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News & Tours

Mickelson: 'I was publicly slandered'

SAN DIEGO -- Phil Mickelson may have been scattering his tee shots on Saturday, but he was more precise with his post-round comments pertaining to Scott McCarron's accusation that he is cheating.

"I was publicly slandered," Mickelson said. He used the term in at least three separate post-round interviews, even hinting that legal action was not out of the question.

"A line was crossed. I was publicly slandered, and because of that I'll have to let other people handle that," he said.

Could that entail legal actions?

"I'm not sure," he replied. "I think the tour will probably get on top of it."

It was just another day at the office for Mickelson, for whom tedium is never part of his professional repertoire. He stuck one tee shot in a tree on Saturday, resulting a two-stroke penalty, nearly hit another onto infamous Black's Beach, where clothing is optional, and put his second into the water at 18. Add it all up and he carded a two-under par 70 that has him tied for fifth, four shots off the lead heading into the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open.

Yet again, his play on the course was overshadowed by developments off it. Mickelson is using a Ping Eye2 wedge with square grooves here, a club that does not adhere to the new USGA rules on grooves, but one that was grandfathered as part of a settlement in 1990 of a suit Ping filed against the USGA.

"It's cheating, and I'm appalled Phil put it in play," McCarron had said.

The PGA Tour responded with a statement exonerating Mickelson of the cheating charge. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in the statement that he'll "address the issue in greater detail on Tuesday...during a regular scheduled player meeting and with the media during the 2010 Northern Trust Open."

"It's ridiculous, isn't it?" Ernie Els said. "Basically all the governing bodies stood back and basically let the players handle the whole issue again. It's almost a little too late now because all the damage has been done. Some players have spoken out against other players, which we don't want to see out here on tour, and it's unfortunate."

--John Strege

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News & Tours

PGA Tour: Phil is not cheating

The PGA Tour issued a statement on Saturday effectively defending Phil Mickelson from a charge that he is cheating by using a Ping Eye2 wedge with square grooves.

"In light of the public comments that have been made regarding the use of pre-1990 Ping Eye2 irons in competitions sanctioned by the PGA Tour, it is important for our players, fans and the media to understand the following:

"Under the Rules of Golf and the 2010 Condition of Competition for Groove specifications promulgated by the USGA, pre-1990 Ping Eye2 irons are permitted for play and any player who uses them in PGA Tour sanctioned events taking place in jurisdictions of the USGA is not in violation of the Rules of Golf; and

"Because the use of pre-1990 Ping Eye2 irons is permitted for play, public comments or criticisms characterizing their use as a violation of the Rules of Golf as promulgated by the USGA are inappropriate at best."

Scott McCarron had said, "it's cheating, and I'm appalled Phil has put it in play."

-- John Strege

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News & Tours

Daly backing off on retirement claim

SAN DIEGO -- John Daly indicated on Twitter that he is not retiring, contrary to the statement he made to Golf Channel on Friday that "I'm done."

On Twitter: "never said retirement in anything or twitter-i want to correct that! simply sayin I need my time & working through these bad times thank you."

Daly said that financial difficulties are impairing his ability to focus on his golf game, leading to the frustration that caused him to suggest he was retiring.

Here are a series of Twitter posts from Daly addressing the issue:

"To all my fans---my financial situation is putting me where I cannot focus on my game, I'm putting too much pressure on myself,

"the few sponsors that I have are great but it's not getting me thru these times--i want to thank my fans throughout all these years &

"I don't like to continue to embarass myself -- maybe my mind may change down the road but right now i don't have the money

"to be on the tour. My game has never been the same since my rib injury during the Honda Classic in 2007. God Bless! JD"

Daly has missed the cut in both his starts on the PGA Tour this year, most recently Friday at the Farmers Insurance Open. He is next scheduled to play at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

-- John Strege

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News & Tours

Mickelson and Daly: Really?

SAN DIEGO -- Two of the more prominent names in golf, Phil Mickelson and John Daly, dominated the news at the Farmers Insurance Open on Friday, each of them having made incredulous statements.

Mickelson denied that he was using the Ping Eye2 wedge with square grooves to protest against the USGA for invoking a groove rule he said is "a terrible rule." He was just curious about whether the Ping wedge would make a difference, he said.

