Category: Ping

February 27, 2013

Bubba Watson: Rory McIlroy will be No. 1 'for a while'

Posted at 5:45 PM by Mark Dee

Bubba Watson has never been one to sweat equipment changes. So it's not surprising that he isn't concerned about a certain peer who has struggled of late after a notable gear switch.

"I think Rory is going to be No. 1 for a while," Waston said of Rory McIlroy during a Wednesday teleconference hyping Watson's upcoming Masters title defense

"Think about it, we change equipment every year," he said. "We have a new driver come out from Ping, you have a new 3-wood, you have new irons, you have a new golf ball. It might be the same company but it's all new. You've got new golf shoes coming out, so they feel different on your feet. You've got all these new things coming out, so I don't see [switching] as that big of a change."

But there is one thing that does bother Bubba: "I think the biggest change in changing a product would be the logo... I'm a feel player. When something is changed like that, I know it."

Watson added that a couple poor results here and there isn't cause for hitting the panic button, either -- especially if one of those results comes in match play.  

"There's nobody in the history of the game that's been 100 percent on making cuts, so Rory missed the first cut... That's why I think match play is such a goofy tournament anyway. [Losing in] the first round [as McIlroy did last week], I don't see that shows us anything. And a missed cut is a missed cut; everybody going to do it. No matter how many times you try, you can't make every cut."

McIlroy will defend his title at the Honda Classic starting Thursday, a tournament he won last year playing clubs with noticeably different logos.

Watson, meanwhile, won't be there with him. He's got a birthday party to host on Saturday. His son Caleb just turned one.

December 21, 2012

Bubba Watson's pink-driver campaign raises $250,000 for hospital

Posted at 9:53 AM by Samantha Glover

BubbapinkIn the aftermath of Bubba Watson's historic Masters win last April, Ping Golf started the "Bubba Long in Pink. Driven by PING" campaign to raise money for charity. Fans could buy one of 5,000 limited-edition pink Ping G20 drivers inspired by the driver Watson used at the Masters for $439, and PING would donate $50 to charity from the sale of each driver.

On Thursday, that campaign paid off big for Phoenix Children's Hospital when Bubba Watson and Ping CEO John Solheim presented a check for $250,000 to the hospital. The money will help fund the construction of a lab in the new Motion Analysis Laboratory at the hospital; the gait lab will serve pediatric patients with neuromuscular diseases and disabilities, and will help to maximize those children's function.

"When we first decided to start the 'Bubba Long in Pink Driven by PING' project, I don't think any of us thought we would be contributing to such a well-deserved orthopedic gait lab," Watson said in a statement. "It's great to see the project through and the positive impact the contribution will have on the community."

Photo: Bubba Watson tees off with his signature Ping G20 driver at the 2012 Masters (AP).

January 23, 2012

Truth & Rumors: Phil Mickelson to skip WGC-Accenture Match Play

Posted at 11:41 AM by Mick Rouse

Following his tie for 49th place at the Humana Challenge, Phil Mickelson announced that he would be skipping next month’s WGC-Accenture Match Play. Alex Miceli has the story:

Mickelson, playing in the Humana Challenge for the first time in five years, has a conflict with his children’s spring break and, as in the past, will take the week off to vacation with his three children and wife, Amy, during the Feb. 22-26 Match Play.

“I'm going to end up missing the Match Play this year as we're going to go on a family trip,” Mickelson, No. 15 in the Official World Golf Ranking, said Sunday after completing his third round here. “So as I miss that tournament, it was easier to add this one, too.”

Those wanting more of Lefty won’t have to look hard to find him. Mickelson will be making his rounds on the West Coast over the next few weeks, playing the Farmers Insurance Open, Waste Management Phoenix Open, AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and Northern Trust Open before taking a week off with the family for a little R&R.

Coming to America

Chubby Chandler may have lost his brightest star in Rory McIlroy, but that hasn’t deterred ISM’s head honcho from seeking out new talent. Expect many of those new clients to bleed red, white and blue. While speaking with Golf Talk Central, Chandler stated that he would sign more American players this year than Europeans. 

