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Grooves issues

'Cheater' accusation prompts charge
of 'slander' from Mickelson at Torrey

By John Davis                                                                                                                                  Jan. 30, 2010

SAN DIEGO                                                                                                                                                                                            

    Coming into this PGA Tour season, Phil Mickelson was called “the man” in many golf circles.       

    Now, he has been labeled a “cheater” by one fellow pro in what has become a highly controversial issue just one month into a season that began with golf’s top player, Tiger Woods, taking an indefinite leave from competition due to a sex scandal.

    Scott McCarron accused Mickelson of cheating on Friday for using golf clubs that conform to tour rules. Mickelson shot back Saturday with charges of “slander.”

    “I feel like I was publicly slandered,” Mickelson said after shooting 2-under 70 in the third round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, which left him 4 shots behind leader Ryuji Imada.

                           Say What? Mickelson transcript:

    What makes the situation with McCarron all the more sticky is that he is a member of the Players Advisory Council that deals with competition issues, and he uses a long putter, which many in golf circles long have considered a form of cheating.

    In this case, Mickelson is using a Ping Eye2 wedge more than 20 years old, which was grandfathered in as legal because of a lawsuit brought by the equipment maker in the early 1990s.

    So which piece of equipment is more offensive to golfers, the old wedge or the long putter?

    Rest assured that neither is more offensive than being accused of “cheating.” In just about anything, that statement would burn your keester. In golf, it’s like taking a flamethrower to all the jewels in the family.  

     Mickelson clearly was unhappy that the tour took its time coming to his defense, which it did by issuing a statement Saturday about the legality of the Ping clubs.

     As the rules read, both Mickelson’s wedge and McCarron’s putter are conforming, but only one player has hung the most despicable label in golf on the other.

     Several other players also are using or have used the Ping clubs this season, but McCarron took Mickelson to task because of his stature in the golf world.

     The tour responded with this statement:

    “In light of the public comments that have been made regarding the use of pre-1990 Ping Eye 2 irons in competitions sanctioned by the PGA TOUR, it is important for our players, fans and the media to understand the following:

   • Under the Rules of Golf and the 2010 Condition of Competition for Groove Specifications promulgated by the USGA, pre-1990 Ping Eye 2 irons are permitted for play and any player who uses them in PGA TOUR sanctioned events taking place in jurisdictions of the USGA is not in violation of the Rules of Golf; and

  • Because the use of pre-1990 Ping Eye 2 irons is permitted for play, public comments or criticisms characterizing their use as a violation of the Rules of Golf as promulgated by the USGA are inappropriate at best.”

      The tour added that Commissioner Tim Finchem will address the issue in greater detail Feb. 2 during a regularly scheduled players’ meeting and with the media at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles.

     And you can take this to the bank: "Mickelson's people" were talking to "Finchem's people" long and hard about where this matter stood.

     Mickelson would have felt a lot better about it if the tour had issued its statement one day sooner, but then the tour probably isn’t thrilled that he has been openly critical of the new equipment rules, calling them “ridiculous.”

     Mickelson said this week that there will be times when he doesn’t have the Ping wedge in his bag, and it was evident from the start that he was doing so largely in protest to the new grooves rule.

     “I don’t appreciate the governing bodies putting me or any other player in this position, calling into question our integrity over a rule that they made, a club that they approved,” Mickelson said after Friday’s second round. “Don’t put the blame on a player. Put the blame on the governing body.”

     When he finished Saturday, “Lefty” said he expects the tour to handle things.

     “We all have our opinions on the matter, but a line was crossed and I was just publicly slandered, and because of that I’ll have to let other people handle that.”

     Asked if that meant legal considerations, he said, “I’m not sure. I think the tour will probably get on top of it.”

     Those comments came after Mickelson had read the tour’s statement, which suggests he is far from satisfied about the whole incident.

      Stay tuned. All we have read of this matter so far is the preface.


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