SAN DIEGO – Phil Mickelson hinted at legal action Saturday for being accused of “cheating,” saying that if the PGA Tour did not do something about him being “publicly slandered,” then he would let others handle it.
Mickelson didn’t mention Scott McCarron by name in a series of interviews after his third round at Torrey Pines.
McCarron was quoted in The San Francisco Chronicle on Friday as saying about Mickelson using the Ping Eye 2 wedges with square grooves, “It’s cheating, and I’m appalled Phil has put it in play.”
The USGA has a new rule this year that irons have V-shaped grooves. However, the Ping Eye 2 wedges that were made before April 1, 1990, remain approved for play through a Ping lawsuit that was settled 20 years ago and takes precedence over new regulations.
Mickelson is using one of those wedges this week after reading about John Daly and Dean Wilson using them in Hawaii.
When asked Friday about McCarron’s quote about him cheating, Mickelson declined to get into what he referred to as “name-calling.” Instead, he suggested that McCarron was upset with the new rule on grooves.
But after a 70 in the third round put Mickelson within four shots of the lead, he made it clear he would not go quietly.
“We all have our opinions on the matter, but a line was crossed and I just was publicly slandered,” Mickelson said. “And because of that, I’ll have to let other people handle that.”
Asked if he was contemplating a lawsuit, Mickelson said, “I’m not going into specifics what that meant.”
Still, it was clear that his message reached PGA Tour headquarters. The Tour released a statement during the third round explaining why the Ping Eye 2 wedges with square grooves were approved for play.
“Public comments or criticisms characterizing their use as a violation … are inappropriate at best,” the statement said.
Told about the Tour’s statement, Mickelson paused before saying it was “cool if they put that out there.”
“Again, everybody has their opinions and so forth, and it’s healthy to talk about it,” he said. “But when you cross that line and slander someone publicly, that’s when the tour needs to step in – or someone else.”
McCarron, who missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open, could not be reached for comment. He did not back off his criticism Friday of Mickelson using the wedges, although he used “bending the rules” instead of “cheating” in his comments.
He maintains that Mickelson, and others using the Ping wedges, are violating the spirit of the new rule.
Mickelson has been feuding with the USGA, in particular senior technical director Dick Rugge, since last summer when it became clear the new grooves would be effective this year.
He said he was not even certain that 20-year-old wedges spun the ball more than his new wedges, yet offered no apologies because the clubs are approved for play.
“I understand black and white,” Mickelson said Friday. “And I think that myself or any other player is allowed to play those clubs because they’re approved – end of story.”
Instead, the story might just now be starting.
McCarron, who is on the 16-man Players Advisory Council, said the wedges would be discussed Tuesday at a PAC meeting in Los Angeles with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.