Chandler recently set up shop in South Florida, ISM’s new American base, and has signed Peter Uihlein and Ben An in the last two months alone. 

Rex Hoggard of Golf Talk Central is also reporting that Steve Zika will take the lead on ISM’s descent into the American talent pool: 

GTC has confirmed through various sources that Steve Zika, a longtime tour representative for Ping, will be ISM’s American front-man. 

Zika was with Ping for a dozen years and worked with the company’s PGA Tour team since 2001. It was during this time that Zika fostered a relationship with Lee Westwood, No. 2 in the World Golf Ranking and a longtime member of Chandler’s stable.

Bubba gets a new ride

Contrary to what Christina Kim thinks, Bubba Watson apparently can have it all. This past weekend, Watson became the proud new owner of the original General Lee car from the “Dukes of Hazzard.” While at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., Bubba tweeted a photo of the legendary vehicle:  

Roughly five hours later, Watson sent out a follow-up tweet, exclaiming, “Just got my dream car!!!” 

Never one to shy away from the send button, Bubba has since continued to tweet about his new prized possession, including this picture of him gassing up the General: 

Watson has also contacted Notorious Whips with plans of customizing the classic Dodge Charger, including a complete restore of the inside. 

And before you even ask, yes, the horn still works. 

All in all, the General Lee set Bubba back a mere $110,000. Not too shabby considering he owns a watch worth more than four times that. Hey Bubba, just make sure you keep an eye out for Roscoe

Tweet of the Day 


February 05, 2010

Daily Flogging: USGA's Rugge responds to Mickelson

Posted at 10:50 AM by Gary Van Sickle

A day without a grooves story would be like a day without sunshine. Thankfully, somebody in the newspaper business finally got around to checking out the other side of the story. So a tip of the golf visor to Garry Smits of The Florida Times-Union, who got USGA senior technical director Dick Rugge to say a few words after several days of listening to Phil Mickelson's agenda.

Rugge's message to Smits is that the USGA sets equipment standards to protect the game, not "kill it" as Mickelson claimed earlier in the week.

"The USGA does a lot to improve the game," Rugge said Thursday. "As far as someone accusing us of killing the sport, I'm not going to get into a response to Phil Mickelson on that. He's entitled to his own opinion."

The USGA produced data that showed the U-groove irons had become too easy to hit out of rough. Skilled players not only got the ball out cleanly in most cases, but they were still able to control distance and spin the ball. The USGA mandated a switch to shallower V-shaped grooves, which cost equipment manufacturers millions.

At least half a dozen players have put 20-year-old Ping Eye2 irons into play. (Northern Trust Open update: Padraig Harrington did not put Pings into play Thursday but Fred Couples did.) They have the old U-grooves but conform to the rules thanks to a legal settlement between Ping and the USGA. Mickelson was critical of the ruling while using a Ping wedge last week and is also upset because Callaway clubs submitted with conforming grooves were not approved. Mickelson complained that one man (Rugge, although he didn't name him) has too much power over the rules.

Rugge took issue with Mickelson's "one man" comment in his talk with Smits.

"I have a staff of 16 people, including six engineers with Ph.D.s," Rugge said. "We get about 2,500 clubs submitted to us every year, and we approve about 80 percent of them as conforming. And the 20 percent have an appeal process. They can go to the USGA executive committee, so there's 15 more people involved. We can't please everyone, but I think we do the best we can."

As for the Ping Eye2 clubs, Rugge said they are conforming clubs and he has no problem with players using them.

Daily Flogging: Couples plays controversial wedge at Riv

Posted at 10:35 AM by Gary Van Sickle

Doug Ferguson of The Associated Press caught up with Fred Couples, who talked about why he decided to put the square-grooved, pre-1990 Ping wedge in play at Riviera. Couples said he was inspired by Phil Mickelson's example and his willingness to take criticism.

“I said, ‘I think that’s strong, and I’m going to use one next week,’” Couples said. “He said, ‘Man, I think that’s great.’ I get out here and he’s not using it.”

