Monday, February 01, 2010

Mickelson Cheating? Uh, Not Exactly

So, all it took to get our minds off Tiger Woods was a 20-year old wedge and Phil Mickelson being accused of cheating.

Normally, talk of golf equipment specifications is better than Nyquil at putting me to sleep but the mini storm that's brewing around the clever loophole found by tour players who are using Ping Eye-2 wedges to circumvent the rules about square groove has produced a few sparks.

You probably know the basics: U-shaped (or square) grooves are no longer allowed on the PGA Tour but, because a long-ago lawsuit Ping filed against the USGA, the Eye-2 wedges are exempt from the legislation. That means play 'em if you've got 'em.

That's what a handful of players have done, rummaging through their garages and attics to pull out the old clubs and put them back into play, figuring they may provide a smidgen of advantage while still meeting the letter of the law.

It wasn't until Scott McCarron said Phil Mickelson and other players were "cheating" by usinan Eye-2 wedges that the story got semi-sexy (in a golf equipment kind of way).

Mickelson said he was slandered and hinted at legal retaliation.

It's hardly on the level of the Woods soap opera but it's interesting.

McCarron went too far when he invoked cheating into the discussion. The clubs are legal under the rules therefore, there' s no cheating.

His point, I think, is that the players are taking advantage of a loophole in the rules that should have been closed, keeping Eye-2 wedges out of play. He's right. Even Mickelson essentially acknowleged as much in discussing his use of the old wedges.

Depending on your level of conspiracy theorist, some suggest Mickelson is using the wedges to make a point that the loophole needs to be closed.

That, of course, involves lawyers and, well, you know what that means.

There's the whole argument about the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law. Then there's the Ping position, having won legal approval 20 years ago for their clubs to remain legal in perpetuity.

There's an easy solution to this -- the PGA Tour should adopt a local rule outlawing Eye-2 wedges -- but it's not easy. This is where the lawyers get involved again.

The Tour uses local rules already, so adding the Eye-2 to its special rules isn't a giant leap. The Tour uses a one-ball rule that isn't standard in the golf rules. It prohibits the use of carts, another local rule.

Do the old wedges make that much difference? If you play golf you know that if your brain thinks it helps, it probably does, at least for a while.

I expect this will get hashed out soon enough and the Eye-2 wedges will end up in the attic again.

Or on e-bay...if you're looking for one.


Anonymous said...

That's a load of crap.

Anonymous said...

Golfers are a bunch of country club babies...when is the last time an athlete (and I use that term lightly) threatened to sue another over what he said in an interview. Grow a spine, Mickelson.

Anonymous said...

Country club babies? Hmmmm. Slanderous. I'll have to get my people on this.

jason heyward said...

If so many players are against using these clubs, why not just change the rule and end the controversy?