The story of Phil Mickelson being called a cheat by a fellow golfer has circulated this week at the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.
Mickelson is using a wedge with square grooves rather than V-shaped grooves. The square-grooved clubs were banned by the U.S Golf Association (USGA) except for those that were manufactured by Ping prior to April 1, 1990.
That exception was agreed to by the USGA after it was sued by Ping. All square-grooved clubs but the Ping wedge are now illegal on the U.S. PGA Tour.
David Feherty, CBS golf analyst told television viewers on Saturday that the old grooves keep more grass from coming between the club and the ball as it comes off the ground.
Yahoo! Sports reports that Mickelson and at least four other golfers have the controversial clubs in their bags for the tournament. Cue the howls of others, one of whom actually called Phil a cheat. Scott McCarron spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday and said: “It’s cheating and I’m appalled Phi has put it in play.”
A fan favorite for years and seen by many as more accessible and pleasant than Tiger Woods, Mickelson is being counted on by the PGA to keep sponsors, fans and television viewers attending and watching the events in the absence of the big kahuna, Tiger Woods.
Mickelson went on the defensive Friday with media and admitted that he is taking advantage of the loop hole but reminded everyone that he follows the rules of golf, if not in spirit, at least literally.
The PGA buttressed that with a statement on Saturday castigating McCarron but not by name. The full statement can be found here. It says in part: “criticisms characterizing their use as a violation of the Rules of Golf as promulgated by the USGA are inappropriate at best.
In the meantime, Mickelson who has carefully cultivated his good guy image is being asked questions that seem strange to him. There’s a way to fix that. Ditch the Ping.
Paula Duffy is a national sports columnist for Examiner.com and the Huffington Post and regularly comments on sports/legal matters for radio affiliates of ESPN and Fox Sports. She founded the sports information site, Incidental Contact, is the author of a line of audio books designed for sports novices and in her spare time practices law in Los Angeles.