February 1, 2010

Ping Boss Weighs In

In saying that the PGA Tour is bound by the 1993 settlement allowing Ping Eye 2 wedges, Ping chairman John Solheim also allowed he'd be willing to discuss a solution

John Solheim's statement on Tuesday took issue with Ping Eye 2's being referred to as "illegal" clubs.

John Solheim's statement on Tuesday took issue with Ping Eye 2's being referred to as "illegal" clubs.

Ping chairman John Solheim has reminded the PGA Tour that it can't make a separate rule to ban the Ping Eye2 clubs, specifically wedges that led to accusations of cheating the first month of the season.

Hours after Scott McCarron said he wasn't backing down from his comment that "it's cheating" when Phil Mickelson and other players use Ping wedges with square grooves, golf's situation became even more muddled with Solheim's gentle reminder.

Solheim said Monday the PGA Tour is bound by a 1993 settlement that says the tour cannot create a special rule that differs from the USGA. The Ping chairman, however, says he's willing to discuss a solution.

Solheim's full statement can be read below:

Over the last several weeks we've watched with great interest the impact of the Ping Eye 2 and its role in the USGA's 2010 Groove Regulation. We've read and heard numerous inaccurate reports from various sources, including several PGA Tour Professionals, about the new groove regulation, specifically that "U" or "Square" grooves are "banned" as part of the regulation. As the USGA states on its website:

"A common misconception is that "V" shaped grooves will be required under the new specifications and that "U" shaped grooves will no longer be allowed. This is not the case."

This misconception has contributed to Ping Eye 2 irons being characterized as "non-conforming" or "illegal" and has created a division among many of the players on the PGA Tour.

We're thankful that the PGA Tour helped clarify this issue in a statement last weekend:

"Under the Rules of Golf and the 2010 Condition of Competition for Groove Specifications promulgated by the USGA, pre-1990 Ping Eye 2 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 Eye 2 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."

Naturally, this entire episode takes us back more than 20 years when our company took a stand against both the USGA and PGA Tour over their attempts to ban Ping Eye 2 irons because of the grooves. In an effort to protect the interests of the millions of Ping Eye 2 owners who had purchased their clubs in good faith and for the good of the game, we negotiated an agreement with the USGA which "grandfathered" all PING EYE2 irons manufactured prior to April 1, 1990.

In 1993, the PGA Tour agreed they "will not in the future adopt or attempt to adopt any separate PGA Tour rule which would prohibit the use of U-grooves on any golf club if such PGA Tour rule differed from a USGA rule."

When the USGA proposed the New Groove Rule more than two years ago, we reminded them of their agreement relative to the Ping Eye 2 irons. At the time, I was vehemently against any new groove rule for a variety of reasons and advised both the USGA and PGA Tour in a letter dated July 31, 2007 that what is happening on the PGA Tour today was very much a possibility.

The recent statement from the PGA Tour and several PGA Tour players that they could invoke a "local rule" required us to remind the PGA Tour of the terms of the agreement which prohibits them from straying from a rule that "differed from a USGA rule."

While I fully expect the PGA Tour to honor this agreement, I'm willing to discuss a workable solution to this matter that would benefit the game and respect the role innovation has played over the long history of golf."