Ferguson also had a great nugget about leader Dustin Johnson's round of 64:

Dustin Johnson was determined to get off to a good start in the Northern Trust Open, so for the first time, he decided against trying to drive the 10th green at Riviera and instead laid up with a 4-iron. He made par, which never hurts. And then he took off. Johnson birdied three of his next four holes, one of them with a 65-foot putt, and he kept bogeys off his card during a cool, gentle morning for a 7-under 64 to build a one-shot lead Thursday over Andres Romero and Kevin Stadler.

“Had good vibes going all day, and just hit the ball really good all day long,” Johnson said.

Youth was served in the Middle East as well. In Dubai, 20-year-old Rory McIlroy shot a four-under-par 68 to share the Omega Dubai Desert Classic lead with four others, including new father Jeev Milkha Singh and South Africa's Charl Schwartzel, who had back-to-back wins last month on the European Tour.

Karl MacGinty had the story for The Irish Independent and supplied this Rory story, which proves the young Northern Irishman knows his golf history:

McIlroy's knowledge of golf is also impressive. For example, he was able to give a quick-fire biographic note yesterday on each of the four Ryder Cup vice-captains chosen by U.S. skipper Corey Pavin for Celtic Manor.

"Well, Paul Goydos was beaten by Sergio Garcia at the Players in 2008," he said. "Tom Lehman won the Open at Lytham in '96; Jeff Sluman won a few times on the PGA Tour, along with the PGA in '88; and Davis Love III was PGA champion at Winged Foot in '97-- that rainbow came out over the course, which was touching, as his father had recently died." Wow

In Australia, Jim Herman shot a course-record 10-under-par 62 at the Moonah Links to lead the Nationwide Tour's Moonah Classic. Herman's claim to fame is that he once worked for Donald Trump in New Jersey and has played with Trump, Samuel L. Jackson and Tom Brady. The 32-year-old Herman is a native of Ohio, and had been the third alternate among the Americans on the tour's two-week swing to New Zealand and Australia.

Mark Hayes had the story in The Herald Sun, although he never explained just what Herman's job was in the Trump organization.

"Sometimes it just happens," [Herman] said modestly. "You just want to get out of your own way at that point, just keep hitting fairways and greens and just get the putter in your hands and see what happens."

He said Trump would be delighted to learn of his score and that playing regularly with the multimillionaire had helped him handle pressure. "He's a good guy, a lot of people feel nervous around him but all he wants to see is just good golf."

February 04, 2010

Daily Flogging: Phil Mickelson rests his case, but groove issue persists

Posted at 11:47 AM by Gary Van Sickle

Phil Mickelson will not use his controversial Ping Eye2 wedge this week at the Northern Trust Open. "My point has been made," he said.

Phil's motivation is exactly what I predicted it was -- a scripted move to effectively flip the bird to the United States Golf Association for banning square grooves in such a haphazard manner, and for not approving some Callaway wedges even though they were conforming. Phil's use of the old wedge was probably never going to be more than a one-week statement, and all the ill will and bad publicity guaranteed it was a one-off.

Randy Youngman wrote as much in the Orange County Register

Listening to him, and reading between his lines, it sounded as if Mickelson had planned to stir up the controversy to protest the USGA's decision to implement the 2010 rule changes related to grooves in irons. ...

"I think it was a ridiculous rule change and even worse timing," Mickelson said. "It's cost manufacturers millions of dollars. It was unnecessary. It was an attempt to show power. And the arbitrary judgment of one man (who) can take a conforming club and rule it non-conforming based on his emotion, this type of transparency has got to change. It's killing the sport. It's killing the manufacturers." And, Mickelson added, "I was prepared for the controversy and debate. I wasn't prepared to be singled out. I wasn't prepared to be accused of violating the rules."

The man Mickelson is talking about is Dick Rugge, the USGA's senior technical director who is responsible for determining what equipment is legal. Mickelson did threaten to put his Pings back in play if the loophole isn't closed.

