News & ToursFebruary 2, 2010

McCarron apologizes to Mickelson; Finchem mum

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- A 70-minute meeting in which PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem spoke and took questions from 40 to 50 players on the Ping Eye 2 groove issue included a face-to-face meeting between Phil Mickelson and Scott McCarron.

McCarron apologized to Mickelson for his comments last week to the San Francisco Chronicle in which he referred to Mickelson's use of the Ping Eye 2. "It's cheating, and I'm appalled Phil put it in play," said McCarron at the time.

Today, McCarron was sounding a much more conciliatory note. "It¹s been a big distraction for me and Phil," McCarron said. " We spoke. Phil's a great guy and he understands that sometimes things get blown out of proportion and this certainly did and took on a life of its own. I certainly never meant to do that to Phil and we're fine. It is written that they have the right to use it -- it is legal."

"My issue wasn't with Mickelson, but that Ping Eye 2s are not readily available," said McCarron. "I'm under contract to TaylorMade. I can't play [the Eye 2}. Other players who are under contract can't play that wedge. They don¹t have that option."

During the meeting, McCarron acknowledged that Finchem said the rule may change between 90 and 120 days. "There are a few options and commissioner Finchem will address those tomorrow," McCarron said.

Those options almost certainly involve engaging Ping in a discussion. Finchem, in fact, already contacted Ping chairman and CEO John A. Solheim, who yesterday issued a statement that included that he was open to finding "a workable solution" to the situation.

"It appears the vast majority of players want to play with 2010 grooves," said Stewart Cink. "The meeting was really about the course of action we can take and why can't the commissioner just say no more Ping Eye 2 1990 wedges. There are rules against that because of this lawsuit. It doesn't just say we have to allow Ping Eye 2 clubs. It's very complicated and has a lot of aspects to it and that's what we have to go through.

"The process already exists because of the ruling in the 1990s. It won't be instantaneous. It's laid out in the documents. It's something where we have to get a committee involved. The committee is already in place and has been since 1994. It appears that may be the way it goes. Ping could also step up tomorrow and we could see an agreement between Ping and the [game of] golf. We don't know right now. One thing for sure is that there is a course of action that we can take that is in the documents."

McCarron, for one, didn't feel it should have ever reached this point. Rather, he felt something more proactive should have been done. "This thing should have been solved by Jan. 1 and we wouldn't have a problem," he said. "The tour has known about this issue for two years. But they didn't think players would use a 20-year-old club. They didn't think it would be that big a deal."

Of course, now it's a very big deal.

"Last week Phil took a beating. Scott McCarron took a beating," said Cink. "They kind of knocked each other out in a way. None of it looks good for the PGA Tour or golf. We don't want the public thinking we're out here breaking rules. We're not breaking rules. It's the rule that's the problem, not the players using those clubs."

According to Cink, the Ping Eye 2s provide a higher spin rate than this year's grooves, but less spin than the 2009 clubs. Earlier in the day, Padraig Harrington said that he was getting as much as 2,000 rpms more on some shots out of the rough -- a significant difference. In a game where minute differences can make all the difference, it was no surprise that the general tenor of the meeting was one of getting everyone back on the same page and playing the same clubs.

Including McCarron, who found an interesting club in his bag during a casual round Sunday afternoon with Brad Faxon and Lee Trevino. Upon arriving at his bag, McCarron found a Ping Eye 2 wedge sitting in it. "That was pretty funny," McCarron said.

The joke could have made for interesting dinner conversation fodder. As McCarron left Riviera he was on his way to a dinner that he labeled, "Top Secret." Indeed. One of the people he would be dining with was former President George W. Bush.

-- E. Michael Johnson

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