With Tiger Woods otherwise engaged the golfing world had been looking to Phil Mickelson to provide some early-season success on the PGA Tour, but instead he has found himself in the headlines for the wrong reasons.
In the run-up to the Northern Trust Open much of the coverage has involved Mickelson’s continuing use of the Ping Eye2 wedges he has in his bag, which contravene the new ruling with regards to the banishment of square grooved clubs.
The Ping Eye2 wedge is currently exempt from the ruling and offers excellent control over short distances, especially from the rough. The difference is so great that Mickelson used it during the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines despite the club being more than 20 years old.
The biggest talking point came after veteran pro Scott McCarron used a word that is not often bandied around in golf – cheat – to condemn those few still using the club, despite the fact they are not breaking the rules.
Of course, the spirit of the game is what McCarron should have been talking about, but to use the ‘C-word’’ was a shock to many, Mickelson included.
After a few days McCarron did apologise, but the row still rumbles on as the PGA Tour is yet to close the loophole in their rulebook. Talks to find a way to outlaw the old clubs without a legal fight are apparently being held with Ping. For now though, the club can still be used.
Whether Mickelson will be satisfied with the apology is another matter – he admitted he felt slandered by the comments and as one of the biggest names on tour, and apparently one of the cleanest, there is a chance he will take a stand.
But the arguments over square-grooved clubs have at least taken some of the spotlight away from Tiger’s indiscretions and brought the focus back to the action on the course, even if it is not for the right reasons.
Phil Mickleson is currently 6/1 favourite in the golf betting for the Northern Open Trust and his nearest priced competitor is Steve Stricker at 12/1.