US PGA Tour resolve wedge row

The US PGA Tour have reached an agreement with Ping that will shortly see Ping Eye 2 wedges banned on all USPGA tours.

The US PGA Tour have reached an agreement with Ping that will shortly see the manufacturer’s 20-year-old, non-conforming Ping Eye 2 irons and wedges banned on all USPGA Tours.

This follows a controversy that erupted on the Tour earlier this year when some players chose to use the Ping-Eye 2 wedges despite the fact that they no longer conformed under a new regulations requiring clubs to feature “v” shaped and not square or U-shaped grooves.

Club’s with square or U-shaped grooves were outlawed by the USGA in professional golf in a bid to try and reduce the amount of spin players were able to impart on the ball, even out of wildly hit shots into the rough..

Unfortunately, in putting the new rule into play, the USGA and the PGA Tour had overlooked a lawsuit in the early 1990s that had led to Ping wedges manufactured before 1990 being allowed at all levels of competition, regardless of the new regulations, and several tour players, Phil Mickelson and John Daly among them, initially opted to use them.

Now, after much acrimonious debate, a solution to the extremely unsatisfactory situation has been found.

Ping chairman and CEO John Solheim announced on Monday that his company will waive its rights that prevented the PGA Tour from prohibiting the use of pre-April 1990 Ping Eye 2 irons and wedges that do not meet the 2010 Condition of Competition from being used in all PGA Tour events, including the US Open which is run by the USGA.

The waiver goes into effect on March 29 and applies to the PGA Tour, the Champions Tour and the Nationwide Tour.

“John Solheim and Ping had a terrific opportunity to do something very positive and significant for the game of golf and we very much appreciate his willingness to take this action,” said a delighted and almost certainly relieved PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem.

Solheim reacted to Finchem;’s statement by saying: “We’re thankful for Commissioner Finchem’s understanding of our position and his role in helping bring about this resolution.

“We all believe it is in the best interests of golf.

“It levels the playing field on the PGA Tour and resolves a very unfortunate situation that we predicted would happen when the USGA first proposed the new groove rule more than two years ago.

“It also keeps in place, Solheim added, “all of our other rights established in the 1993 PGA Tour settlement and the 1990 USGA settlement, including ensuring that amateurs will continue to be able to play their pre-April 1990 Eye 2s at all amateur events played under the USGA Rules of Golf.”

“We’ve heard from a lot of loyal Ping Eye 2 owners who were concerned that a resolution of the Tour’s issue might also keep them from playing their Eye 2s that were grand fathered as a result of the 1990 USGA settlement.

“I want to reassure those golfers that their clubs remain conforming in all amateur events played under the USGA Rules of Golf,” insisted Solheim, who negotiated the original agreements together with his father, Karsten Solheim.

“The problem is solved on the PGA Tour and the integrity of our original agreements is unaffected.”

Both Ping and the PGA TOUR made it clear the waiver does not take out of Tour players’ hands all Eye 2 irons and wedges

Several professionals this year have had Ping make up for them Eye 2 irons and wedges with grooves that conform to the 2010 New Groove rule. Those clubs remain eligible for use.

Solheim confirmed several solutions were considered since he first met with USGA executives on February 10 in Dallas but felt that under the circumstances the PGA Tour and US Open waivers were the most appropriate ways to keep intact the spirit of his company’s original USGA and PGA TOUR agreements.

Both the PGA Tour and Ping also said they were pleased with Monday’s announcement by the USGA that it will be conducting a forum in the Fall of 2010 in an effort to find ways to improve the equipment rule-making process utilized by the USGA.

“Today’s announcement by the USGA that it intends to review its rule-making process and consider the input of all stakeholders in the game of golf demonstrates the USGA’s commitment to our great game and its obligation to develop and implement rules for the game that are in the best interests of all concerned,” Finchem said.

“The PGA Tour will actively participate in the forum and will offer its own views on how the process may be improved.”

Solheim are “also encouraged by the USGA’s announcement” that volunteer organization will share more information with, and seek more input from a variety of sources, including manufacturers, in the rulemaking process.

“I’ve been consistent in voicing my concerns over the last several years about the challenges of the current rule-making process and the needs to improve it to the benefit of all golfers,” said Solheim.

“I am hopeful this will be a significant first step in realizing this goal. We’re looking forward to the forum and will be an active participant when it convenes sometime this fall. Our goal is to help ensure innovation remains an important part of golf’s tradition.”