Ping waives settlement on square grooves

John Daly’s 20-year-old Ping Eye 2 wedges, as seen before the second round of the Sony Open.

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The 20-year-old Ping wedges with square-shaped grooves will no longer be allowed on the PGA Tour starting March 29 under an agreement reached Monday with Ping executives.

John Solheim, the chairman and CEO of Ping, said the Phoenix-based company is waiving its right that had kept the PGA Tour from banning Ping Eye2 wedges made before April 1, 1990 that have deeper, wide grooves no longer allowed under new USGA regulations.

Those wedges were allowed through a 1990 settlement from when Ping sued the PGA Tour and U.S. Golf Association. Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan, John Daly and Fred Couples were among players who used the Ping wedges. It had become such a divisive issue that Scott McCarron accused Mickelson of “cheating” by using the club.

“John Solheim and Ping had a terrific opportunity to do something very positive and significant for the game of golf, and we very much appreciate his willingness to take this action,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said.

Ping also said it will apply the waiver to the U.S. Open.

The waiver takes effect the week after the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and will apply on the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour. It will not apply to amateur competitions.

In return for the waiver, Solheim is hopeful equipment companies will have a stronger voice when the USGA makes new rules. The USGA will hold a forum this fall to improve the process of creating equipment regulations.

“I’ve been consistent in voicing my concerns over the last several years about the challenges of the current rule-making process and the needs to improve it to the benefit of golfers,” Solheim said. “I am hopeful this will be a significant first step in realizing this goal. Our goal is to help ensure innovation remains an important part of golf’s tradition.”

Solheim worked with his father, Ping founder Karsten Solheim, when the settlement was reached in 1990 that allowed for the square grooves in Ping irons manufactured until April 1, 1990.

That settlement took precedence over new rules that changed the specifications in grooves, and eight players took advantage of the loophole. Daly and Dean Wilson were the first players to use them at the Sony Open. Daly said he had collected more than a dozen wedges, while other players found them in the garage or from friends. They even became a hot item on eBay.

McCarron was among those who said while the wedges were allowed, it violated the spirit of the rule, and the issue became messy at Torrey Pines in January when he told The San Francisco Chronicle, “It’s cheating, and I’m appalled Phil has put it in play.”

Mickelson hinted at a lawsuit for being “publicly slandered,” although McCarron later apologized.

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