Public bored with Groovegate

IAN HUTCHINSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:50 AM ET

Are we so devoid of creativity that we must attach the word "gate" to every controversy that has boiled in almost 40 years since Watergate? For that reason, the fracas du jour on the PGA Tour has been called Groovesgate or Groovegate.

The tour is feeling anything but groovy, another word from 40 years ago, about the ancient Ping Eye 2 wedge played by Phil Mickelson and other bad boys who found a loophole in the latest rules on grooves as established by the United States Golf Association. Those rules went into effect this year.

This controversy stems back to another USGA edict that was aimed at square grooves over 20 years ago. Ping, protecting its investment in the Eye 2 and citing the need for game-improving innovation, fought it in court, leading to the settlement which still makes the Eye 2 okay to use.

OVER-ANALYSIS

In hockey, an illegal stick would be checked out, a penalty would be assessed and the game would move on, but such is not the case in golf, where administrators, players and the media love to dissect and discuss such issues until there's nothing left to say.

Ping president and chief executive officer John Solheim has said he's willing to discuss a workable solution and, having dealt with Solheim for years, I can confidently say that he is a fair man and that something will likely be worked out soon.

The tour, however, is only part of this story. It's important in the sense that golf places so much importance on what happens in the big leagues that it has a trickle-down effect to the most important people in the game, the masses who play for a beer and some good, old-fashioned fun and recreation.

Before this recent incident, have you ever given much thought to grooves? They might matter to gearheads and high level players, but it isn't an outrageous assumption to say that the masses that play the game in this country didn't care until now.

The problem is the USGA and other governing bodies want you to care, which is why they issue these blanket rule proclamations that cover everybody from a 25 handicap to a tour player when it comes to things such as grooves.

If you're concerned about the new rules, don't be. They won't even kick in for recreational players for 14 years and by that time, you will have bought a new set that follow the regulations and, even if you don't, there's no way for the USGA or other organizations to police the masses unless it's a sanctioned event.

With recreational players, you would think golf's governing bodies would be more focused on promoting the fun aspect of a game that has been declining in participation instead of getting caught up in equipment rules that can make the game even tougher on a beginner.

Telling somebody who struggles to break 90 that last year's wedges was making the game too easy is enough to turn people off the game and this isn't the first time it's happened in an era that's seen golf's rulers fret about hot driver faces, clubhead size and a variety of other equipment-related issues.

INNOVATION A PLUS

Innovation is not a bad or scary thing for the masses and fretting about technology only confuses those who just want to play the game. There are some who believe that jacked-up equipment means people won't take lessons from golf pros, but don't buy that one because recreational players want to improve each time out.

It's time golf's governing bodies quit blurring the lines between tour pros and other high-level players and those who just play the game for fun.

Like the old words we keep recycling, it's time for golf's governing bodies to progress into modern times.


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