Drug Policy Wake-Up Call

By Associated PressJanuary 29, 2008, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)Torrey Pines turned out to be a real wake-up call.
 
Some players were overwhelmed, nervous, even a little scared. Others were frustrated. Most of them were deeply concerned about the future of golf, perhaps not grasping the magnitude of what lies ahead.
 
And that was before Tiger Woods teed off.
 
In morning and afternoon sessions last week at the Buick Invitational, more than 100 players filed into a white tent for a mandatory meeting on the PGA TOUR's new anti-doping policy. Drug experts have been available since the Sony Open. The TOUR doesn't release attendance figures for such voluntary visits, but it's a safe bet these guys had more interest in Pro V1s than TUEs (therapeutic use exemptions).
 
That might have changed last Tuesday.
 
PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem was at the helm, joined by two staff attorneys and three outside advisors. One of them was a top expert on the World Anti-Doping Agency list, which the TOUR used as a guide for its policy and procedures.
 
And while just mentioning the name of certain banned substances is enough to put someone to sleep -- bendroflumethiazide, anyone? -- it wasn't long before reality set in.
 
Do you really know what's in that energy bar?
 
Those protein shakes?
 
'The only thing disconcerting is that you're totally responsible for what you take,' Charles Howell III said. 'You might take a product, and there's nothing on the label that's illegal, yet you don't know if there's cross-contamination.'
 
Even more disturbing was the process of random testing, which could happen anytime and anywhere.
 
Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger was indignant over having a 'collector' accompany him into the restroom to watch him drop his pants and lift his shirt to make sure he didn't have a urine sample taped to his side. And when it was mentioned that 'anywhere' could include coming to a player's house, Frank Lickliter suggested in so many words that the drug official bring a warrant.
 
'He's going to have a hard time getting off my property without a bullet in his (behind),' Lickliter said.
 
The reaction to Lickliter was almost as loud as the cheer when Woods made that sweeping 60-foot birdie putt on the 11th hole Sunday on his way to an eight-shot victory.
 
If nothing else, the meeting got their attention.
 
The anti-doping policy was announced Nov. 12 to little fanfare among players, perhaps because everyone had gone home for the year. But the closer golf gets to testing -- July 8 is the target date -- the more resistance it meets.
 
'I was caught off guard,' Jim Furyk said. 'I thought everyone was pro-testing. What I drew out of the meeting was that a few guys aren't. Not a few. Let's say more guys had negative opinions.'
 
Lickliter doesn't understand why the TOUR adopted WADA guidelines for golf, noting that Vick's Vapor Inhaler is prohibited.
 
'If I use Vick's nasal spray three times, they can kick me off the TOUR forever,' Lickliter said. 'Now, do you think Vick's nasal spray is helping me compete out here? Half the stuff they're testing for doesn't help golfers. These so-called experts are not experts in golf.'
 
Furyk told of a player who confided having a disorder that required drug treatment. Requesting a TUE for the drug means letting his secret out.
 
Tim Herron wonders if Danny Edwards' failed attempt to start a players' union 10 years ago was ahead of its time.
 
For many, it was the thought of a positive test for something not intended to help them lower their score, even if no one has been able to identify a drug that will do that.
 
'I don't think anyone on TOUR is in the business of trying to find something to enhance performance,' Jeff Maggert said. 'Maybe there is, and I'm naive. There's a bigger chance of someone getting tested positive who has absolutely no intent of trying to break the rules. The downside outweighs the upside by 1,000-to-1. The downside is just terrible.'
 
For all the discussion, there is no getting around the fact that drug testing is coming.
 
Whether golf needs it no longer is an issue, although it is hard to refute the recommendation European Tour chief George O'Grady offered in half-jest last year about only testing Woods.
 
'If he's clean, what does it matter what the rest of them are on?' O'Grady said.
 
Asked recently about his diet, Woods said he knows exactly what goes into his body. He said 18 months ago that drug testing could start 'tomorrow' and believes golf is 'heading in the right direction of proving that our sport is clean.'
 
What bothered so many players was golf losing its heritage of an honor system that has guided the game for two centuries. This is the only major sport in which players call penalties on themselves.
 
'And now they're treating us like criminals,' Lickliter said.
 
Finchem is more sympathetic than autocratic on this topic. He has resisted drug testing for years, demanding to see evidence of a drug that helps golfers at the highest level. But there was no getting around the question of knowing golf was clean without a test to prove it.
 
Drug testing in golf was simply inevitable.
 
Twilight set on Torrey Pines after the second session, and Finchem walked slowly along the 18th fairway toward the hotel. He thought the meetings went well and that it was a good step toward educating the players. But it was clear he was not thrilled with where golf was headed, offering a quiet comment without prompting to no one in particular.
 
'This is so counterintuitive to everything golf is about,' he said.
 
With apologies to endless PGA TOUR hype, this is the new era of golf.
 
It's just a different cup.
 
Related Links:
  • Tiger Wins Buick Invitational
     
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  • Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

    By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

    Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

    Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

    Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

    Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

    It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

    The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

    Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

    Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

    ''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

    They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

    ''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

    Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

    ''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

    Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

    Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

    Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

    Getty Images

    Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

    Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

    Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

    Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

    Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

    The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

    Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

    JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

    Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

    Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.