He was not particularly convincing. For one, he said he doesn't see much difference between his Callaway wedge and the Ping Eye2 wedge. If that's the case, why not just use the Callaway wedge, inasmuch as he's on the Callaway tour staff, and not open yourself to a cheating allegation? The headlines aren't favorable to Mickelson. Here is a sampling:

* Phil Mickelson accused of cheating at Torrey Pines -- the New York Times.

* Phil Mickelson cheats, too -- the Boston Herald.

*Mickelson called 'cheat' in club row -- the Independent.

Any fair analysis of the controversy would conclude that he is not cheating, because the club in question is deemed conforming to the rules. But why join a controversy that has your name being associated with cheating?

As for Daly, he already has backed off his statement to Golf Channel on Friday that, "I'm done." (See the previous post.)

He is frustrated, to be sure, but it's inconceivable that he'll quit. What else is he going to do? The game is probably his best (and probably only) option for alleviating the financial difficulties he says are diverting his focus from golf. He'll be back.

-- John Strege


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News & Tours

John Daly says he is quitting

SAN DIEGO -- Is John Daly leaving the game?

He said he was done in an interview that was conducted as part of the new Golf Channel reality show, "Being John Daly." In the wake of his missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open here, he said the following:

"I'm done. I'm done. I can't compete. I can't play like I used to. I can't keep taking spots from guys out here playing this bad. It's not worth it. I'm tired of embarrassing myself in front of them (fans). I just can't do it any more. Can't do it any more."

Daly, 43, is playing on sponsor exemptions and has missed the cut in both PGA Tour starts this year. He is scheduled to play again at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He had rounds of 79 and 71 at Torrey Pines.

-- John Strege

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News & Tours

Mickelson: 'I'm abiding by (the rule)'

SAN DIEGO -- Phil Mickelson on Friday adamantly denied a charge that he's cheating by playing an old Ping Eye2 wedge with square grooves in a game that has banned them, instead putting the onus on the USGA and the PGA Tour for creating an environment that enabled this controversy to fester.

"I agree, it's a terrible rule," he said following the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open."To change something that has this kind of loophole is nuts. But it's not up to me or any other player to interpret the rule or the spirit of the rule. I understand black and white. Myself or any other player is allowed to play those clubs because they're approved.

"I understand guys are upset about this rule. Everybody knew this was coming. I think we need to take it out on the governing bodies."

The Ping Eye2 wedges manufactured before March of 1990 were grandfathered in as part of a settlement of a suit that Ping filed against the USGA. The USGA has banned the use of square grooves, but as many as eight players here have taken advantage of the loophole to use the Ping wedges.

"It's cheating, and I'm appalled Phil has put it in play," tour pro Scott McCarron told the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday. McCarron is among those who consider it a violation of the spirit of the rule.

"All my clubs are approved for play and I take that very seriously not to violate any rules," Mickelson said. "It's not my job to interpret the spirit of the rule. I didn't make this rule. I don't agree with this rule. but I'm abiding by it."

The PGA Tour issued a statement that read: "Leading up to the implementation, we have been aware that under the USGA Rules of Golf, the pre-1990 clubs would be allowed and that there was the potential that some players might choose to use them. We will monitor this situation as we move forward and under our Tournament Regulations we do have the ability to make a local rule which would not allow the clubs. There's been no decision made at this time."

Mickelson, incidentally, denied that he is making a statement by playing the wedge. "It's more a trial for me. I want to see if it makes a difference. I don't notice that big a difference. There's a very good chance I'll switch back, but not for the reason that i think that I'm doing something wrong."

UPDATE: "That anybody using that wedge is cheating? I still feel strongly about it," McCarron told the Associated Press on Friday. "Anyone using that wedge, I feel, is behind the rules, even though we have a rule that because of a lawsuit says it's OK.

"It was approved because of why? Because of a lawsuit years ago? I don't think that's in the spirit of the rules. Golf is a gentleman's game. I don't think anyone should be using it."

Ryuji Imada, co-leader of the Farmers Insurance Open, took exception to the fact players are using these clubs, but said, "I don't consider it cheating."

