A report from the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles is suggesting that Padraig Harrington may be tempted to use the controversial Ping Eye 2 wedges this week.
According to a Golf Digest blog, the Dubliner has been trying out the clubs on the range at Riviera Country Club.
Has all the furor surrounding Scott McCarron referring to using Ping Eye 2 wedges with square grooves as "cheating" given players cause of pause? If the talk on the range today at Riviera CC is any indication, not quite.
Tour reps report several players expressing interest in how to acquire the wedges, while three-time major winner Padraig Harrington spent [so?] much time practicing with two Ping Eye 2s that he may put in play this week.
The Dubliner did not immediatley respond to queries on the matter. He is contracted to use Wilson equipment, though it is not a 14-club deal. He is also a close friend of Phil Mickelson's but it is hard to imagine him taking advantage of a loop-hole in the rules that has stirred up a hornet's nest of controversy on the PGA Tour since the left hander and several other players decided to put the 20 year old Ping wedges in their bags this season.
The club is approved for play in the US and Mexico by the USGA because of a legal loophole and Mickelson is not breaking any rules by using the club.
US player Scott McCarron said last week that anyone using the clubs was cheating and he was appalled that Mickelson had put one in his bag at Torrey Pines. Mickelson made veiled threats about taking McCarron to court for slander. On Monday, McCarron confirmed that he had not been misquoted but stopped short of saying that he had called Mickelson a cheat.
According to USA Today, McCarron said to use the Ping wedges violated the spirit of the rule.
On Monday, he directed some of his frustration at the USGA and the PGA Tour for knowing the potential for this controversy before it blew up on them last week at Torrey Pines.
"Instead of addressing the matter, the Tour chose to put the onus to comply on its players," McCarron said. "Unfortunately, a handful of players have chosen not to comply, and that is what has led to this current ordeal. In my opinion ... the Tour must now put a rule in place to protect the field and ban these wedges."
McCarron said the focus should shift from a small number of players using the Ping-Eye 2 wedges to the majority of players "who chose to do the right thing."
"I am still appalled by the fact that any player would make the choice to put this controversial wedge in play, and I stand by my previous comments," he said.
England's Lee Westwood has been a Ping player for many years but refuses to uses the old wedges.
Speaking at the Qatar Masters last week, Westwood said: "Pre-1990 golf club grooves are illegal. I have a set of them but if you are going to win, you win fairly. I wouldn’t use them. Very strong word to use, cheating. What I said was it is not breaking the rules, but it is bending them. It wouldn’t be my choice."
According to Dick Rugge, the USGA's senior technical director: "The clubs are usable where USGA rules apply. The rules speak for themselves and show it's not cheating to use them."
US media reports sum up the situation nicely:
Mickelson said over the weekend that he was "publicly slandered," and he hinted at legal action if the PGA Tour does not discipline McCarron for his choice of words.
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem is to meet with players Tuesday in Los Angeles to discuss the wedge dispute.
However, the Tour's control over the issue is uncertain. The USGA's rule — requiring grooves in irons to be shallower to impart less spin — that took effect Jan. 1 had to stipulate that the U-groove Ping-Eye 2 wedges made before April 1, 1990, are approved for competition as a result of a settlement on a lawsuit between Ping and the USGA (and the PGA Tour) 20 years ago.
It has not been proven whether the grooves of a 20-year-old golf club — Mickelson played them in college at Arizona State and found this wedge in his garage — spin more than V-shaped grooves made with today's technology.
John Daly and Dean Wilson were the first players to use the Ping wedges this year, at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Mickelson, who finished 19th at the Farmers Insurance Open, said he was not sure the Ping wedge was more effective than his new wedges from Callaway.
Mickelson, however, has been angry with the USGA since the groove policy was announced. He claims he submitted wedges under the new rules that the USGA did not approve, yet he was allowed to use a Ping wedge with square grooves that are not conforming.
"I understand black and white," Mickelson said Friday. "And I think that myself or any other player is allowed to play those clubs because they're approved — end of story."
The real danger now is that Mickelson will continue to use the clubs and go on to win a major title with them.