By Phil Hecken, with Johnny Okray
Golf kind of gets the short shrift at Uni Watch, but that’s understandible — it’s not (technically) a team sport, unless we’re talking about Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup teams, or some of the various college golf teams, so there’s not much “uniform” about it — more just individual outfits and athletes in sometimes unflattering attire.
If you’re a golfer, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the recent controversy involving Phil Mickelson (and others) who’ve been flouting the rules of golf by using a specific brand of club which has technically (and until recently, not actually) been banned by the USGA/PGA and R&A. Yeah, but “It’s golf, Phil — do I care, or more specifically, what’s the big deal?” you may ask. Well, if you’re a duffer like me, it’s no big deal. But when you’re a tour pro, it’s a very big deal.
So, I’ve asked Uni Watch’s resident golf pro, Johnny Okray to take a look at the controversy, since I’m neither fluent in golf nor particularly adept at science. But it really is a big deal, and it may have far more of an effect on the way professional golf is played for some time to come.
And now, in my best Ed McMahon intonation…”Heeeeeeere’s Johnny”:
Many people who follow golf, or follow it casually, have heard about the new changes to the grooves on irons. Many people have heard the controversy caused by Phil Mickelson who, along with other players, has found a loophole in the rule that allows them to use an older model club with different cut grooves, or “U-grooves”. These clubs are the Ping Eye 2 irons.
The rule that U-grooves are no longer legal to use in PGA Tour events took place on January 1, 2010, but because of a lawsuit by Ping close to 20 years ago, their Ping Eye 2 wedges have been “grandfathered in,” and are legal to use if they were manufactured prior to April 1, 1990. So what many of you are asking right now is, “Who cares? If they want to play with a club that is 20 years old let them. How can that be an advantage?”
Although it might not seem like an advantage, the spin rate created by U-groove wedges and V-groove wedges is vastly different. A side-by-side comparison shows the differences. In some laboratory testing, the U-grooves actually create more spin by coming out of the rough than from the fairway. This might give a player who hits the ball in the rough, more of an advantage to control the ball than if they hit it in the fairway.
The USGA did testing on grooves back in 2006 (and released in 2007) when this controversy really heated up. In its testing, the USGA evaluated grooveless irons, as well as clubs with traditional V-grooves and U-grooves at the current USGA limits. Out of the rough, the report states, “the V-groove is only a modest improvement over no grooves at all, whereas the U-groove offers a substantial improvement over both the grooveless and the V-groove clubs.” Golf Digest did its own testing right around the same time.
Utilizing the swing robot at Golf Laboratories, Titleist Pro V1 balls and a pair of wedges made by Wilson Golf Technology to exacting specifications with their only difference being the type of groove, their test involved a full-wedge shot, a half-wedge and a chip, as well as a full-wedge from simulated rough. In the non-rough conditions, the differences in spin generation between the V-groove and the U-groove were what might be termed inconsequential (less than 10 percent). However, it was in simulated rough that the numbers jumped. A U-groove shot spun nearly 61 percent more than a V-groove shot. Whoh nelly! It’s no wonder that the pros would want to use the older wedges with the U-groove technology.
So why in the world did Ping get grandfathered in the first place? Well, it goes back all the way to the 1985 when Ping’s club designer Karsten Solheim designed the Ping Eye 2 irons and wedges by curving the edges in an effort to reduce the tendency of U-shape grooves to scuff the ball. In mid 1987, the USGA banned Ping’s Eye 2 clubs, giving the reason its radius-edged grooves are believed to be too closely spaced together.
You can imagine that Ping was not too thrilled with this ruling, and it was in August of 1988 that Solheim filed a $100 million antitrust lawsuit against the USGA and Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. Solheim later filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour. Solheim was seeking to overturn the USGA ban on the Ping Eye 2 irons. Between 1990 and 1993, Ping, the PGA Tour, and the USGA go to court many times and spent millions of dollars on legal fees. They actually settled out of court eventually with the USGA agreeing to grandfather all previously made Ping Eye 2 irons, and Solheim agreeing to the authority of the USGA as rules-maker and promising to immediately begin making conforming irons. (See this timeline for reference.)
Fast forward two decades later, the ban on U-grooves actually happens to the demise of many players because the lack of spin. But, with the clause to grandfather the Ping Eye 2 irons in, any player who wanted to use them could. Most notably John Daly, Hunter Mahan, Dean Martin, er Dean WILSON, Mickelson, and Freddy Couples have used the Ping Eye 2 irons in the past few months. Is it “cheating?” No, because there is that clause. But is it a little dicey? Sure it is. But it was still considered legal.
Fast forward again to March 8th of this year, and Ping and the PGA Tour agree to ban the Ping Eye 2 irons for good at the end of March, 2010. Ping representatives said that they predicted this controversy a long time ago, but is happy with this ruling because it will “level the playing field”.
