Seen at the Masters

Masters 2023: Phil Mickelson used a club this week that dates back 13 years. Here’s the backstory

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JD CUBAN

Phil Mickelson, playing in his 30th Masters at age 52, made a run for the ages over the weekend at Augusta National, carding a final-round 65 grab the clubhouse lead. He's playing some incredible golf alongside an old friend—which happens to be an old club.

Last we saw Mickelson in a major he had a Ping Eye2 XG lob wedge the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews, and the club was in the bag again this week in Georgia. The wedge debuted in 2010 as an answer to the USGA’s so-called “groove rule” as golfers wanted to use the iconic Eye2 design but needed to do it with legal grooves.

Mickelson’s history with the Eye2 design is lengthy—and, at times, controversial. Things came to a head during the 2010 Farmers Insurance Open when Scott McCarron told the San Francisco Examiner of Mickelson’s use of a Ping Eye2 lob wedge with square grooves, "It's cheating, and I'm appalled Phil put it in play.” Mickelson, and eventually others, used the pre-1990 model wedges to protest the USGA’s groove rule. Despite the charge, the fact is the wedges were grandfathered by the USGA and were perfectly legal. Phil being Phil, knew that.

“A line was crossed,” said Mickelson after the third round at Torrey Pines that year. “I was publicly slandered.” Indeed, a google search of “Mickelson cheating” at the time yielded 565,000 hits. Not the kind of publicity you want.

Eventually, things simmered down. McCarron apologized and Mickelson was more restrained a few weeks later at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera C.C., saying, “I think what he’s saying is the rule is a terrible rule, and I agree with [him],” Mickelson said. “I’m just as upset. … I don’t agree with the way he carried on about it, but that’s his choice.”

As for the XG model, Mickelson’s experience with the club dates back to 2014 when he put one in play at the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Luckily at the Masters, the wedge Mickelson is using, while an old design, does have conforming grooves so not such worries about such drama taking place. Still, for Mickelson, who has used two drivers and no drivers and many, many other unique equipment choices in majors, it’s almost not an oddity to be using a design more than decade old. It’s almost an expectation.

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