Monday, March 8, 2010

PGA Tour Settles with Ping to End Ping Eye 2 Wedge Controversy

The PGA Tour and Ping announced an agreement Monday that will allow the tour to finally ban square-grooved Ping Eye 2 clubs from the Tour, effective at the end of the month.

The club, which was allowed in play due to a grandfather clause in a legal settlement, touched off a debate when Phil Mickelson and several other players put the Ping Eye 2 wedge in their bags. Hunter Mahan and Fred Couples were among other players who had used the wedges this year.

PGA Tour player Scott McCarron characterized that as "cheating," but later apologized to Mickelson for the remark. Mickelson said he was simply playing with the club to make a point about the loophole that made use of the Ping Eye 2 irons legal.

An agreement reached 20 years ago that settled Ping's lawsuits against the PGA Tour and the U.S. Golf Association grandfathered in the Ping clubs as long as they were made before April 1, 1990 and not altered. But Ping has agreed to waive its rights from the settlement.

The clubs otherwise do not meet new grooves specifications for irons, which went into effect this year.

"We all believe it is in the best interests of golf," Ping chairman and CEO John Solheim said in a statement. "It levels the playing field on the PGA Tour and resolves a very unfortunate situation that we predicted would happen when the USGA first proposed the new groove rule more than two years ago."

Solheim said the settlement also allows Ping to retain its other rights from its settlements with the PGA Tour and the USGA. That means amateur players will still be able to use Ping Eye 2 clubs made before April 1990 at all amateur events played under the USGA Rules of Golf.

The ban also applies to the Champions Tour and the Nationwide Tour.

Players on professional tours were required to conform to new rules beginning Jan. 1 which narrow the space between grooves. Although highly technical, the change means less spin can be imparted on the golf ball, especially from the rough.

The old Ping clubs had more space between the grooves than allowed under the 2010 rule, but were deemed conforming due to the lawsuit.

The waiver goes into effect March 29, meaning the old clubs could still technically be used during this week's WGC-CA Championship, the Transitions Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational. Ping will also apply the waiver to the U.S. Open in June.

"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 in a statement.


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