JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Dick Rugge, the USGA’s senior technical director, visited Liberty National Golf Club Tuesday and spoke with Phil Mickelson about Lefty’s growing concerns with the USGA’s new grooves regulations, which go into effect Jan. 1.
As reported in the Aug. 15 issue of Golfweek (“USGA adds to grooves rules’’), Mickelson had intended to play a set of Callaway prototype irons with new grooves at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Aug. 6-9. However, two weeks earlier, the USGA had declared the grooves to be nonconforming under the new rules.
“I wanted to talk to Phil and give him a chance to let me have it,” Rugge said. “I thought it was appropriate to give him a chance to vent.”
And Mickelson did. For 45 minutes, Rugge and Mickelson stood in the middle of the putting green, nearly toe-to-toe, and engaged in a wide-ranging – at times, animated – but cordial discussion.
Rugge termed it a “pleasant conversation” but would not reveal specifics.
But much of it could be overheard easily. Mickelson, speaking with conviction, expressed his disappointment with the USGA’s recent ban of his prototype irons, his concern that the 64-degree wedge could be banned in the future and his view that this wasn’t good for golf on a global scale.
Nike has had similar issues with prototype irons that the USGA chose not to approve, a company official told Golfweek recently.
Rugge repeatedly answered Mickelson by saying, “I understand what you are saying.”
It appeared as if they agreed to disagree.
Earlier this month during the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Mickelson’s disenchantment with the new USGA regulations bubbled over.
“How are we supposed to know what conforms or doesn’t if they keep changing the criteria?’’ he asked.
The next week at the PGA Championship in Chaska, Minn., he was even more pointed about his criticism of the USGA in an interview with Golfweek.
“Our grooves are conforming, but they’re not being approved,’’ Mickelson said. “Which makes me think something funny is going on. If they’re changing the rule three months from implementation, they’re incompetent.’’
Mickelson, who left Liberty National on a water taxi, could not be reached for comment.