McCarron apologizes to Mickelson
James Achenbach explains the controversy surrounding the Ping Eye2 wedges.
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Scott McCarron had many chances to apologize for saying that Phil Mickelson was “cheating” last week in San Diego. Instead, he opted to apologize in person Tuesday to the world's No. 2-ranked golfer at a meeting of PGA Tour players before this week's Northern Trust Open. Later, he did so publicly on the Golf Channel.
“I’m certainly sorry for it,” McCarron said. “I’d like to apologize to Phil Mickelson for what I said. We both realize we’re on the same page on this issue.”
The apology was heartfelt and overdue. It’s not often that a sports icon such as Mickelson has had his integrity called into question by another player.
McCarron was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday as saying about Mickelson using the Ping Eye2 wedges with the larger-volume, high-spinning grooves, “It’s cheating, and I’m appalled Phil has put it in play.”
Mickelson, informed of McCarron’s criticism, said “a line was crossed, and I just was publicly slandered.” Later, he hinted at possible legal action.
Mickelson’s use of the Ping Eye2 wedges is allowed under a 1984 modification to the "Rules of Golf.'' In the late 1980s, the U.S. Golf Association, R&A and PGA Tour tried to squash the revolutionary square grooves, which allow for more spin from the rough. Ping and its founder, the late Karsten Solheim, stood their ground via a lawsuit. Ping eventually extracted settlements from the USGA, Tour and R&A, vindicating the former aerospace engineer and his Phoenix-based company’s design.
That agreement is at the heart of the grooves issue and the reason McCarron criticized Mickelson and other players who used grandfathered Ping clubs at last week's Farmers Insurance Open.
The PGA Tour as far back as last year had discussed with players the potential of the Ping Eye2 controversy and the possibility of a local rule as a Band-Aid fix. A rule that went into effect Jan. 1 on major professional tours permits only the smaller, round-edged grooves. However, no provision was made regarding the old Ping clubs. Instead, the issue started to boil last month at the Sony Open when Dean Wilson and John Daly played the Ping Eye2s.
Sources told Golfweek that when a player approached the Tour for clarity, he was told to wait until next week's Players Advisory Council meeting at Pebble Beach. The player suggested that the Tour should act sooner, but his concerns were dismissed, the sources said.
McCarron would not talk with reporters before or after his practice round Tuesday at Riviera Country Club.
McCarron, 44, a three-time winner on Tour, reportedly received an apology of his own Sunday night. According to sources, Tour commissioner Tim Finchem called to say that he should have stepped in front of the issue sooner.
Finding a resolution is a prime concern for many players here.
A number of players questioned the Tour’s slow response in dealing with the fallout. Mickelson was not at Riviera on Tuesday, instead playing golf with Jerry West, the NBA icon who is the Northern Trust Open’s new executive director, and former President George W. Bush at L.A. Country Club.
Yet McCarron remains concerned about the grooves issue and insists that the issue needs to be resolved.