old argument

Annika Sorenstam.
Darren Carroll / SI

“I never imagined this would be coming up again,” says Ping chairman John Solheim, whose father, company founder Karsten Solheim, sued the USGA and the PGA Tour in 1989 after they tried to ban the square grooves used in the company’s Eye2 irons. (The Eye2’s were deemed conforming, and both suits were settled out of court.) On Feb. 27 the USGA proposed new regulations on grooves, arguing that current designs impart too much spin on the ball, especially from the rough, thus de-emphasizing the importance of driving accuracy. Like his father, Solheim is not buying the argument, but the USGA is soliciting feedback on the proposal, so, Solheim says, “we will put in our comments and wait to see what they decide.” If the USGA stands by the specifications of its new proposal, does he foresee more legal action? Responds Solheim, “I’m not going to say anything about that at this time, because I’m praying it won’t get that far.”

• When Jack Nicklaus visited the NBC tower during the Sunday telecast of the Honda Classic, he relived the 1978 Jackie Gleason’s Inverrary Classic, which later became the Honda. That year Nicklaus won the event by closing with five straight birdies to beat Grier Jones by a shot. “I’m not sure he ever recovered from it,” Nicklaus said.

Actually, he did. Jones, who has been the golf coach at Wichita State for 13 years, said on Sunday evening that getting steamrollered by Nicklaus was not a nail in his career coffin. “I think I might’ve finished second the next year too,” Jones said. (He did.) “Believe me when I tell you this: Life goes on.” Jones continued to play the Tour full time through 1982, when a bad back — not Big Bad Jack — drove him off.

• As the LPGA’s MasterCard Classic gets under way this week, here’s a startling thought: By June, Annika Sorenstam may no longer be the No. 1 player in women’s golf. After the LPGA tweaked its rankings formula last August (Wie-ded them out, so to speak), Sorenstam led the second- and third-ranked players, Lorena Ochoa and Karrie Webb, by eight points. As of Monday her margin had shrunk to less than three points (Sorenstam 12.72, Webb 10.77, Ochoa 10.48). The points are calculated on combined results over the most recent 104 weeks, with those earned in any event diminishing in value every 13 weeks until they drop from a player’s total. Starting with the 2005 MasterCard Classic, Sorenstam won six of her next eight starts, including two majors, and also had a tie for second. Barring an almost equally torrid start in 2007, Sorenstam will be losing a lot of points as the weeks go by. Ochoa and Webb, meanwhile, had rather average starts in ’05, so they’re better positioned for a climb. Steady play early could catapult either of them right to the top.