Tour to vote on delaying new grooves
A critical PGA Tour vote is scheduled for early next week, and its outcome likely will shape how the rest of the golf world deals with the pending – and increasingly controversial – grooves change.
The PGA Tour Policy Board is set to convene June 29-30 at the AT&T National tournament next week outside of Washington, D.C. On the agenda: A vote to delay requiring use of smaller-groove irons and wedges on Tour until Jan. 1, 2011 – one year later than originally established. Three of the four PGA Tour players who serve on the nine-member policy board are leaning toward voting for the delay, according to interviews with board members.
The USGA and R&A announced the new rule last August along with agreements from all the major professional tours that they would adopt the smaller grooves beginning 2010. But with the start date looming ever closer, numerous PGA Tour players have expressed concern that they don’t have sufficient time to test clubs with the new grooves – nor to fully comprehend the impact they’ll have on their games. The governing bodies reduced the size of current U-grooves and the sharpness of their edges out of concern that these high-spinning designs were allowing tour players to escape from the rough too easily.
Some equipment manufacturers also have complained about the hardship they’ll incur, especially during a challenging economy, to meet the original deadline. They say there are significant costs associated with the new grooves, including more expensive manufacturing processes. But other companies such as Ping say they already have made the necessary business changes and insist it would be unfair to delay the rule change.
“It is a heated deal,” said Stewart Cink, who – along with Brad Faxon, Zach Johnson and David Toms – serves as a player director on the policy board. “Everybody has a pretty strong opinion about it. It’s not all unanimous or we wouldn’t be having all these meetings anymore.”
Cink declined to discuss how he would vote, but Faxon and Johnson told Golfweek they were leaning toward delaying the groove change. Toms could not be reached for comment, but sources say he’ll likely vote for a delay as well.
The positions taken by the player directors historically have had significant influence on policy board decisions. But it is possible the five other members, including PGA of America president Jim Remy, could overrule a player-voting bloc.
“I don’t know how much power we have,” said Faxon, regarding the player directors’ influence. “I hope the players are (the determining factor).”
The Tour policy board’s decisions are final and do not require approval of PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem – nor does he have veto power, according to a Tour official.
If the Tour decides to delay implementation of the groove change, USGA officials have said they will similarly postpone for the U.S. Open. Other professional tours also are expected to follow suit.