Posted by: Nate Fain | February 1, 2010

Phil Mickelson: cheater or not?

There has been a lot of talk this past week about Phil Mickelson’s use of a Ping Eye2 wedge made before March 31, 1990.

This wedge is an exception or a loop hole to the recent rule implemented by the USGA to ban irons and wedges that have certain grooves, especially square.

If you’re not a golfer or don’t know much about golf clubs, maybe this will clear it up.

Basically, these wedges and irons were banned by the USGA from elite competition (like tournaments on the PGA Tour) in an effort to make the game more difficult and to put an emphasis on accuracy. There are regulations on grooves now because the bigger, deeper, more defined and wider the grooves are, the more backspin can be created.

For players as good as those on the PGA Tour, the more backspin generated in a golf shot, the straighter it flies and the easier it is to control.

If you watch the U.S. Open, you probably can figure out that the last thing the USGA wants is for golf to be easier.

However, there is an exception to the rule.

Mickelson with his Ping Eye2 wedge.

Because of a lawsuit filed by Ping golf (a golf equipment manufacturer) any Ping Eye2 iron that was made before March 31, 1990 can still be used. Back in 1990, these clubs were going to be sanctioned by the USGA because the grooves were too wide. Ping filed a lawsuit for $100 million, and the USGA decided to settle out of court and deemed these clubs legal for competitive play.

Somehow, this lawsuit takes precedent over the current regulations on grooves of wedges and irons that the USGA started implementing this year. Phil Mickelson, along with a few other PGA Tour players have decided to wind back the clock twenty years and play with these old wedges. Technically, it’s legal, but how right is it ethically? That’s the debate.

Golf is known as the “gentleman’s sport.” It’s known for honesty (don’t tell Tiger), classiness (again…don’t tell Tiger), integrity (OK, I’m done picking on Tiger, but you get the idea) and sportsmanship. There are rules officials, but most of the time, it’s up to the players to call an infraction of the rules on themselves. You’re your own referee.

“Lefty” has continually denied that he is breaking the rules because the clubs are, in fact, legal. But he’s missing the point worse than he misses fairways in clutch situations.

This isn’t about the legality of using the clubs, it’s the idea of you discovering a loophole that goes against the general idea of the rule.

The PGA Tour has sent out a statement basically telling other players to hush up and quit complaining. Seems like a pathetic attempt to save their only star in golf while Tiger is rehabbing (although, this time it’s not his knee).

Is it cheating? Technically, no. But Lee Westwood agrees that this move is far from classy.

“It’s a very strong word to use, cheating. It wouldn’t be my choice to use them, but it’s obviously not against the rules or else he wouldn’t do it,” Westwood said. “I could do it more than anybody else because I’ve got thousands of Ping wedges. I have the opportunity to do it and I don’t.”

Good for you, Westwood. Shame on you, Phil.

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Responses

  1. Can you break the rule by adhering to the rule?

    The problem isn’t with Mickelson or McCarron, it’s the USGA. In order to settle the Ping lawsuit, (Make it go away) the USGA gave up the right to limit the players use of the Ping Eye II wedges. By their own By-laws, the PGA must comply with the “Rules of Golf” as dictated by the USGA. The PGA cannot now complain when players use this “loop-hole”.

    It would be nice if today’s players wiould comply with the spirit of the new rule, however, don’t blame the players, blame the USGA if they don’t.

  2. I agree for the most part. It all starts with the USGA.

    Like you and I discussed away from the blog, it sounds like they’re the ones that messed this thing up in the first place by not taking control in 1990.

    I’m not 100% on the situation in 1990, but it sounds like Ping was told that their clubs would conform, and a few months later the USGA changed their ruling, which would have costed Ping millions. (About $100 million, actually)

    The thing that bothers me about Phil is that he put himself in the situation. Golf is not the place for loopholes. But, ultimately, the USGA should be to blame.


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