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McCarron's Use of the C Word Not Groovy

February 7, 2010 - Al Stephenson
When Tiger Woods accident led to the most unbelievable story in golf in many a year, I figured it would take something really huge to knock Tiger's tale out of the headlines. I was right of course and it took someone to use the C word to do it.

Golf is a gentleman's game. There is no other sport that asks its competitors to police themselves like golf does. The vast majority of golfers do just that. Golfers call penalties on themselves assesing the appropriate punishment. When a golfer is labeled a cheater - people take notice.

Scott McCarron trumped Tiger's absence by using the term to describe none other than Phil Mickelson. I'm not about to throw either of these guys under the bus. I don't think Phil cheated and I don't think McCarron was necessarily wrong with his comment, though he shouldn't have used the C word. Let me explain.

Phil Mickelson had in his bag at La Jolla last week an old PingEye 2 wedge that just happens to have square grooves. Square grooves were outlawed this year on the PGA Tour with one notable exception. If the PingEye 2 wedge is older than 1990 it is legal. McCarron suggested that anyone who uses one is breaking the spirit of the rule and therefore is cheating. He was surprised that someone of Mickelson's stature would choose to play the club. Unfortunately that's how he should have worded his comment and left the C word in his own golf bag.

The tour is trying to curb equipment advances that are making many golf courses obsolete. One way to slow the pros onslaught down is to go back to V shaped grooves that prevent a golfer from spinning the ball so much particuarly out of the rough.

The exception is the pre 1990 Ping club that is allowed because of a lawsuit won several years ago by the club manufacturer against the USGA and the PGA Tour.

Does the club give a golfer an advantage? Maybe, maybe not. In Mickelson's case - probably not. His short game is so good that he doesn't need the club to play well. So why was it in his bag? He's unhappy about the loophole. He started using V grooves last year in anticipation of the rule change. He is however dismayed that the loophole is there and played the club to make a point. He wants the USGA and the Tour to get rid of the exception. He made his point and chose not to use the club this week in L.A.

He also pointed out that if the loophole is not closed he may get the club out again. Stay tuned.

As for McCarron - he makes a good point. Golfers can use the club even though the spirit of the rule would mean you shouldn't. Using a club that would be illegal if not for a legal technicality is not in keeping with the sportsmanship of the game. I understand Mickelson's wanting to make a point, but I think he could have done it a different way.

The view from my seat suggests that golf is better off when golfers follow the course of action taken by Darren Clarke a few years ago. He hit his tee shot in a heavy rain into the rough where it buried. Before he could hit his next shot play was suspended for the day.

When he returned the following day to the spot his ball had to be placed, the grass was matted down. Placing his ball in the spot required by the rules, he now had some 200 yards to go to the green. He was in contention for the win and it would have been perfectly legal to take advantage of the elements and go for the green. Instead he chipped out sideways to the fairway because as he put it afterwards, "that was all I could have done with it yesterday. It was the proper thing to do."

With this kind of attitude the C word would never be used again.


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