Mickelson, always conscious of being a spin doctor (no pun intended), tried to make this episode (which gave golf another black eye just when it didn't need one) into a feel-good moment. He claimed he took the Ping out of his bag out of respect to the players who honored his wife, Amy, during Colonial last year with a pink-out day in support of her battle with breast cancer. Said Phil, "Out of respect for them, I do not want to have an advantage over anybody, whether it's perceived or actual."

Feel free to take that comment with a grain of salt, or more like two tons of it. Get serious. If he really meant what he said, Mickelson wouldn't have put the Ping wedge in play in the first place. He disrespected them last week, but this week he's respecting them?

Meanwhile, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem finally joined the fray Wednesday, holding a press conference at Riviera to discuss the grooves issue and what the Tour intends to do about it. The short answer is nothing, at least not yet.

Finchem did outline the Tour's three options. (If you're already tired of this grooves deal, Jeff Rude in Golfweek provided the most succinct and understandable version of Finchem's comments.) Option one is to do nothing, which isn't acceptable because it raises the issue of fairness. Option two, which appears to be what the Tour is hoping for, is for Ping's John Solheim to waive the legal loophole his company won in the '90s for the good of the game. Option three is for a five-person committee to wade through a process to decide whether the loophole should be overruled for the good of the game. Solheim has already said he doesn't think the Tour can legally do that. Finchem said he thinks it can. Option three, therefore, is a handoff to the lawyers. Which means it's a lousy option.

Especially for the PGA Tour, whose track record in courts of law isn't very good. Finchem was the man, you may recall, who decided to take the Casey Martin cart case all the way to the Supreme Court.

Rex Hoggard of pointed out the Tour's history, and its efforts in this instance:

It's worth noting the Tour's record in the court room is below the Mendoza Line, at best. The truth is that if it wasn't for Doug Barron the circuit would still be on the legal schneid...

On Wednesday Finchem offered a rare mea culpa, saying the circuit wasn't prepared for the fallout the grandfathered implement caused. "The assumption was made last year that very few, if any, players would use that club because they're 20 years old," Finchem said.

Never mind, of course, that he had a letter from Ping CEO John Solheim on his desk nearly two years earlier warning about exactly that possibility. Nostradamus didn't have that kind of vision.

But then finger pointing is of little use now. All that matters is that a game that once held itself above all others has now been linked, however incorrectly, to cheating. More than 6.2 million times, according to a simple Google search Wednesday afternoon.

The grooves story will now shift away from which players are using the clubs to Solheim, the one man who can make this controversy vanish. Steve Elling made Solheim the focal point of his column on

Two decades after his late father, Karsten Solheim, fought tooth-and-nail with the golf superpowers so that his toothy Ping clubs weren't outlawed for play, his son John represents the quickest solution to the game's messiest rules loophole in years. ...

John Solheim, the CEO of Ping, can make it all go away. Finchem spoke with Solheim on Friday, and the latter said he would be willing to discuss a possible solution to the grooves rift, although Finchem isn't sure what sort of demands he might make or leverage he might exert. Solheim's got plenty of it. ...

There's much for Solheim to consider because the 1993 agreement between the company and the golf powers is a deeply personal affair. A quarter-century ago, Ping's player-friendly clubs were effectively marked for extinction by rulemakers and Karsten spent a small fortune on lawyers fighting for the company's economic survival. The Eye 2 agreement was a result of that legal wrangling.

Karsten Solheim, perhaps the greatest innovator in golf history... created the square groove -- not to mention the astoundingly successful Anser putter -- as part of his legacy. Small wonder, then, that on principle alone, his son isn't likely to dismiss the Eye 2 stipulation lightly.

So where does that leave us? Well, there is hope, perhaps, because the one thing in favor of a quick sweep under the rug is the fact that no one stands to really gain from allowing the Eye2s to remain legal, not counting a few club collectors. Part of the original settlement was that Ping could no longer manufacture clubs with those grooves. Since Ping isn't going to sell any more Eye 2s, maybe Solheim will put a quick end to this controversy.

There is more to the story, however. Mark Whicker nailed it with his lead in the Orange County Register:

The U.S. Golf Association knew pro golfers were entitled to use a certain U-grooved wedge even if it outlawed such a clubs. It did so anyway ...

