PING Chairman and CEO John Solheim announced today that PING will waive its rights that prevent the PGA TOUR from prohibiting the use of pre-April 1990 PING EYE2 irons and wedges that do not meet the 2010 Condition of Competition from being played at PGA TOUR professional competitions.
The waiver goes into effect March 29 and applies to the PGA TOUR, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour. As a result of a request from the USGA, PING will also apply the waiver to the U.S. Open in June. The PGA TOUR will then adopt a Condition of the Competition that does not provide an exception for the pre-April 1990 PING EYE2 irons.
"John Solheim and PING had a terrific opportunity to do something very positive and significant for the game of golf and we very much appreciate his willingness to take this action," said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem.
“We’re thankful for Commissioner Finchem’s understanding of our position and his role in helping bring about this resolution. We all believe it is in the best interests of golf,” said Solheim. “It levels the playing field on the PGA TOUR and resolves a very unfortunate situation that we predicted would happen when the USGA first proposed the new groove rule more than two years ago. It keeps in place all of our other rights established in the 1993 PGA TOUR settlement and the 1990 USGA settlement, including ensuring amateurs will continue to be able to play their pre-April 1990 EYE2s at all amateur events played under the USGA Rules of Golf.”
PING and the PGA TOUR stated the waiver does not take all EYE2 irons and wedges out of PGA TOUR player’s hands. At the request of several players this year, PING has made EYE2 irons and wedges with grooves that conform to the 2010 New Groove rule. Those clubs remain eligible for use.
Solheim confirmed several solutions were considered since meeting with USGA executives on February 10 in Dallas but felt that under the circumstances the PGA TOUR and U.S. Open waivers were the most appropriate ways to keep intact the spirit of his company’s original USGA and PGA TOUR agreements.
“We’ve heard from a lot of loyal PING EYE2 owners who were concerned that a resolution of the TOUR's issue might also keep them from playing their EYE2s that were grandfathered as a result of the 1990 USGA settlement. I want to reassure those golfers that their clubs remain conforming in all amateur events played under the USGA Rules of Golf,” said Solheim, who negotiated the original agreements together with his father, Karsten Solheim. “The problem is solved on the PGA TOUR and the integrity of the original agreements is unaffected.”
Both the PGA TOUR and PING said they were pleased with today’s announcement by the USGA that it will be conducting a forum in the Fall of 2010 in an effort to find ways to improve the equipment rulemaking process utilized by the USGA.
“Today’s announcement by the USGA that it intends to review its rulemaking process and consider the input of all stakeholders in the game of golf demonstrates the USGA’s commitment to our great game and its obligation to develop and implement rules for the game that are in the best interests of all concerned,” Finchem said. "The PGA TOUR will actively participate in the forum and will offer its own views on how the process may be improved."
Solheim is also encouraged by the USGA’s announcement that the volunteer organization will share more information with, and seek more input from a variety of sources, including manufacturers, in the rulemaking process.
“I’ve been consistent in voicing my concerns over the last several years about the challenges of the current rulemaking process and the needs to improve it to the benefit of golfers,” said Solheim. “I am hopeful this will be a significant first step in realizing this goal. We’re looking forward to the forum and will be an active participant when it convenes sometime this fall. Our goal is to help ensure innovation remains an important part of golf’s tradition.”