Is Phil Mickelson Cheating?

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Phil Mickelson First there was Tiger Woods. Now Phil Mickelson is the next golf star to be accused of cheating, albeit on the course rather than off it.

Fellow PGA tour member Scott McCarron has accused Mickelson of using an illegal golf club at this week’s Farmers Insurance Open. McCarron told The San Francisco Chronicle in an interview that he was “appalled” Mickelson would use an old Ping Eye 2 wedge: “It’s cheating, and I’m appalled Phil has put it in play,”

The club in question is a wedge with square-grooves, which allows a player to spin the ball easier, including out of the rough, to make up for tee shots missing the fairway.

Square-grooves were banned starting with the 2010 PGA season, but there is an exemption for clubs built prior to 1990, as a result of a lawsuit by Ping against the USGA and PGA Tour in the 1980s. Otherwise, players must use clubs with V-shaped grooves now.

Mickelson is among at least four players using this kind of club and McCarron’s comments resonated across Torrey Pines because “cheating” is considered one of the dirtiest accusations in a sport that prides itself on honesty and players calling penalties on themselves.

Mickelson refused to be drawn into a debate with McCarron over his choice of words, but rather criticised the USGA for adopting such a rule change in the first place, especially knowing that this loophole might cause problems.

“It’s a terrible rule. To change something that has this kind of loophole is nuts,” Mickelson said. “But it’s not up to me or any other player to interpret what the rule is or the spirit of the rule. I understand black and white. And I think that myself or any other player is allowed to play those clubs because they’re approved – end of story.”

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