PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club

The Loop

Could the PGA Tour have avoided this controversy?

January 29, 2010

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