From the Rough

Golf without discretion

The groove rule is rubbing some players the wrong way

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D-Day for the PGA Tour’s new groove rule came and went January 1st, and of course things haven’t been the same since. With the exception of a couple of players praising the new grooves (which essentially force players to keep the ball in play, or risk a flier lie out of the rough) the comments have been pretty harsh.

But it’s not what you think. While some players have complained about having to switch wedges, more players seem to be frustrated with the game’s lack of consistency with the rules surrounding the wedges. Phil Mickelson was recently quoted discussing the idea of going back to the old Ping i2 wedges, but he said the wedges had to go through two different groups to get approved, a scenario Mickelson views as a ridiculous and arduous process.

I’ve looked at this from a couple of different ways because I’ve tested some of the i2 wedges,” Mickelson said prior to the first round of the Farmers Insurance. “And in dealing with the USGA, we have on one side conforming and legal grooves, and on the other side we have approved for play, and they’re not the same thing. I’ve sent in grooves that are legal but have not been approved for play, and I feel like the i2 grooves are not legal or don’t conform, but they are approved for play.”

So you could essentially have one side of the USGA tell you the wedges are conforming, and then the other tell you they’re not approved for play. How in the world does that make sense? I’m sure players will be ecstatic when they hear the news!

Lee Westwood is so frustrated with the new grooves rule — he did miss the cut last week at Abu Dhabi last week, so I’m sure his beef is a bit more personal — that he’s hoping the tour considers a grooves policy, a la Formula One.

“The manufacturers are not sure about the testing and the parameters, so it’s semi-ridiculous situation and you have the fact that players have to almost check their own clubs to see if they are legal,” Westwood said.

“I think it should be like Formula One and you get these guys at the top of the leaderboard and test their clubs after they have played so you know who is playing within the rules and who is not.

“We are all sort of in the dark at the start of the year.”

Not a bad idea. So long as they make the grooves check a weekly thing, I don’t think this will end up being a big issue. But if you allow guys to walk within the grey area and bend the rules a bit; well that’s when things will start to get heated.

The last thing golf wants right now is for a guy to win a tour event and get branded a cheater because one of his wedges was considered “conforming,” but not “approved for play.”


Written by Jonathan Wall

01/28/2010 at 8:08 pm

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