"The rules are the rules, and if it's allowed by the rules of golf, sure, you can use it," he said. "But I don't agree with it. If everybody else is having to play the V-grooves, I think everyone should have to play the conforming grooves."

-- John Strege

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News & Tours

Could the PGA Tour have avoided this controversy?

SAN DIEGO -- Phil Mickelson's use of an old Ping Eye2 wedge with square grooves at the Farmers Insurance Open this week has sparked a minor controversy that included Scott McCarron telling the San Francisco Chronicle this: "It's cheating, and I'm appalled Phil has put it in play."

John Daly and Dean Wilson also have used the old wedges that don't conform to the USGA's new rules on grooves, but were grandfathered in in 1990 as part of a settlement of a suit Ping had filed against the USGA.

It raises a question as to whether the PGA Tour could have avoided this controversy by unilaterally closing the loophole by prohibiting the use of the wedges in its tournaments. We posed the question to attorney Leonard Decof, who represented Ping in its lawsuit.

"The PGA Tour has always conformed to USGA rules," Decof said. "When we settled the case, I drew up a protocol that said that before the PGA Tour could depart from the USGA that detailed hearings had to be held."

Decof said that the protocol provided for a five-person commission made up of those with expertise on the issue and that all interested parties would be allowed to state their case. "The commission would make a decision based on the evidence," he said.

-- John Strege

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Courses & Travel

Matty G's Top 25 Public Courses In the Country (6-10)

The release of my favorite public courses in the country continues . . .

Repeating disclaimer: My unofficial scoring system is obviously based on the quality of the golf course, but I also factor in service, green fee, a pinch of nostalgia and a smaller pinch of how I played. (It's hard not to like a course when you break 80.)

Straits.jpgNo. 6--Whistling Straits Golf Club (Straits) in Sheboygan, WI. ($340). The positive: I’m giving Pete Dye one in my top 10, and my guess is, it will forever be the Straits course (I think I've seen the best U.S.-based courses he has to offer.) Yes, it’s too much course for me, but I caught it in calm conditions and I flirted with a great score, relatively speaking. Unlike the Ocean Course at Kiawah, you feel like Dye took into account the potential for wind (and the amateur golfer) when he built Whistling Straits. It’s another spiritual spot where you look around a lot and remind yourself: life is short so you might as well enjoy it. The negative: It’s expensive, but it is one of the premiere Big League Ballparks in the country. The fifth hole is an odd fit. The four par 3s are spectacular, but they teeter on being repetitive. Favorite hole: No. 17, a par 3 (pictured above).

No. 7--Bandon Dunes in Bandon, Ore. ($275). The positive: It was phase one of Mike Keiser’s grand plan--it had to be good or the empire never gets off the ground; my compliments to David McLay Kidd for not screwing it up. You’ll appreciate the views of the Pacific Ocean and get used to an internal speech pattern: “Could I figure out a way to live here?” Especially standing on the 16th green and 17th tee. The negative: There can be extreme wind and weather, so pack accordingly. I don’t love the finishing hole. The resort is hard to get to, but they’ve made it easier with improvements and flight frequency to the “Southwest Oregon Regional Airport in North Bend” (the name of the airport is also a negative). Favorite hole: No. 5, it's top 5 best par 4s on the planet of public golf.

No. 8--Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, Calif. ($220). The positive: Two holes into the round I was in love (and I was also 3-over). An Alister Mackenzie design, updated for 10 years by Tom Doak, there aren’t any bad holes. I use Pasatiempo as a benchmark of a combination of quality, value and mystique--not many public courses can compare. You’ll want to play it at least twice (replay rate is $110). The negative: I said there aren’t any bad holes, but a few might be out of order. I didn’t like finishing on a par 3. Favorite hole: No. 3, it hurts so good.

No. 9--Pebble Beach in Calif. ($495). The positive: History, an iconic coastline, 17-Mile Drive and six (or seven) of the greatest holes in the world. The negative: In this current state of the game (and economy), the fact that they haven’t dropped their green fee is a flagstick-sized middle finger to the world of golf. As the so-called “best in the business,” if they go down to $300, or even $350, that forces all of the other over-priced courses to drop, respectively. Even worse, Pebble has developed a pay, play and get out of our way attitude. At that price I expect Sea Islandesque hospitality with a small bucket of humility. I realize they don’t care what I say, but I’ll keep saying it. Favorite hole: No. 8, if there's a better approach shot in golf, I haven't played it.

