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To start the new decade, we reconvened a panel of SI golf experts—senior writers Michael Bamberger, Damon Hack, Alan Shipnuck and Gary Van Sickle, plus contributing writer John Garrity and GOLF.com deputy editor David Dusek—and a PGA Tour pro (who participated on the condition of anonymity) to answer those and other questions
Shake Your Grooves Thing
Van Sickle: First it was John Daly and Dean Wilson in Hawaii resurrecting square-grooved Ping Eye2 clubs; then it was Phil Mickelson at Torrey Pines. The clubs are grandfathered in as legal because of court settlements, but is using them against the spirit of the rules?
Shipnuck: Somewhere, Karsten Solheim is smiling. Twenty years after the Eye2 issue was sorted out, he's once again haunting the USGA.
Anonymous Pro: Hey, the guys from Ping did a study and those old Ping Eye2s don't spin the ball any more than the new legal grooves. They're square grooves, but they're little slits of grooves, not nearly as wide as on the modern clubs. So Phil and these guys think they have some great find, but they don't.
Dusek: The spirit of the rule is to reduce spin, especially on shots from the rough. Using the grandfathered Ping wedges—in Phil's case, a 60-degree bent to 64 degrees—definitely goes against that. If the clubs are legal for competition, I don't have a huge problem with players' using them. I bet this infuriates the USGA.
Garrity: All the pros should follow the spirit of the rules, and I'm surprised that Phil doesn't agree. This could tarnish his squeaky-clean image and undercut his immense popularity just when he's been handed the keys to the PGA Tour penthouse, so to speak. What happened? Did he hire Mark Steinberg as his agent?
Hack: Time to buy stock in Ping! Seriously, this is only the beginning. Once a player of Phil's caliber grabs an Eye2, it will encourage the rest of the guys to do the same, no? You know, the "I'll have what he's having" phenomenon.
Shipnuck: The irony is that Ping can't really benefit in the marketplace, as it can't manufacture more of these wedges. But this is a real boon for eBay.
Anonymous Pro: All the players I've talked to feel that Phil and Daly and the other guys are purposely skirting the rules, cheating through a loophole, and it's wrong. If that club is illegal to produce today according to the USGA, then it shouldn't be allowed. The Tour is considering taking action on this by issuing a local rule against it.