Remember back in 2005 when Vijay Singh almost ripped Phil Mickelson a new one because Lefty’s metal spikes tore up the greens at Augusta National? As Ian Poulter’s and Rory McIlroy’s tweets and Tiger Woods’ comments last week suggested, the metal vs. plastic debate is heating up again on the PGA Tour.
Poulter complained via Twitter that players using metal spikes were leaving “plenty of spike marks” that left the putting surfaces “crusty.” He also claimed that “only probably 15-20 guys” still wore the offending metal cleats and that “you could probably guess most of them its not hard to work out.”
McIroy jumped in from afar, tweeting, “I wear spikes…. Problem!?!?”
The two Euros went back and forth, with Poulter huffily typing back, “yes problem. there is no need for spikes & if you say it helps thats [expletive deleted], soft spikes give just as much traction.”
McIlroy tried to keep it light. “if you got your swing speed over 100mph you might need spikes too….” Rory added a smiley face for good measure and noted that he hoped he would not go out ahead of Poulter at next week’s Masters.
Woods, perhaps responding to Poulter’s thinly veiled criticism, noted that soft spikes can do their own damage.
“Anybody who wears metal spikes like me or some of the other guys who wear soft spikes that turn their feet a little bit [are churning up the greens],” Woods told reporters following his 4-under 68 in Friday’s second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. “[Playing partners] Dustin [Johnson] and Gary [Woodland] got behind a couple Mt. Everests out there, and unfortunately they couldn’t do anything about it.”
They could not fix the blemishes because the Rules of Golf prohibit anyone from doing so. Just one of so many ridiculous edicts from the grand poobahs of golf — but that’s a story for another column.
In the meantime, the Singh-Mickelson feud of yesteryear and the brewing Woods-Poulter situation indicate that the ongoing soft-vs.-hard battle is far from over. Back in 2005, Singh, a soft-spike man, reportedly confronted Mickelson in the locker room after complaining about the gouges Mickelson left on the putting surfaces. At least this year’s brouhaha between those who prefer the six- and eight-millimeter quills for traction and the soft-spikers who detest putting over the tufts of turf has so far been confined to words.
While PGA players are unlikely to come to a consensus on the issue any time soon, those of us not on tour have no choice but to outfit our FootJoys with the plastic nubs that most courses have required for years. And while the use of metal spikes on tour has reportedly declined steadily, guys like Woods are unlikely to give up their steely cleats any time soon.
If you had the choice, would you go back to metallic cleatage or stick with the Softspikes, Stingers, and Scorpions of the world? I know all the arguments against the longer, inflexible arrows, but I’m in Tiger’s camp on this one. Give me metal for stability and deliver me from wet courses and having to dig out the damp sod from among the wide-spread plastic nibs. May as well wear sneakers.