Reuters - Wed, 03 Feb 22:17:00 2010
Phil Mickelson has backed down over his controversial Ping wedge and will leave the club out of his bag for this week's Northern Trust Open - but he remains totally opposed to the new grooves rule introduced this year.
Mickelson was among a handful of players who used the 20-year-old Ping-Eye 2 wedge with square grooves at last week's San Diego Open, prompting an accusation by fellow American Scott McCarron that he had been "cheating".
Under USGA and R&A rules implemented on January 1, square or U-grooves have been outlawed but the Ping wedge is deemed legal because of a lawsuit won by its manufacturer over the USGA in 1990.
"I like and respect these (PGA Tour) players out here," Mickelson said at Riviera Country Club in LA.
"Out of respect for them, I do not want to have an advantage over anybody, whether it's perceived or actual. So this week I won't be playing that wedge. My point has been made.
"But if these governing bodies cannot get together to fix this loophole, if players stop using this wedge which would stop the pressing of the issue, then I will relook at it and put the wedge back in play."
The new rules relating to club-face grooves were implemented 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.
Three-times Major winner Mickelson, who is renowned for his short game, has been a consistent critic of the change.
"It was a ridiculous rule change and even worse timing," the 39-year-old said.
"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.
"It was unnecessary ... and the arbitrary judgment of one (USGA) man can take a conforming club and rule it non-conforming based on his emotion.
"This lack of transparency has got to change. It's killing the sport. It's killing the manufacturers and the players."
Mickelson added: "This rule change is great for me, but that doesn't mean it's right. You have to remove yourself as a player and decide what is this good for the game."
The world number two, bidding this week for an unprecedented third successive victory at Riviera, said he had received an apology from McCarron the previous night.
"We all make mistakes and we all say things we wish we could take back," Mickelson said. "It's also not easy to come up and face that person, look them in the eye and apologise.
"He did that and was very sincere and I accepted the apology. I appreciate him being a big enough man to do that."