There is no short version, but let's try to summarize it before recess.

The USGA announced a ban on U-grooves, or square grooves, because it wanted to discourage players from bashing drives into the rough and then spinning shots close to the hole. It was tired of Woods and Mickelson and Singh and others hitting five of 18 fairways and shooting 67.

But it ignored the fact that Karsten Manufacturing, which puts out Ping equipment, already had sued the USGA over this and, in the settlement, agreed to stop manufacturing the club as long as the USGA refused to ban it.

Thus the Ping Eye 2 wedge remained available to PGA Tour players even though it does not conform to current rules.

Whicker also dug up a good stat: The average drive on Tour (although it's early, and this stat could be affected by soggy West Coast conditions) is down this year from 287.9 yards to 281.2. It's far too soon to conclude that six-yard reduction is due to a new emphasis on hitting fairways or on players switching to a softer ball, but maybe the groove rule is starting to work by putting an emphasis on accuracy.

The real story is that we're haggling about grooves now because the USGA and the R&A are unwilling to address the golf ball, as many greats of the game (Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player) have suggested. The grooves rule is a backdoor way to encourage players to use softer golf balls and thus give up a few yards off the tee.

Finally, Diane Pucin becomes this year's first entrant in the Daily Flogging's Hall of Cliche Kickers, which is reserved for writers who use an all-purpose, well-worn, two-word phrase to end an article. Here's how she concluded her Los Angeles Times piece on the McCarron-Mickelson grooves dust-up:

McCarron said Tuesday he knows he was wrong in one respect. "I shouldn't have brought any player into this," he said. "But I've also heard from a lot of guys that everybody should be on the same playing field. This issue should have been resolved before Jan. 1."

But it hasn't. Stay tuned.

Rest assured that's not the last "stay tuned" you'll see in 2010.

February 03, 2010

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

Posted at 1:48 PM by Gary Van Sickle

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 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 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.

February 02, 2010

Daily Flogging: Phil Mickelson needs a spin doctor in this grooves flap

Posted at 12:04 PM by Gary Van Sickle

Somebody gets it, but Phil Mickelson obviously doesn't. Neither does John Daly. Nor, apparently, does three-time major champion Padraig Harrington, who reportedly has been practicing with some of the controversial pre-1990 Ping Eye2 square-grooved wedges and may use them this week at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club.

Columnist Derek Lawrenson of Britain's Daily Mail understands the consequences of the Ping clubs. Check out this headline over his story: "Please, Phil Mickelson, golf can't take another cheating scandal."

This is the outbreak of reaction to Phil using the Ping clubs last week at Torrey Pines, which prompted fellow tour player Scott McCarron to say anyone using the clubs is "cheating." That led to a weekend rebuke in an official statement by the PGA Tour, which clarified that using the clubs is allowed under the rules and therefore not cheating. And that led to McCarron standing by his comments Monday, splitting hairs by saying that he never specifically called Mickelson a cheater, just accused anyone of using them of cheating. It's a fine point that a good country lawyer named Bill Clinton would understand and nod knowingly at.

Lawrenson gets right to the point with his lead:

Imagine if Phil Mickelson wins the Masters this year by a stroke from Lee Westwood using a vintage Ping wedge that the latter, a Ping contracted player all his professional life, will not touch because he believes it violates the spirit of the game.

This is the unpalatable scenario facing a sport that thought things were bad enough when its best player was caught cheating on his wife.

Now the No. 2 player has been branded a cheat on the course--using a wedge with square rather than U-shaped grooves--and if Mickelson doesn't re-think his ill-conceived move to put this club in his bag, the repercussions are dire. At the moment he is hiding behind the fact he is not technically breaking any rule. However, the court of professional opinion is almost wholly behind Westwood. Mickelson should consider their unforgiving verdict before he decides his next move.

Lawrenson also smartly points out that the Royal & Ancient Golf Club never made the same silly settlement with Ping that the USGA and the PGA Tour did. Thus the Ping wedge is banned by the R&A and can be used only in America. And the idea that Phil might win a Masters or a U.S. Open with it, Lawrenson writes, "doesn't bear thinking about."

