ORLANDO, Fla. – Can the PGA Tour stop Phil Mickelson, John Daly and other players from carrying square-grooved Ping Eye 2 wedges that were manufactured from 1984 until April 1, 1990, even though U.S. Golf Association rules specifically allow the use of these wedges?
Maybe, although it wouldn’t be easy.
Here’s why: In 1993, the PGA Tour agreed to settle a lawsuit over square grooves that was initiated by Ping (the USGA already had settled in 1990). As part of the settlement, the Tour agreed to follow all USGA rules, including the one that grandfathers the use of Eye 2 irons and wedges from the 1984-2000 time period.
Mickelson, Daly and other players, confronted with the new 2010 condition of competition requiring touring pros to use smaller, lower-spinning grooves, decided to experiment with the old Ping Eye 2 wedges from that six-year manufacturing window.
Why? Because some of the wedges contain grooves that not only are square, but also contain exceptionally sharp edges. It is these groove edges that are responsible for most of the spin generated by these famously high-spinning wedges.
“There are multiple different shapes to different U grooves (square grooves),” said Ping CEO John Solheim. “The early ones (from 1984) have very sharp corners on them. Those would shave a golf ball of that day ridiculously. So would the (grooves) that came after that, and even the ones that came after that. So it took a few years to get it right.”
Today’s golf balls, though, are much firmer and not made of soft balata.
“Today’s balls will withstand that (the sharp grooves),” Solheim said. “That’s a huge difference. Players won’t shave the balls when they use the old Eye 2s.”
How could the PGA Tour prohibit the wedges?
Said Solheim, “Their (the PGA Tour) agreement with us is that they will follow USGA rules. They do have an out to that, where they can go through several procedures and prove they have a need. It’s not an easy thing to do, by any means. I think there is no way they could meet the protocol.”
Explaining that protocol, Ping attorney Rawleigh Grove said, “It’s a series of steps. It’s all about the science of it. There would have to be a panel of experts, if you will, to make sure that the right decision is being made. This is no benefit for us. There is no payment, no money changing hands.”
So Mickelson and company may be safe if they continue to use the old wedges.