PGA Tour moves forward with groove changes


BETHESDA, Md. ' One of the most heated debates among PGA Tour decision-makers ended Tuesday at Congressional with a whimper when Tour commissioner Tim Finchem announced the circuit will not delay the enactment of a new rule governing the size and shape of grooves in players irons.
The rule will take effect as it was originally crafted on Jan. 1, 2010, despite objections from some golf equipment manufacturers and Tour players.
We do think there are some challenges here, Finchem said. We are comfortable that we can meet the challenges, and we have great faith in our players. We just felt that delaying at this point in time probably was not in our overall best interests.
Tuesdays meeting ' which lasted over two hours and included Finchem, the four player representatives on the policy board (Stewart Cink, Zach Johnson, David Toms and Brad Faxon) and incoming board member Davis Love III ' ended weeks of speculation that the rule would be delayed a year, primarily to give manufacturers and players a chance to test the new equipment.
I couldnt be more surprised if I woke up and my head was sewn to the carpet, said Joe Ogilvie, one of 16 members on the Player Advisory Council and a former policy board member.
On the eve of the final meeting Ping chairman and CEO John Solheim issued a statement not only calling for the delay, but for the rule to be dismissed altogether. Acushnet, the parent company for Titleist, followed Finchems announcement with an overview of the companys concerns: Making a change of this precedential significance requires that the conversion process be conducted in a thorough, deliberate manner taking the interests of all constituencies into account. . . . Player reaction to what they saw was dramatic. They were caught off guard by the magnitude of the performance difference and expressed concern about the extent of the transition process.
The policy board, which consists of the four players mentioned above and four independent directors, did not vote on the possible delay. Instead, the decision was left up to Finchem and his staff, like most rules or conditions to competition.
(Finchem) had the views of the board and the PAC, but everybody had too much of a conflict of interest, said Tom Pernice Jr., a member of the PAC. It was best left up to (Finchem).
Finchem said the Tour will begin a full-court press to educate players on the new grooves similar to the campaign the Tour launched when it began drug testing. He said the circuit will set up testing centers at courses adjacent tournament sites in the coming weeks, like Turning Stone Resort in upstate New York, for testing and a device will be made available each week to test the grooves in players wedges.
Player reaction was mixed in the wake of the news, but all were confident there would be enough time after the season ended to test new wedges ' many irons in play on Tour already use the conforming V grooves, which are not as sharp-edged as the nonconforming U-shaped grooves.
The top 20 in the world are still going to be in the top 20, said George McNeill, a PAC member. I think youll see a little more shot making, a little more thought of where you want to put your golf ball on the course.
Many observers say the new grooves will prompt some players to use new golf balls in order to compensate for the loss of spin. According to Acushnet the new grooves will result in a 30- to 50-percent reduction in spin rate, which in turn could prompt some players to adjust their drivers and irons.
It'll be interesting seeing guys catching fliers and not being able to spin the ball back out of the rough, Tiger Woods said. Their decision is how they play par 5s whether they will try and drive drivable par 4s now. Short-siding yourself is obviously going to pay a little more of a price, and you know, how many more 64-degree wedges you're going to see with the balls being as firm as they are.