Mickelson: 'I'm abiding by (the rule)'

January 29, 2010

SAN DIEGO -- Phil Mickelson on Friday adamantly denied a charge that he's cheating by playing an old Ping Eye2 wedge with square grooves in a game that has banned them, instead putting the onus on the USGA and the PGA Tour for creating an environment that enabled this controversy to fester.

"I agree, it's a terrible rule," he said following the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open."To change something that has this kind of loophole is nuts. But it's not up to me or any other player to interpret the rule or the spirit of the rule. I understand black and white. Myself or any other player is allowed to play those clubs because they're approved.

"I understand guys are upset about this rule. Everybody knew this was coming. I think we need to take it out on the governing bodies."

The Ping Eye2 wedges manufactured before March of 1990 were grandfathered in as part of a settlement of a suit that Ping filed against the USGA. The USGA has banned the use of square grooves, but as many as eight players here have taken advantage of the loophole to use the Ping wedges.

"It's cheating, and I'm appalled Phil has put it in play," tour pro Scott McCarron told the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday. McCarron is among those who consider it a violation of the spirit of the rule.

"All my clubs are approved for play and I take that very seriously not to violate any rules," Mickelson said. "It's not my job to interpret the spirit of the rule. I didn't make this rule. I don't agree with this rule. but I'm abiding by it."

The PGA Tour issued a statement that read: "Leading up to the implementation, we have been aware that under the USGA Rules of Golf, the pre-1990 clubs would be allowed and that there was the potential that some players might choose to use them. We will monitor this situation as we move forward and under our Tournament Regulations we do have the ability to make a local rule which would not allow the clubs. There's been no decision made at this time."

Mickelson, incidentally, denied that he is making a statement by playing the wedge. "It's more a trial for me. I want to see if it makes a difference. I don't notice that big a difference. There's a very good chance I'll switch back, but not for the reason that i think that I'm doing something wrong."

UPDATE: "That anybody using that wedge is cheating? I still feel strongly about it," McCarron told the Associated Press on Friday. "Anyone using that wedge, I feel, is behind the rules, even though we have a rule that because of a lawsuit says it's OK.

"It was approved because of why? Because of a lawsuit years ago? I don't think that's in the spirit of the rules. Golf is a gentleman's game. I don't think anyone should be using it."

Ryuji Imada, co-leader of the Farmers Insurance Open, took exception to the fact players are using these clubs, but said, "I don't consider it cheating."

"The rules are the rules, and if it's allowed by the rules of golf, sure, you can use it," he said. "But I don't agree with it. If everybody else is having to play the V-grooves, I think everyone should have to play the conforming grooves."

-- John Strege