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LPGA players put spin on grooves

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BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The new groove regulations were a hot topic on the PGA Tour last week, and while it’s not dominating the discussion this week at the U.S. Women’s Open like it was at the AT&T National, players are asking a lot of questions. At least, those who know about the change.

'A lot of the girls are not cognizant of what's going on, so I'm being very proactive this week, letting them know that there has been a change and there's no need to panic,' said Jeff Heitt, Ping's LPGA representative. 'They just need to be aware that come this fall, we'll be tinkering with some of their wedges and irons and they should be prepared.'

Heitt, however, doesn't think the move to the conforming V-shaped grooves, which have smaller cross-sections and are not as sharp-edged as the U-shaped grooves, will have a big impact on the LPGA. He says some of the stronger players, like Ping staff members Lorena Ochoa and Maria Hjorth, might see some less spin out of the rough, as well as any player using 'gargantuan-sized' grooves in their wedges.

'They're the only players who will know the difference because they're the only ones who can spin the ball out of the rough,' said Heitt, who added he expects all of Ping's players to be using conforming grooves by October.

Suzann Pettersen, one of the longer hitters on tour, doesn’t think the move will have much of an effect on her tour.

“I don’t think it will make a huge difference for the girls,” she said. “The guys generate so much more clubhead speed than we do, so they can make the ball spin out of the rough much easier than we can.”

Meaghan Francella was one of several LPGA players selected by the USGA to test the grooves at last year’s Sybase Classic in Clifton, N.J. Francella says she didn’t know it at the time, but she was already playing the conforming V-shaped grooves. A week later, she switched to the U grooves in her Callaway X-Tour irons.

“I felt like I was at a disadvantage because I was playing irons that were harder to hit,” said Francella. “I wasn't getting any spin out of the rough. But with the U-shaped grooves, the ball wasn’t running out as much. I get a little more spin now, but not a very noticeable amount.”