by the Night Writer
It’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but there is considerable brouhaha in the PGA where one pro, Scott McCarron, has essentially accused other pros, most prominently Phil Mickelson, of cheating by using illegal clubs.
The issue stems from the PGA’s new rule this year outlawing clubs (especially wedges) with deep, square grooves. These grooves are what help an accomplished golfer (not myself) put greater spin on a ball so that it’s easier to keep the ball on the green. Due to a long-ago lawsuit the PGA settled with club manufacturer Ping, however, the PGA is not allowed to outlaw a particular older model of Ping wedge which features these grooves. Mickelson and some others continue to use this “legal” club, and it is this that McCarron is criticizing.
Technically, the Ping wedges aren’t illegal, but that’s because of the settlement, not their design. By the spirit of the new rules, however, the club is in violation and clearly gives those who use it an advantage. It’s not too dissimilar from the the days in Major League Baseball when the steroids weren’t officially banned. Golf is different from baseball, however, in many ways and one of the most essential is not just the premiium, but the mandate, the sport places on honesty and integrity. Golfers are expected to, and routinely do, call penalties on themselves or gamely accept their punishment if found to have inadvertently violated a rule, even when the infraction was for something picayune that barely created an advantage.
I’m not saying that all of those years when golfers could legally use the square-grooved wedges should be erased from the record books. These clubs were vetted and approved at the time. Now that the rules have changed, and are clear, Mickelson, et al, should honor the intent of the rule and the spirit of integrity the game calls for. If not, every dollar they earn this year should come with a big, fat asterisk beside it.