Bivens and Annikas Agent - COPIED
But she was not happy about the test at the time. And the subsequent fall-out from the ensuing controversy raised several issues about the LPGAs testing policy
GolfChannel.com has since learned details of a long and pointed post-round conversation that took place later that same day between LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens and Sorenstams agent, Mark Steinberg.
Steinberg wasnt as upset as Sorenstams fianc, Mike McGee, who called the timing of the test pathetic, adding, I dont know what they (the LPGA) were trying to prove.
But Steinberg had a problem with the fact that Sorenstam was close to making the 36-hole cut at the season-ending ADT. There was an outside chance she could have landed in a playoff that day to determine the 16 players that advanced to the third round. And Steinberg made it clear to Bivens that the LPGA needed to reconsider at least one aspect of its drug policy: Forcing a player to produce a sample when that player might have more golf to play that day.
Drug testing has to have integrity, said Steinberg, who heads up the powerful golf division at IMG and also serves as Tiger Woods agent. But he communicated strongly to Bivens the need to exclude players from the testing area until it is clear their golf is done for the day.
Steinberg labeled his talks with Bivens constructive and said he was confident that the LPGA would at least take a look at this situation.
Any ADT testing the first two days of that event, Steinberg said, should have been done on Thursday (where there was no cut and no playoff) not Friday. Sorenstam wound up missing a playoff by two shots.
Steinberg is primarily a behind-the-scenes guy. He doesnt seek publicity. And he generally doesnt like being quoted. The latter is just one of the reasons why hes a perfect fit to represent Sorenstam and Woods, both of whom demand their private space.
But Steinbergs influence in the power corridors of mens and womens golf is immense. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which the LPGA wouldnt listen to Steinbergs suggestions.
If the LPGA does revise its testing policy in this regard, it could mean an end to random testing on Sundays. There is, after all, always the possibility of a playoff on the final day of any stroke-play event.
Im one who believes that its best to go by the system when it comes to drug testing, said Steinberg, who is on record as supporting random tests. Just dont test players, he said, who may need to play more on the day of a test.
Bivens, chose not to speak with GolfChannel.com for this story, deciding instead to let attorney Jill Pilgrim, who administrates the LPGAs drug-testing, answer questions.
Pilgrim said Wednesday the LPGAs drug-testing protocol already allows for discretion. For example, if a player finishes her round two hours before a playoff might begin, that player must agree, if asked, to be tested if her random number comes up. On the other hand, Pilgrim said, if a player is in the second-to-last group and the start of a playoff is just minutes away, that player would not be asked to be tested until the end of the competition.
We would never make a decision to delay a competition to wait for a drug test, Pilgrim said. We are reasonable people. We will always error on the side of being flexible.
But, she said, any athlete, given enough time, can flush illegal substances out of his or her system within hours. Pilgrims background is in track and field. And, she said, there were instances when sprinters were drug-tested between heats of sprints in order to protect the field and the integrity of the competition.
The 2008 season was the first in which random drug-testing was implemented on the LPGA. Many players were frustrated and/or confused by the policies.
Any feedback we get from players or persons like Mark (Steinberg) we evaluate on a weekly or annual basis, Pilgrim said. We welcome any feedback.
DALY FOLLOW-UP: As reported here earlier this week, John Dalys suspension has left the Transitions Championship (Mar. 19-22 in the Tampa area) without a marquee player who had already accepted a sponsors exemption.
The Bob Hope Chrysler Classic hosted by Arnold Palmer is about to announce its sponsors exemptions. And tournament director Mike Milthorpe told GolfChannel.com he hadnt received a request for an exemption from Daly and he hadnt decided yet whether to extend an exemption to Daly.
Now its a moot point. Dalys suspension isnt expected to be lifted until May at the earliest. Daly played the Hope last year on a sponsors exemption and Milthorpe said tournament officials were disappointed when Daly withdrew Saturday after opening rounds of 71-70-71.
In all, Daly either withdrew or missed the cut in 12 of the 17 events he entered on the PGA Tour last year. The question of whether he will be in demand when the suspension lifts is still unanswered. Transitions tournament director Gerald Goodman said earlier this week that Daly is still very popular and very much a draw at his event.
He may, Milthorpe said of Daly, be the cat with nine lives.
Or he may have worn out too many welcomes.
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Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long
Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.
Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.
"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"
The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.
Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.
"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."
Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.
"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.
"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.
"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."
Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA
Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.
Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.
Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.
With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.
Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.
“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”
Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.
Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday:
"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."
Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return
Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.
Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.
Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.
Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.
“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.
As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar
Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.
With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.
That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.
That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.
And that’s a magic word in golf.
There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.
Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.
The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.
Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.
A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.
The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.
Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.
For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.
The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.
The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.
“It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida. “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’
“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”
And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.
“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”
The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.
Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.
The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.
Parity was the story this year.
Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.
Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.
The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.
The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.
“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”
If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.
Parity was the theme from the year’s start.
There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.
This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.
Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.
Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.
She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.
The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.