Now you may ask, “How will this groove ruling affect me?” Well, it won’t go into effect until 2024 for everybody. So when you and your buddies tee it up this summer, you can use almost any club you want as long as it doesn’t appear on this list. And here is a nice diagram of conforming and non-conforming grooves.
Think this is a hot club? Here’s an eBay auction for a 1990 Ping Eye 2.
Great job with that Johnny! As you can now plainly see, 99.99% of the hack golfers in the world can still shoot in the high 90s and get to keep our ‘non-conforming’ u-groove wedges. But for the guys who earn their living doing this sort of thing, there is now a price to be paid for those who can bomb it off the tee, but who also can’t drive straight.
Meet Lead Lukas: Live (sorta) from Duluth, that’s Uni Watch Prexy Paul Lukas, who as of Saturday morning, finds his rink sitting at 2-0 and in the “A Bracket” quarterfinals, after a successful first day of curling at the House of Hearts Bonspiel. Good show, buddy.
Of course, we know he owes it all to his world-class team, lead by skip Craig Brown (a multi-time national champion), who obviously sought to intimidate the opposition by flaunting his gorgeous Team USA jacket. Paul was joined by Matt Cartier (second) and Becca Jensen (vice), who ably swept for Paul’s perfectly placed guards. And although he beautifully set the tone for the match with his precision and placement, Paul proved equally adept in his sweeping duties (do those pants say “The North Face”?). Looks like he’s been doing it all his life, no?
I didn’t catch the name of the vanquished skip (seen here in white), doing the obligatory jello shots, but the beautiful lady in the yellow tee is Jen Holtan, who split time with Becca on Paul’s rink. I’m sure Paul will have plenty more photos and stories upon his return to New York, but there was one skip on the sheet next to him wearing a gorgeous cardigan. Recognize him? How about now? Yep, that’s Skip John Shuster, who you might remember for his performance in the Vancouver Olympics.
Perfect start to a perfect day. And, is this a great sweater, or what?
Good luck today Mr. Lukas. (For anyone making the trek to the Duluth Curling Club, Paul’s first match is the Quarterfinals, taking place at 12:45 pm.) Make us all proud!
Late update: As fate would have it, who should Paul’s rink draw in the QF’s? You Got It.
(Most of those photos were taken by Paul’s Twin Cities buddy Jack Kirr. Big thanks for sharing.)
I wanna be…your Sledgehammer: As long as we’re on a winter sports theme now, the President of the Hockey Wing and Chancellor of Canuckistan, Teebz is here to bring you the rundown on one of the coolest sports from the Vancouver Paralympics. Yes, everyone’s favorite: “Sledge.” Here’s Teebz:
If you’re bored with all that college basketball stuff that’s happening today, you might want to check out the “other” Olympics that are happening in Vancouver, BC. The 2010 Paralympic Games are nearly over, and there have been some great stories. The one sport that I’ve admittedly been glued to is sledge hockey. I know that’s hard to believe, but the men that play this game are amazing athletes, and this sport really deserves to be seen by more people. It’s physical, it’s fast, and the players have incredible skill!
Just in case you may have missed it, Team USA is playing in the gold medal final against Team Japan at 3PM ET. Team USA is the reigning World Champion, and are the heavy favorites in the gold medal game. Alexi Salamone is the leading scorer for the Americans thus far, collecting three goals and four assists over four games. Showing how dominant they are in their own zone, Team USA has yet to surrender a goal in the Paralympic Games, and look to continue that trend against Japan today.
If you’d like to watch the gold medal game, you can watch the game online here for free! Nothing better than watching a great hockey game for free, and seeing the gold medals awarded to the victor! Check out the sledge hockey action today!
Back again with more Uniform Tweaks, Concepts and Revisions today. Lots to get to, and if you have a tweak, change or concept for any sport, send them my way.
Leading off today is Patrick Woody (aka “Pflava”) who has a few MLB concepts for us:
Hey Phil! Sorry I haven’t been posting much lately – been pretty busy. Anyway, here are a few tweaks I dug up recently…
Boston Red Sox: In short, I think they get the undersleeves (and honestly, their socks) completely wrong. Just because they’re the Red SOX doesn’t mean all their trim has to be red, too. The cap is navy, and having solid red sleeves and socks throws the balance completely off. Especially at home. Regarding the socks, there is a reason Boston used to wear those awesome striped stirrups with the navy at the top — it balanced out the top half of the uniform perfectly while remaining dominantly red. So, here’s what I did.
Chicago White Sox: Next, I changed the other Sox a bit. Like a lot of folks here, I love the red trim the White Sox used to use. I really like how it pops against the black while being used minimally. Also, the current black/silver is a bit bland and lifeless and IMO is looking a bit 90’s-dated. So I added the red trim on the home and road uni’s (I absolutely HATE the White Sox current roads). The alt is just an updated version of the 70’s look, and nothing they’d ever wear in a day game. But I LOVE that old time look on the font. I actually wanted to use that for the road grays, but I’m far too limited graphically in MS Paint and couldn’t find a version of it in black. Ideally, the road grays wouldn’t have the “Sox” logo. Oh well.
