This being a snow day, I spent the afternoon watching the Farmers Insurance Open in sunny San Diego where 7 or 8 players are using wedges in competition that are no longer conforming to the Rules of Golf.
And it's legal. First, the back story.
As even the casual fan knows by now, the average pro golfer can hit a driver a country mile. Indeed, the Tiger Woodses, John Dalys and Bubba Watsons of this life hit the fairway with their tee shots with amazing infrequency.
And they pretty much don't care.
This is because they repose great trust in using their wedges to hit the ball high out of the rough and spin it back to the hole. This evidently pissed off the gimlet eyed lords of the PGA who decided that a premium would be placed on accuracy off of the tee. And they would insure this by screwing with the wedges.
Beginning this year, all wedges with "V" shaped grooves would be considered non-conforming or illegal. Instead, the players must use wedges that have square shaped grooves. Why is this important? Because the ball spins less out of the rough with the new wedges. This makes it harder to hit those nice high shots that stick and spin like you seem them do on TV. Which the PGA hopes will provide less incentive for guys like Daly to worry only about keeping his tee shot in the same Area Code if he knows that the short game will be tougher with the new wedges.
Except that Daly, Mickelson and a lot of other guys are using old Ping-Eye 2 wedges that were last made in the Eighties. They have "V"shaped grooves. Which makes them illegal right? No.
You see, this change has been contemplated for some time. So Ping sued the PGA over the proposed plan to ban the wedges with the"V" shaped grooves back in the Nineties. The parties settled and according to the terms of the settlement, any Ping-Eye 2 wedges made before April 1, 1990, remains approved under the Rules of Golf. Which means that guys are pulling out old Pings stored in garages or buying them off EBay.
And it's legal. Except for the fact that it's cheating.
This is great. Golf makes this big honking deal about how it is a gentleman's game. The players keep their own scores, and call penalties on themselves. And get this, Ken Duke-I believe it was- got friggin' disqualified a few years ago for having more than 14 clubs in his bag. Even though the 15th club was a pink child's putter surreptitiously put in his bag by his little daughter.
And they are letting these guys play with clubs that are non-conforming and yet are still legal? This is hilarious.
Rick Reilly recounted the Ken Duke story in an essay for Sports Illustrated about the Rules of Golf entitled "The Fools of Golf."
With all due respect to Mr. Reilly, maybe I should have entitled this post "The Return of the Fools of Golf."