No. 10--Bandon Trails in Bandon, Ore. ($275). The positive: It’s two minutes from two other courses in my top 10, and it has the best greens on property (at least until they open Old Macdonald in June). Tucked into the trees, it’s a different look and a lot less breezy than Pacific and Bandon Dunes. Some people make the horrific mistake of coming to the best golf resort in the country and not playing Trails. Their loss. That just means there’s more room on the tee sheet for you and me. The negative: They’ve made some changes, and it’s getting better, but I still can’t be a fan of the 14th hole (and I’ve never loved 18). Favorite hole: No. 12, a par 3, but standing on the tee you'll think it's a par 4.

My top 5 will post on Monday. I will follow it up with my Top 10 Affordable Courses in the Country.

--Matty G.

Click on the "previous post" below for courses 11-15, 16-20 and then 21-25.

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News & Tours

Mickelson heeds the caution signs

SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Phil Mickelson eased into a new season on Thursday, content with a score of two-under par 70 that in fact is considerably closer to the top of the leaderboard than simple numbers indicate.

Mickelson was playing the South Course at Torrey Pines, a former U.S. Open course that it substantially more difficult than the North Course, which is among the easiest on the PGA Tour. Fourteen of the top 15 scores in the opening round of the Farmers Insurance Open here were recorded on the North.

"I'll take a couple under on the South Course," Mickelson said. "The course is playing long, and it's not the easiest to go low on. I played a little cautious today, trying to not make too many mistakes and keep myself in it because tomorrow the North Course is a course that provides the opportunity to shoot a low round."

Mickelson's position is a tie for 40th, but his score tied for the seventh lowest among those playing the South Course.

"i was a little more cautious because I didn't want to make too many big mistakes," he said. "I want to work my way in the tournament. Nicklaus used to talk about that in majors, that he wanted to try to progress as the week went along, and I didn't want to try to come out and win the tournament on Thursday. It's just not possible. I wanted to try to build into it, so I'm hoping I play better tomorrow and shoot a low score on the North, good enough to get myself in contention for the weekend."

-- John Strege

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News & Tours

Mickelson deals Accenture another blow

LA JOLLA, Calif. -- This has been a rough two-month patch for the sports marketing department at Accenture. The global management consulting firm had to drop Tiger Woods as a corporate pitchman and learned officially Wednesday that the next highest-seed in the upcoming WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship had dropped its tournament for personal reasons.
 
Saying he needed the week to take a family vacation, Phil Mickelson announced in his news conference prior to the Farmers Insurance Open that he would not be playing five-straight West Coast events, as anticipated. The change in plans is tied to treatment his wife, Amy, is receiving for cancer.
 
"We had a couple of procedures scheduled for this off-season that got postponed for various reasons, and we had to move it into March, and this affected some of our family trips," Mickelson said. "So how this is playing out is the week of the Tucson Match Play is a week that my kids are out of school and that I'm going to end up skipping this year, not because I want to. I think it's a wonderful tournament, I love the Match Play, I love Tucson. But it was the best week for us to have a family vacation that we had to reschedule because, again, of our procedures."
 
With Woods and now Mickelson off the draw, that leaves No. 3 Steve Stricker facing No. 66 Jason Dufner. Stricker won the 2001 WGC-Match Play against the weakest field in tournament history when the event was held in Australia. The field closes on Friday, Feb. 12, at 5 p.m.
 
Woods has won the event three times. Mickelson has never made it past the quarterfinals. He will return the following week for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, take off the Honda Classic, and defend his title at the WGC-CA Championship in Miami on March 11-14.
 
Down the road, Accenture's loss could be another tournament's gain.
 
"I expect this to kind of happen a little bit throughout the year, maybe missing tournaments I would like to play or normally would play," Mickleson said. "But later on in the year I'll probably add a tournament that I hadn't originally planned on playing to kind of offset it. So I just wanted to -- that just came about in the last couple of weeks."

-- Tim Rosaforte ... Read
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