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Palmer speaks out on "hot" driver issue

Arnold Palmer made it clear that he is not being paid to endorse Callaway Golf's nonconforming driver, and is simply "endorsing people having fun playing golf.''

The 70-year-old golfer addressed the controversial topic tonight during a live 90-minute interview with The Golf Channel's Peter Kessler. Palmer, TGC's chairman, signed a 12-year endorsement deal with Callaway last year.

"I'm not recommending that people use a nonconforming golf club in competition,'' Palmer said of U.S. Golf Association rules. "But for people who go out and enjoy the game of golf -- recreational golfers -- if they want to use a nonconforming club, if they want to use a baseball bat, whatever they want to use, I think that's their privilege if it makes the game a little more fun for them to play.''

Palmer, the longtime USGA advocate and chairman of its Members Program, was criticized last year following Callaway's decision to sell the ERC II driver in the United States.

"I've had so many letters from people that are saying things to me that hurt me. They have really hurt me,'' Palmer said. "Some of my good friends have crushed me with some of their letters and some of their comments.

"And there have been things like 'cheating' used in their comments about nonconforming golf clubs. The last thing in the world that I would ever tolerate is cheating. If you said it to me sitting here, I'd probably punch you in the nose right now. And I mean it because I don't think I ever cheated playing golf.''

Palmer uses Callaway's conforming VFT driver in competition.

The USGA ruled the ERC II illegal because of the spring-like effect. The governing body adopted a test in 1998 to measure the trampoline effect in thin-faced drivers, which are said to cause the ball to travel as many as 30 yards farther.

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews -- golf's governing body everywhere except the United States and Mexico -- concluded in September that there is no need for a test to measure the spring-like effect. That decision left the golf world with two sets of equipment regulations.

"I just want to see this thing settled,'' Palmer said. "I have enough faith in the USGA and the R&A and the golfers of this world to think that this will be solved.''

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