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To Groove Or Not To Groove

The PGA Tour’s dilemma with the controversial grooves rule, highlighted by Phil Mickelson in January, was resolved on Monday when club manufacturer Ping opted to waive its rights as of March 29, 2010.

To groove or not to groove, will the question for Phil Mickelson to answer. As the “grooved club” controversy hit full gear recently, when fellow pro golfer Scott McCarron allegedly referred to Phil’s use of the renegade golf sticks as “cheating. This comment by McCarron fired off a tail wind of controversy, especially to golf’s golden boy Phil “I Do No Wrong” Mickelson. Phil is famous for calling out players like Tiger Woods for their equipment, but insisted on playing with the ridiculed clubs in a tournament recently. The United States Golf Association (USGA) rules implemented on January 1, square or U-grooves have been outlawed but a 20-year-old Ping wedge was deemed legal because of a lawsuit won by its manufacturer over the USGA in 1990.

Several players on the 2010 PGA Tour have used the square grooved wedge, but clearly no one I stalking now about the possibility of being referred to as being “cheats’. Ping chairman and chief executive John Solheim said his company had acted “in the best interests of golf” and that pre-April 1990 clubs would not be permitted on the U.S. circuit once the March 29 waiver takes effect.

“The problem is solved on the PGA Tour and the integrity of the original agreements is unaffected,” Solheim said in a statement released by the Tour on Monday. “It levels the playing field on the PGA Tour and resolves a very unfortunate situation that we predicted would happen when the USGA first proposed the new groove rule more than two years ago. “It keeps in place all of our other rights established … including ensuring amateurs will continue to be able to play their pre-April 1990 EYE2s at all amateur events played under the USGA rules of golf.”

The waiver will apply to the PGA Tour, the senior Champions Tour and the satellite Nationwide Tour.
Mickelson, renowned for his short game, has been a consistent critic of the rule change and put the controversial club in his bag at Torrey Pines simply to make a point. “It was a ridiculous rule change and even worse timing,” said the 39-year-old world number three.

“It’s cost manufacturers millions of dollars. It continues to cost them money as we now have to hire people to scan, document and store data of every groove on every single club.” Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was delighted Ping had decided to waive its rights under the 1990 settlement, saying: “John Solheim and Ping had a terrific opportunity to do something very positive and significant for the game of golf and we very much appreciate his willingness to take this action.”

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