Golf chiefs could send Padraig Harrington's bid for a major title into a spin.

The Dubliner is convinced that he is to blame for a possible crackdown on the box-shaped U-grooves that allow top players to attack courses from the rough.

And that could force the Dubliner to rethink his entire strategy and damage his chances of lifting one of golf's four big titles.
The Royal & Ancient and the United States Golf Association - golf’s governing bodies - fear that the massive spin generated by irons with U-shaped grooves is making it too easy to tear courses apart.

By bombing the ball off the tee, top players reckon that finding the rough is worth the risk as they can still get the ball to stay on the green despite playing from the long grass.

And Harrington admits that the possible crackdown from the suits at St Andrews is not going to make his life any easier.

He said: "At the moment the situation suits me because I have paid attention to it. I have won most of my tournaments with light rough, where I can spin the ball out of the rough with the box-groove irons.

"Stats wise, two years ago I couldn't reach the green out of the rough, and when I figured it out what was going on last year, I think I was No 1 from the rough. It makes a big difference."

The Dubliner admits that the sharper grooves have taken some of the skill out of the game as there is less of a premium on driving accuracy.

He explained: "The rule suits me at the moment and when they change it, it will make the game a more skillful game, that’s true

"The R&A and the USGA are looking at things that I cottoned onto years ago and we will all have to change golf ball after they change this rule, because if they change the rule on the grooves then you are going to need a ball the spins differently.

"At the moment we are all hitting it long because the golf ball is set up for that. When they change the grooves there will be more of a trade off for taking a golf ball the goes a long way against a golf ball that spins.

"You can bash it out there and be better off hitting an eight-iron out of the rough than hitting a six-iron off the fairway.

"If they change the grooves, you won't be better off. You will probably be better off hitting a six iron from the fairway. It will put a premium on hitting the fairway.

"Who will it suit? Well, if you hit it a long way and straight you are laughing. In general I think it will give the shorter hitters a better chance.

"At the moment I am using the Titleist Pro V1X, which is as good a ball as you can get. But if the rule changes it will give the manufacturers something else to work on."

David Rickman, the R&A's director of rules and equipment standards, is worried about the ‘groove effect’.

He said: "Any situation which can be interpreted as a de-skilling of the game is of concern to us."

The R&A has just completed a two-year investigation into the matter in partnership with the USGA.

The next step is to put forward a proposal for change and new recommended specifications on grooves are set to be issued within weeks.

R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson added: "The biggest issue in front of us at the moment is the way the ball spins when hit from the rough.

"We now see balls spinning more from two inches or three inches of rough than they do when hit from the fairway. That cannot go on.

"One of the reasons players hit the ball so hard is that they can spin their approach shots from the rough. It doesn't matter to them where the drive finishes, within reason.

"So we need to restore the premium on driving accuracy and the differential in spin between fairway and rough.

"We're not talking about people struggling to get the ball out of the rough - only that they should be struggling to control it from the longer grass. And to do that we have to come up with grooves which will create just that scenario."

Harrington was amazed to discover how much spin he could generate from wet rough and asked his representatives at Wilson Golf to get answers from the R&A and the USGA.

He added: "I can spin the ball incredibly out of wet rough - but it has to be wet. And they have done to the test to figure out why.

"Seemingly, on a V-groove, when the water gets trapped, it is trapped between the ball and the groove and you get a flyer.

"Whereas on the boxed groove, it comes out the sides of the grooves which gets the ball sticking on the face. If you see green rough that has moisture in it, you get tremendous spin out of it.

"I figured it out when I couldn't move the ball out of the rough, because you lose a tremendous amount of distance. I couldn't reach greens out the rough from 150 yards.

"I was the first to go to the R&A or the USGA and ask them: Why do I spin it more out of wet grass?"

Harrington changes his lob wedge on a monthly basis as he also uses it from bunkers and the grooves wear out.

If the rule is changed over the next year or two, he will have to change his game plan radically to compete at the highest level.

Watch this space.

(Clarke in crisis)

Darren Clarke's career is at a major crossroads following his first round exit at the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.

The Ulsterman, 39 later this summer, is likely to fall further in the world rankings next week from his current low of 52nd.

With the top 50 exempt for all the majors and World Golf Championships, Clarke could soon be on the outside looking in.

On his website, he wrote: "Being outside the top 50 is something I’m not used to and I’m going to have to do something about it otherwise some of the doors I’m used to walking through will be closed in my face."

A changing of the guard is taking place in Europe as the established stars are eclipsed by the new kids on the block.

Colin Montgomerie hinted as much this week as he prepared to take on Paul Casey in the second round of the Accenture Match Play in Tucson.

Monty said: "Paul's very good. A lot of them are right now, that's a problem. Competition has gotten better and I've sort of stuck."

Montgomerie, 43, lost 4 and 3 in a week when Lee Westwood and Thomas Bjorn also made early exits.

Neither Clarke nor Westwood has won a European Tour event since 2003 while players such as Henrik Stenson, Luke Donald, Casey and David Howell have won 12 tournaments between them over the past two years.

(McIlroy no go)

Rory McIlroy's chances for grabbing a sponsor's invite for next month's Singapore Masters are fading fast.

The event is schedule for Laguna National from March 8-11 but news from Asia indicates that amateurs are not wanted.

An insider said: "They don't want to give a European amateur an invite because then they'll have to give the local amateurs a start too."

Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood headline the field in Singapore with Damien McGrane, Graeme McDowell, Peter Lawrie and Gary Murphy also entered.

(McGinley break)

Consistent Paul McGinley is hoping to go low at last when he resumes his season in China next month.

The Dubliner has yet to finish better than 16th this term despite playing four events - two in the Middle East and two more in the US.

He said: "I played very consistently without scaling any heights. Of the 16 rounds I played I shot one score over par and everything else was between 69 and 72.

"So despite a lot of consistency my finishing positions were not as low as I would have liked them to be.

"I feel my golf is very solid and my putting was solid also and I was just lacking a bit of momentum in order to have a really good finish.

"It’s a good basis to start the season and I am reasonably happy with my form."