Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Mickelson, McCarron Make Up, Eye-2s Still Okay

As best as I can tell, the most significant things that have happened in the past couple of days related the PGA Tour's sudden firestorm around the use of 20-year old Ping Eye-2 wedges is that Scott McCarron has apologized to Phil Mickelson for saying he's cheating and it's going to be a while -- probably a long while -- before the issue is put to rest one way or the other.

During a media conference today, commissioner Tim Finchem said the PGA Tour didn't anticipate the wedge issue becoming the firestarter that it has. The tour knew the old Eye-2 wedges were legal (by virtue of a legal settlement years ago) but didn't think it would make much difference.

Then again, Finchem didn't expect the tour to be reprimanding McCarron for accusing Mickelson of cheating. Mickelson, according to Finchem, accepted McCarron's apology.

How big an issue is the Eye-2 thing?

Through the first four PGA Tour events this year, Finchem said only five of 218 players have used the club during competition. More, however, may be considering adding one of the wedges to their bag if they aren't in violation of their equipment contracts.

Secondly, how much difference does the old club make?

Finchem said if the wedges that were legal before the rules change went into effect imparted a spin rate of 100 rpm (he's making the numbers easy to understand), a Ping Eye-2 has a spin rate of approximately 60 rpm. Under the new rules, u-grooved wedges impart a spin rate of approximately 50 rpm. That' s a difference of 20 percent between the Eye-2 and the new rules.

So what's next?

Tour players will continue to be allowed to use the Eye-2 wedges if they want.

"There's nothing wrong with that," Finchem said.

However, the issue isn't resolved. Finchem sounded hopeful that weekend comments by John Solheim of Karsten Manufacturing (which makes Ping) left room for a possible settlement that may close what is a legal loophole in golf's rules.

If that doesn't happen -- Finchem said there may be a meeting between Solheim and USGA officials in the next week -- the Tour Policy Board could send the issue to an independent committee for its evaluation. That's where it gets complicated as most committee work is.

For the time being, nothing has changed. And it's probably going to be a while -- if ever -- before it does.


Anonymous said...

So, what good is the PGA Tour if they let legal settlements with the USGA handle their competitive issues? Isn't Finchem paid by the membership to make tough decisions on fairness in competition concerns?

Someone will have to make me understand why the PGA Tour is beholden to court cases vs. the USGA (granted, the USGA does have the US Open event) by manufacturers before I can understand why the PGA Tour just can't make its own decision.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about how Ping can somehow make this all go away, as it's been described on golf talk radio and other places. Even if John Solheim says something to the USGA, the clubs are out there, and Ping can't reel them back in the way GM pulled in those EV-1 cars they had leases on.

Nobody's talked very well about the substance of the Ping "victory" over the USGA in the 90's groove case; is there a 'restraint' against the USGA that simply prohibits them from banning such clubs from play, which then Solheim could relieve the governing bodies of, so they could then ban the clubs from use?

Could they tailor some sort of agreed-upon settlement that would allow a ban of some clubs with the Ping grooves, but not all? (I understand the idea about a level playing field for the pros, but if I were Solheim, I sure wouldn't give up all my hard-fought rights just to help the USGA get back to where they were before his dad went to the mat.)