Mickelson: PGA Tour needs to step in

Updated: January 30, 2010, 10:11 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

SAN DIEGO -- Phil Mickelson hinted at legal action Saturday for being accused of "cheating," saying that if the PGA Tour did not do something about him being "publicly slandered," then he would let others handle it.

Mickelson didn't mention Scott McCarron by name in a series of interviews after his third round at Torrey Pines.

McCarron singled out Mickelson's use of the Ping-Eye 2 wedge, telling The San Francisco Chronicle, "It's cheating, and I'm appalled Phil has put it in play."

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem will meet with players Tuesday in Los Angeles to discuss the controversial issue of players using golf clubs that are only deemed legal due to an old court ruling.

The tour announced Saturday that the subject will be part of a previously scheduled meeting at the Northern Trust Open.

The USGA has a new rule this year that irons have V-shaped grooves. However, the Ping-Eye 2 wedges that were made before April 1, 1990, remain approved for play through a Ping lawsuit that was settled 20 years ago and takes precedence over new regulations.

Mickelson is using one of those wedges this week after reading about John Daly and Dean Wilson using them in Hawaii.

When asked Friday about McCarron's quote about him cheating, Mickelson declined to get into what he referred to as "name-calling." Instead, he suggested that McCarron was upset with the new rule on grooves.

But after a 70 in the third round put Mickelson within four shots of the lead, he made it clear he would not go quietly.

"We all have our opinions on the matter, but a line was crossed and I just was publicly slandered," Mickelson said. "And because of that, I'll have to let other people handle that."

Asked he was contemplating a lawsuit, Mickelson said, "I'm not going into specifics what that meant."

Still, it was clear that his message reached PGA Tour headquarters. The tour released a statement during the third round explaining why the Ping-Eye 2 wedges with square grooves were approved for play.

"Public comments or criticisms characterizing their use as a violation ... are inappropriate at best," the statement said.

The tour again made clear that any player using the irons is not in violation of the rules of golf.

Still, there is some question as to whether the PGA Tour can implement a local rule at its tournaments to ban the Ping clubs due to the lawsuit settlement.

Told about the tour's statement, Mickelson paused before saying it was "cool if they put that out there."

"Again, everybody has their opinions and so forth, and it's healthy to talk about it," he said. "But when you cross that line and slander someone publicly, that's when the tour needs to step in -- or someone else."

McCarron, who missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open, could not be reached for comment. He did not back off his criticism Friday of Mickelson using the wedges, although he used "bending the rules" instead of "cheating" in his comments.

He maintains that Mickelson, and others using the Ping wedges, are violating the spirit of the new rule.

Mickelson has been feuding with the USGA, in particular senior technical director Dick Rugge, since last summer when it became clear the new grooves would be effective this year.

He said he was not even certain that 20-year-old wedges spun the ball more than his new wedges, yet offered no apologies because the clubs are approved for play.

"I understand black and white," Mickelson said Friday. "And I think that myself or any other player is allowed to play those clubs because they're approved -- end of story."

Instead, the story might just now be starting.

McCarron, who is on the 16-man Players Advisory Council, said the wedges would be discussed Tuesday at a PAC meeting in Los Angeles with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.

ESPN.com's Bob Harig and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

ALSO SEE