Tod Leonard of The San Diego Union-Tribune wondered about Mickelson's motivation for using the Ping club. Was it just Phil being Phil?

Never mind what's right or wrong, Phil's move was bad timing. He had just been given the keys to golf's penthouse, effectively, with the self-imposed exile of Tiger Woods. (Thanks to SI's John Garrity for that penthouse line.) Phil was golf's temporary savior, and then he blew all that good will by intentionally stepping into what he knew would be a full-blown controversy.

Line of the day from Leonard: "Golf needs more controversy right now like Tiger Woods needs another girlfriend." Here's more from Leonard:

The stage was perfectly adorned for Mickelson last week. With Tiger Woods out due to his sex scandal and Mickelson coming off a torrid stretch of play at the end of '09, the golf world was thirsty for the San Diegan to make a statement with his game in his hometown.

Instead, he chose to make a political statement to the U.S. Golf Association and PGA Tour over the grooves issue. And in the process he opened himself up to questions about his integrity and the wisdom of golf's governing bodies.

Everybody's got a black eye on this one, including PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, who can't be thrilled that he has to address the issue today at a news conference at Riviera Country Club. Let's make it clear: McCarron was wrong to call out Mickelson and others with the word “cheating.” ... But why would Mickelson even put himself in this position, when it was predictable he would be attacked? Plain and simple, it is Phil being Phil. He wanted to rattle cages with the governing bodies, to make them see how counterproductive their grandfather clause is. He probably got more than he bargained for with McCarron.

The grooves are sure to be a hot topic at Tuesday's Tour player meeting in LA. There was talk of creating a local rule to ban the square-grooved Pings, but Ping chairman John Solheim stepped forward to remind the Tour that according to its settlement, it can do no such thing. Doug Ferguson of The Associated Press reported Solheim's reaction: "While I fully expect the PGA Tour to honor this agreement, I'm willing to discuss a workable solution to this matter that would benefit the game and respect the role innovation has played over the long history of golf," Solheim said.

Ferguson also reported that Harrington arrived at Riviera with two sets of Ping wedges. Meanwhile our own Alan Shipnuck of Sports Illustrated reported that Randy Peterson, Callaway Golf's director of fitting and instruction, said Mickelson's Ping wedge imparted as much as 25 percent more spin than any of the Callaway wedges with new grooves.

One more nugget from Ferguson: Solheim said the controversy did not catch Ping by surprise. He said when the USGA proposed its new groove regulation two years ago, Ping reminded officials of the 1990 settlement. He said he advised the USGA and PGA Tour in a letter dated July 31, 2007, that "what is happening on the PGA Tour today was very much a possibility."

Look for the grooves story to overshadow this week's tournament coverage. It's not over yet, by a long shot.

January 29, 2010

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

Posted at 9:30 AM by Gary Van Sickle

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.

January 27, 2010

Mickelson: We've had 'limited communication' with 'Woods family'

Posted at 2:35 PM by Cameron Morfit

SAN DIEGO -- Phil Mickelson addressed a standing-room only crowd of about 60 journalists at his press conference at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines on Wednesday, and before taking questions made a prepared statement to address several pressing issues.Jan27_mickelson_600x400

"The first is obviously the Tiger, uh, topic," Mickelson said. "The game of golf needs him to come back. I mean it's important for him to come back and be a part of the sport, but right now he's got a lot more important things going on in his life. And Amy and I are good friends with both Tiger and Elin and we care deeply about how this turns out, but I'm going to choose not to talk about it publicly anymore, and I appreciate you guys' understanding on that."

Asked why he, like others, has been reluctant to talk about Woods, Mickelson responded:

"Well, again, I don't want to talk about it publicly for the reason that we're friends and we have a personal relationship, and I just don't feel--I feel like it's a violation of our trust and our relationship."

Mickelson did allow that he and his wife, Amy, have had "limited communication" with the Woods family, although "not necessary saying with who in the family."

Asked to comment on the coverage of the Woods scandal, Mickelson threw it back to his questioners.

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