Bivens and Annikas Agent
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.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational
Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.
The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.
Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.
“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”
Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews
Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.
Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.
Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form
Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.
Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.
Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.
Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.
Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA.
New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.
Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.
Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.
Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.
Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.
Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions.
Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might
Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.
“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”
Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”
“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”
Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)
Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”
Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.
“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"
As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.
"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.
Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”