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February 03, 2010

Daily Flogging: McCarron apologizes to Mickelson: All is groovy again

The dullest day of the week at a PGA Tour event? It's usually Tuesday, a travel day when players arrive and maybe squeeze in a practice round.

At the Northern Trust Open at Riviera, Tuesday was anything but dull. The square grooves controversy was discussed in a players meeting, and Scott McCarron apologized to Phil MIckelson for using the C-word. Padraig Harrington, who brought a handful of Ping Eye2 wedges with him, suggested the players agree universally not to use the old clubs regardless of what the rules say.

Larry Dorman had McCarron's apology in the New York Times:

Scott McCarron stepped in front of the klieg lights and microphones in the late evening light Tuesday and apologized, falling on his sword to silence the lingering echoes from last week's uproar over his accusation that Phil Mickelson was cheating by using a square-grooved club.

"I'm certainly sorry," McCarron said, standing on the balcony overlooking the 18th green of Riviera Country Club. "I'd like to apologize to Phil Mickelson for the comments I made. I think we both realize that we're on the same page on this issue. I answered a question, and I'm really sorry that I singled out a player." ...

Earlier in the day, Steve Stricker, the No. 3-ranked player in the world, was asked about McCarron using "cheating" to describe Mickelson, and he minced no words. "Yeah, I didn't care for his words, with using those two words so closely together, cheating and Phil Mickelson," Stricker said. "We have enough going on in our sport right now where we don't need any more attention to something like this."

Steve Elling reported for CBSSports.com that Mickelson and McCarron had an hour-long meeting with Commissioner Tim Finchem and were seen chatting amicably for several minutes afterward. All three were joining former president George W. Bush for a private dinner later that evening, although McCarron declined to confirm it. "Top secret," McCarron told Elling.

Some 40 or 50 players attended the previously scheduled players meeting, in which Finchem explained the legal options regarding the grooves controversy. FInchem declined comment later, saying he'd hold a press conference late Wednesday. More from Elling here:

Finchem told the group he spoke with Ping CEO John Solheim on Tuesday about working out a possible agreement that would allow the tour to ban the clubs, which Ping no longer manufacturers... McCarron and Cink said Finchem admitted the tour was caught with its pants down on the issue. "I don't think they believed many players would use a 20-year-old club," McCarron said. 

In Golfweek, Alex Miceli reported that Mickelson wasn't the only one who received an apology. Miceli wrote that McCarron "received an apology of his own Sunday night. According to sources, Tour commissioner Tim Finchem called to say that he should have stepped in front of the issue sooner."

Three-time major champion Harrington brought some Ping Eye2s to Riviera because their distance control out of the rough is significantly better, he said. Helen Ross of PGATour.com had Harrington's take:

"What I'm doing is I'm preparing myself for all eventualities. It would be naive not to."

Harrington said he may not know whether he will use the Ping wedge until he tees off on Thursday. "I would like to see a clarification myself. Legally I don't know how they can go about it, but maybe the PGA TOUR could play under the rules of the R&A, then we'd have no problem. Maybe Ping could forego the lawsuit, then there would be no problem. Or possibly, I don't know, this is what I would sort of suggest, is that maybe everybody sign up to a charter and say we won't use them. But while they're out there being used, it's a difficult situation not to for anybody who's competitive not to go out there and take full advantage of what you can if somebody else is."

Ross continued:

Harrington held a yard sale of sorts last winter, getting rid of all the clubs he has accumulated over the years and giving the proceeds to charity. Ironically, among the ones he sold were seven Ping wedges. "And then I find out four weeks later at Hawaii that you can use those clubs," Harrington said with a wry smile. "...I must have had these clubs for 20 years and I said I'm getting rid of everything and I had a total clean out and sure enough, you need them next week."

See? Tuesday wasn't dull at all.

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