Texas Rangers: Next is my local team, the Texas Texases. The Rangers visual identity is an absolute trainwreck that never gets enough attention, mostly because no one cares about this team in any way. When they announced that “Texas” would be on the home and road’s, I came up with this tweak. Basically I got rid of the 3-D dropshadow nonsense and all the unnecessary white on the road uniforms while simplifying the cap logo and striking a balance between the red and blue. There are very few teams that need a two toned cap, but the Rangers are one of them. That’s the only way to clean up the cap logo while retaining red, white and blue. So the “T” is now plain white with no trim whatsoever (when all that crap is removed from the T, it’s actually a nice, symmetrical logo that works well on a cap).
Minnesota Twins: I did this before they unveiled their new set for this coming season. Nothing groundbreaking here, just a basic return to the 60’s look that is one of my all time favorites (and as a Braves fan, I despise the Twins). For the road grays I took the old Minnesota script that, frankly, they should have used in the first place. I’d still much rather see something like this as their full time set and not an alt, because the original Twins uni’s were magnificent. As for this alt, just ignore it as I have no idea why I even added it.
That’s all for now.
Next up is Skott Schoonover who has a “fantasy” football concept. Meet the Apollos:
I made these unis for my fantasy football team. The team is the Apollos. I know since it’s a fantasy team it doesn’t qualify as a uni tweak, but I was pretty happy with how this turned out.
PS- Love the site.
Our final set of concepts today come from Eli Netting, who has some interesting proposals for the Pittsburgh baseball and football clubs:
I know it’s too late to enter the official Uni Tweaks Contest, but I wanted to send in my deisgn changes for the Pittsburgh Steelers & Pirates. Please forgive the rough look of the changes. I used Snagit.
The one uniform nobody seems to want to touch is the Steelers. I will gladly admit that I’ve been a Steelers & Pirates fan since before I was born. I agree that the Steelers don’t “need” to be tweaked, but my curiosity got the better of me. What if the colors were reversed for the home jersey? So I did it. I kept the gold helmet because, even though it was originally used before I was born, I love the look of the (pseudo) gold dome.
For the Steelers road jersey I changed the pants from yellow to black and the helmet from black to white (again just out of curiosity). I think they both look pretty good.
I know the Steelers will never do any of these (especially the white helmet) but I think they should really look at the all-yellow jersey. Maybe as another alternate?
For the Pirates unis, I’ve been drooling over the chance to change these ever since they started wearing the pinstripes on Sundays. With all due respect to the teams that wear pinstripes, I don’t like seeing the Buccos in them. It works for the Yanks, Mets, etc but it just doesn’t seem right for the Pirates. For the Sunday jersey, I took out the pinstripes and replaced them with yellow sleeves. Maybe they could go back to the vest days (of both recent & long ago) seasons.
For the Alternate jersey, instead of red, they could’ve gone with a yellow jersey (again with the vest) and yellow pants (like they did back in the glory days of the 70’s).
I wish I could say that the “A” standing out on the jersey is a coincidence, but it’s not. It’s exactly what it looks like: a shot at Pirates management for dismantling good teams (with loads of potential) just to save a buck.
Thanks for taking the time to check out my tweaks. And thanks for the great blog!! Here We Go Steelers! and Let’s Go Bucs!!
Thanks to all the guys for their submissions. Back soon with another tweak show.
Guess The Game From The Scoreboard: Today’s scoreboard comes from me. That’s right — I was at this game with Paul. If that’s not enough of a hint, then maybe the scoreboard itself will be the other clue. OK? OK! Ready: Guess The Game From The Scoreboard. Date, location and final score, please, and be sure to link to your answer. And, as always, if you enjoy the game, please send me some new scoreboards! Drop me a line. Thanks!
Well, there you have it. All the traditional sports in one post: golf, sledge, curling & baseball. We won’t be discussing hoop, where I continue to practice bracketfailology. Ouch. But hey, 341st isn’t out of it yet. A late win by Maryland bumped me up from 353rd place! Yessir, Terry Bevington’s Pants, I’m coming to get ya. Wait, that doesn’t sound right.
Everyone have a great Saturday.
It’s not just a rock — It’s forty-two pounds of polished granite, bevelled on the belly and a handle a human being can hold. And it may have no practical purpose in itself but it is a repository of human possibility and if it’s handled just right, it will exact the kind of poetry — as close to poetry as I ever want to get. The way it moves… Not once, in everything I’ve done, have I ever felt the same wonder and humanity as when I’m playing the game of curling. — Chris Cutter