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January 29, 2010

Daily Flogging: Mickelson's decision is a groovy thing, man

Now that Phil Mickelson is back at the Farmers Insurance Open (still chuckling at that name for an event in trendy La Jolla, Calif.), he is the main attraction and, apparently, a big target.

Come on, Phil. You didn't think you were going to get a free pass when you put one of those old Ping Eye2 sand wedges in play, did you? The clubs, which have square grooves, were grandfathered into legality thanks to a settlement in the Karsten vs. the USGA lawsuit in 1990, and they are suddenly items of interest now that square grooves have been banned.

Mickelson, who shot an opening 70 and trailed Scott Piercy by six shots after the opening round at Torrey Pines, will hear more about his use of the club, especially if he does well or even wins.

Veteran tour player Scott McCarron was critical of Phil's decision, telling the San Francisco Chronicle:  "I think it's cheating and I'm appalled. All those guys should be ashamed of themselves. As one of our premier players, (Mickelson) should be one of the guys who steps up and says this is wrong."

Rocco Mediate agreed, saying: "I don't like it at all, not one bit. It's against the spirit of the rule. We have to get rid of those clubs, because they're square grooves. What else can you say?"

Golfweek equipment maven Jim Achenbach smartly raises another question about the use of Ping Eye 2 wedges: Can they be stopped? His conclusion: Maybe.

Golfweek talked to Ping's John Solheim and learned that there is an escape clause of sorts to the settlement agreement. Said Solheim: “Their (the PGA Tour) agreement with us is that they will follow USGA rules. They do have an out to that, where they can go through several procedures and prove they have a need. It’s not an easy thing to do, by any means. I think there is no way they could meet the protocol.”

Said Ping attorney Rawleigh Grove, “It’s a series of steps. It’s all about the science of it. There would have to be a panel of experts, if you will, to make sure that the right decision is being made. This is no benefit for us. There is no payment, no money changing hands.”

This is not the last you'll hear about the grooves issue. By Monday, it could be hot, hot, hot.

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