McCarron, Mickelson and “Groove-Gate”

by Jeff Skinner

When Scott McCarron started this PGA Tour season he wasn’t planning to be in the middle of a firestorm of controversy.  McCarron has displayed a quality that is rarely seen on The PGA Tour.  He has strong opinions and he voices them.  He is not bashful about letting his fellow players know what he thinks.  That is his job.  McCarron is a member of the Players Advisory Council and he is charged with the duty of assisting the tour and making it better for the players.  He is the type of man you would want on the Council, one that looks out for the interests of the players and has the well being of the Tour in mind.

When McCarron took Anthony Kim to task for not playing in the Bob Hope Classic and instead playing in The European Tour’s Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, he had the best interests of the PGA Tour in mind.  His logic was not flawed.  Kim is a young, charismatic star of the Tour who graduated from La Quinta High School which is where The Hope was held.  It is understandable that some tour players might expect a player with local ties to participate in a tournament held in that community and that was McCarron’s position.  However, Kim was well within his right to play in a non PGA Tour event even during a time when The Hope is in trouble and The Tour is in desperate need of its popular stars being visible.

This past week when McCarron mentioned “cheating” and “Phil Mickelson” in the same sentence he may have crossed a line.  Cheating is probably the most hated word in golf.  Adding one of today’s most loved players into the “cheating” discussion as he did with Mickelson brought more criticism and focus on McCarron then he could imagine.

On Tuesday McCarron apologized to Mickelson: “I’m certainly sorry for it,” McCarron said. “I’d like to apologize to Phil Mickelson for what I said. We both realize we’re on the same page on this issue.”  Yes, they both are on the same page: they both realize the Tour is struggling to cope with the groove issue effectively.

McCarron should have known the controversy he would start when connecting Phil with “cheating.”  Maybe that was his plan along, after all there wasn’t much screaming when the Pings were in the bags of Dean Wilson and John Daly the weeks before Torrey Pines when Phil made his debut.  If he singles out Daly or Wilson, no one really cares and it’s not front page news.  You call out Phil Mickelson and you get attention and McCarron did just that.

McCarron is not the only one here with an agenda.  Phil Mickelson has been fighting the groove change from day one.  He is perturbed with the USGA for two reasons.  He has submitted a set of Callaway clubs to the USGA with a new groove pattern (MAW grooves) that meets the USGA’s specifications but was not approved for play.  He is also upset with the fact that there are two lists that the USGA is keeping:  an “approved for play” list and a “meets requirements” list.  The Ping Eye 2’s don’t meet the new requirements but are on the approved for play list.

Maybe both players were trying to light a fire under the PGA Tour to correct this situation which gets more confusing and embarrassing each day.  If that was their plan then it’s mission accomplished.  They certainly got the entire golf world focused on their issue.  We’ll have to wait and see what the tour does now.


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