Mickelson's changes are too groovy for the USGA

The USGA has sent a clear message that new grooves for wedges and irons will be constructed precisely as the USGA envisions.

The USGA has sent a clear message that new grooves for wedges and irons will be constructed precisely as the USGA envisions.

AKRON, Ohio – Implementation of the U.S. Golf Association’s new grooves rule doesn’t appear to be so simple.

The USGA, seeking to reduce the spin generated from the so-called U grooves, has required manufacturers to comply with narrower-grooved irons and wedges beginning Jan. 1.

In a letter dated Aug. 27, 2009 (must have been a typo – it was released last week), the USGA came out with an additional pronouncement. The letter, titled “Notice to Manufacturers,’’ starts as follows: “Recent submissions, patent literature and communications from some manufacturers indicate that certain aspects of the new 2010 Rule placing additional limitation on grooves may not be clear.”

Unfortunately for the USGA, the new rule was perfectly clear to the manufacturers. It’s just that the USGA doesn't seem to get this fact: Manufacturers make their living by coming up with the best clubs possible – under the rules, of course.

The USGA went on to add two new requirements addressing the designs of the manufacturers.

For Callaway Golf, this came as an answer to its grooves submission earlier this summer. Callaway had submitted a set of irons for approval that it believed met the criteria, but the clubs were rejected two weeks ago because they didn’t meet the new standards.

“I was going to play the new clubs this week,” a disappointed Phil Mickelson said after his first round at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. “But they (USGA) rejected them. How are we supposed to know what conforms or doesn’t if they keep changing the criteria?”

USGA senior technical director Dick Rugge weighed in.

“We have no plans to make any further additions,” Rugge said. “We believe that the current language covered those clubs (Callaway) and that the July 27 memo was further clarification not to change the regulation. The goal all along was to limit spin rate from the rough.”

Callaway Golf views it differently.

“It’s just moving the goal line just as someone is about to score a touchdown,’’ company spokeswoman Michele Szynal said Thursday.

Mickelson talked with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem about the issue on Wednesday, but nothing seems to have come of the discussion.

“We will not comment about hypothetical situations,” said Ty Votaw, the Tour’s executive vice president of communications and internal affairs.

Which leaves every manufacturer and player in a quandary with less than five months to go before implementation.

“It seems like they (USGA) withhold the right to change the rules any time they want,” Mickelson said. “It’s very frustrating.”

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