EquipmentMarch 8, 2010

Common Ground

Ping grants the PGA Tour and the USGA a waiver that effectively ends the Eye 2 controversy

A driver change worked well for Sam Saunders at the Honda Classic.

A driver change worked well for Sam Saunders at the Honda Classic.

Well, that didn't take long.

A little more than a month after the Ping Eye 2 debate hit its high point with accusations of cheating, the "workable solution" Ping chairman and CEO John A. Solheim said he was open to became a reality March 8 when Ping and the PGA Tour issued a joint statement.

"Ping will waive its rights that prevent the PGA Tour from prohibiting the use of pre-April 1990 Ping Eye 2 irons and wedges that do not meet the 2010 Condition of Competition from being played at PGA Tour professional competitions," read the communiqué, which followed a notice released earlier that day from the USGA announcing a forum on equipment rulemaking this fall.

The waiver goes into effect March 29 and applies to the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour. The PGA Tour will "adopt a Condition of the Competition that does not provide an exception for the pre-April 1990 Ping Eye 2 irons." Further, after a request from the USGA, Ping will apply the waiver to the U.S. Open in June.

"John Solheim and Ping had a terrific opportunity to do something very positive and significant for the game of golf, and we very much appreciate his willingness to take this action," said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.

Solheim also was adamant about keeping Eye 2s conforming for amateurs -- something achieved with this resolution. "We all believe it is in the best interests of golf," said Solheim in the statement. "It levels the playing field on the PGA Tour and resolves a very unfortunate situation." Solheim added that several solutions were considered.

Although the resolution benefits the game, in the long-term, the USGA forum may hold greater significance. The ruling body has long held that its notice-and-comment protocol gave manufacturers and others stakeholders the opportunity to be heard. However, many equipment-makers, Solheim included, felt it insufficient.

In announcing the forum, which will be held at the USGA Golf House in Far Hills, N.J., at a date to be determined, the USGA said it was allowing all stakeholders in the game (including manufacturers, players, media, etc.) the opportunity to make their views on equipment rulemaking known to the USGA. More importantly, perhaps, they will make them known to each other -- something Solheim alluded to after meeting with USGA representatives, including new president Jim Hyler, last month. "I'm encouraged by their willingness to openly discuss some of the challenges the golf industry faces relating to equipment issues," Solheim said at the time.

However, Dick Rugge, the USGA's senior technical director, dismissed the notion there was a correlation between the Ping dispute and the announcement, calling the forum a "stand-alone event."

"Maybe there is a better way to do things, and if we can, we will," said Rugge. "Even if it's Joe Golfer who has some thoughts -- this is the time to hear it."

Still, it is difficult to look at the forum's proposed discussion topics (including communication, timing, enforcement and evaluation of results) without feeling the USGA's conversation with Solheim shaped some of the agenda.

Solheim didn't go that far, but did voice his approval. "I've been consistent in voicing my concerns over the last several years about the challenges of the current rulemaking process and the needs to improve it to the benefit of golfers," said Solheim. "I am hopeful this will be a significant first step in realizing this goal. We're looking forward to the forum and will be an active participant...Our goal is to help ensure innovation remains an important part of golf's tradition."

TRENDS

With the CC of Bogota situated nearly 8,700 feet above sea level, some players in the Nationwide Tour's Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open sought to take advantage of the altitude by using driver lofts fostering hang time. Nineteen players had a driver loft of 10.5 degrees or higher last week, while no player used a driver with less than 8.5 degrees. That said, only one player using a high-lofted driver (Jamie Lovemark, 10.5 degree Nike VR Tour) finished in the top five, while the other four in the top five, including winner Steve Pate, all used 8.5-degree drivers.

BAG ROOM

A driver change served Sam Saunders well at the Honda Classic. Arnold Palmer's grandson had Callaway build him an FT Tour driver, and Saunders put it in play after seeing a 4-m.p.h. ball-speed increase on the range. The results carried over onto the course where Saunders (who finished T-17) averaged 302.1 yards off the tee, fifth in the category...Hunter Mahan wasn't the only player who broke a driver at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. J.B. Holmes did, too. It was rumored Holmes did not use the replacement because the adjustable setting was in a different position, and he wasn't allowed to change it. "You heard wrong," said Holmes' caddie, Brandon Parsons. "He was able to open it up."