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GrovesGate Becomes PR Tonic for TigerGressions

 It’s been more than a tempest in a teapot. But not much more. 

     This whole square grooves foofaraw hasn’t been a myth. But the significance of all the noise that has surrounded it is badly in need of debunking.

     Basically, the golf world has been taken for a ride. We have been hoodwinked. And the panjandrums at the PGA Tour have to be  laughing all the way to the bank of public relations. If they aren’t, they should be.
     In football, they call this a misdirection. It’s when all the offensive flow goes in one direction and the ball carrier heads the other way for a big gain. In this case, the ball carrier has been Tiger Woods. What he gained while the golf world was riveted to Scott McCarron’s verbal thrusts and Phil Mickelson’s lawyered parries was a respite from a painfully prolonged news cycle that has dominated the sport since Thanksgiving.
     The consensus from the golf editorialists is that GroovesGate couldn’t have come at a worse time for the pro game. Fact is, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
          GroovesGate misdirected everybody, at least for now, from the financial disaster that TigerGressions has visited on almost every specific business nook and cranny of the PGA Tour. And it distracted everybody, at least for now, from the enormous collateral damage Woods’ revelations have done to the pro game in general.
     And at what cost?
     Nobody actually cheated in GroovesGate. Nobody broke any laws. Nobody got maimed, divorced, arrested, arraigned, indicted or convicted. Nobody was even charged with bringing guns into the locker room. Nobody used a corked bat.
     The grandfathered, square-grooved wedges Mickelson put into play at Torrey Pines last week were inarguably legal. And for those in the McCarron camp who maintained the use of said wedges broke the spirit of the rules, Mickelson answered with three straight bogeys on his first three holes Sunday while melting his way to a tie for 19th.
     Advantage schmadvantage. 
     Most of the players quietly canvassed by the on-site reporters had been saying as much for weeks. Most of the experts in the TV booths pointed out we won’t really know the effect of the rules change until mid-season. But when McCarron told the San Francisco Chronicle that the usage of square-grooved wedges by players such as Mickelson looked a little hinky to him, nine kinds of hell broke loose and the public appetite for the catty details grew all the way into the next week, where defending champion Mickelson showed up as the pre-tournament favorite at Riviera.
     Everybody was talking about golf in loud, animated voices. And none of it had to do with Tiger. It was a PGA Tour damage-controller’s dream.
     By the way, here are a few things you need to know about Scott McCarron: He’s a level-headed and accomplished veteran. He’s a good guy to have a beer with and kick around subjects that range from golf to football to movies to real life. If your daughter brought home a guy like Scott McCarron, you’d be pleased.
     Smell a “but” coming?
     Well, yes, there sorta are a couple. Last year, McCarron signed a contract with a company that makes something called the “Pure Power Mouthguard.” In a publicity release, McCarron called the Pure Power Mouthguard “the most important piece of equipment in my golf bag.” Other athletes who have endorsed the Pure Power Mouthguard include Terrell Owens, Manny Ramirez and Shaquille O’Neal. Bit of a rogues gallery, that. It also needs to be pointed out that a long putter, which many other players believe to be contrary to the spirit of the game, revived McCarron’s career in the mid-’90s.
     GroovesGate was amusing. You have to give it that.
     Mickelson spent the better part of the San Diego weekend claiming he had been “publicly slandered” by McCarron. He said the words “publicly slandered” so many times he started to sound like a parrot. Or like Jim Mora shrieking “Playoffs?” Which begs, among other things, this question: Is it possible to “privately” slander a person. But let’s not go there. It might lead the winding trail of all this bunkum back to Woods.
     For his part, McCarron backed off just long enough to say he had never used the word “cheater” when strictly speaking about Mickelson. At Riviera he apologized to Phil face-to-face. But he didn’t stand down from his criticism of the Ping Eye2s on Tour circa 2010. 
     This just in: John Daly says he’s quitting. Again.
     Quitting what? … Smoking?
     Speaking of Daly, can somebody tell me why nobody accused Long John of “cheating” when he put the controversially grandfathered Ping Eye2 wedges into play at the Sony Open in Hawaii two weeks before Mickelson’s 2010 debut?
     Then there was the Tour statement from Torrey Pines that, without naming McCarron, indicated that his remarks were distasteful “at best.” 
     Next thing you know, somebody’s going to report that the grooves in the Pure Power Mouthguard exceed the legal limit. 
     And, behind closed doors in Ponte Vedra, it will be all good.


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