BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. - Part of the early week buzz at the PGA Championship has been the USGA's announcement yesterday that they are adopting, with some modifications, their groove proposal originally put forth in February 2007. The intricacies of the rule are far too complex to get into here, but the bottom line is the new groove regulations will make grooves less effective than those currently being used making it an equipment rollback.
Interestingly, the change will go into the rule book as a condition of competition starting January 1, 2010 and the USGA says it will apply the condition to its U.S. Open, U.S. Women's Open and U.S. Senior Open that year with all other USGA Championships using the rule by 2014. In its original proposal, the USGA called for the PGA Tour to use the new grooves starting in 2009 but the rule adopted says nothing about the PGA Tour. Instead, the wording used is "The USGA recommends that this condition initially apply only to competitions involving expert professional players at the highest level of competition." In other words, the PGA Tour and perhaps a few other professional tours. Everyday players, however, can use clubs they purchase through the end of 2009 for another 15 years, until 2024, under a grandfather clause--a bifurcation of equipment rules without calling it that.
The USGA's primary reasoning for implementing the rule was to return accuracy to a place of relevance in the professional game. Whether they accomplish that remains to be seen, but Sergio Garcia thinks that will be the case.
"I think it's going to take a premium into driving the ball well," said Garcia at Oakland Hills Wednesday. "Maybe make you think a little bit more off the tee. Maybe decide to give a little bit of distance off the tee to make sure you hit the fairway."
If that's the case, then the USGA will get exactly what it wanted.
-- E. Michael Johnson