Harrington: Grooves debate needs clarification

Reuters - Wed, 03 Feb 07:22:00 2010

Padraig Harrington has called for an urgent resolution to the simmering debate over the legality of square grooves on the US PGA Tour.

Padraig Harrington acknowledges the crowd after carding a quadruple-bogey nine at the second hole during the third round of the Masters, Augusta National, April 2009 - 0

While the three-times major winner was uncertain of the best way forward for the US circuit, Harrington said he would keep his own options open on whether to use the controversial 20-year-old Ping wedge.

"It has to be black and white, it really does," the 38-year-old Irishman told said while preparing for this week's Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club.

"And the problem is that it is black and white, it's legal, so that means there has to be something else done about it.

"Legally I don't know how they can go about it, but maybe the (US) PGA Tour could play under the rules of the R&A (Royal & Ancient), then we'd have no problem," Harrington added.

"Maybe Ping could forego the lawsuit, and then there would be no problem. Or maybe everybody could sign up to a charter and say we won't use them.

"But while they (Ping wedges) are out there being used, it's difficult for anybody who's competitive not to go out there and take full advantage if somebody else is."

The debate came to a head last week when world number two Phil Mickelson, along with at least three other players, used a 20-year-old Ping-Eye 2 wedge with square grooves at the San Diego Open.

Although the club is deemed legal because of a lawsuit won by its manufacturer over the United States Golf Association in 1990, Mickelson was accused of cheating by fellow American Scott McCarron.

As of January 1, new rules relating to club-face grooves were implemented at the top level after research found modern configurations could allow players to generate almost as much spin with irons from the rough as from the fairway.

All clubs, with the exception of drivers and putters, have been affected by the change which limits groove volume and groove-edge sharpness, effectively replacing U-grooves with V-grooves.

While uncertain whether he would follow Mickelson's lead, Harrington had tested a 60-degree Ping wedge which he found beneficial for shots out of the rough.

"Out of the light rough and the heavy rough with short and long shots ... it's significant to distance control and that," he said. "But there's no difference to my Wilson wedge off the fairway, none at all. It comes out the exactly same.

"Whether I'm going to use them (Pings) or not, I'm kind of waiting to see what the Tour's direction is. I'm preparing myself for all eventualities. It would be naive not to."

US PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was to discuss the grooves dispute with players at Riviera on Tuesday, although a news conference had not been planned until the following day.

American world number three Steve Stricker agreed with Harrington that a resolution was urgently required.

"The rule just needs to be altered," the seven-times US PGA Tour winner said. "There was nothing wrong with what these players (Mickelson and others) were doing. They're playing under the rules. It's not like they were cheating or anything.

"We just all want to make sure that we're all playing under the same rules."


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