Olympic hopefuls begin more stringent drug testing

By Rex HoggardMay 6, 2016, 11:52 am

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – For the 120 men and women who are currently qualified to play in this year’s Olympics the reality of being an athlete begins on Friday.

Players potentially bound for Rio in August will be placed into the Olympic testing pool, which is more stringent than the anti-doping protocols used by the PGA Tour.

On-site testing at tournaments will be similar to what players have seen since the Tour began its anti-doping program in 2008, with the exception of blood testing which is not a part of the circuit’s testing.

But the biggest differences will occur away from tournaments with an intensified focus on out-of-competition testing and the addition of whereabouts requirements.

“It’s something that has been aggressively presented to the athletes in as many formats as possible,” said Andy Levinson, the executive director of policy administration for the Tour. “Everybody has been educated about the process and at this point everybody that has been registered in the testing pool has fully completed the whereabouts requirements or is in the process of completing it.”

Under the whereabouts requirements players will need to inform officials where they will be spending each night as well as where they will be one hour out of each day for possible out-of-competition testing.

Tougher drug testing nothing new for some players

Potential Olympic athletes will use an app on their smart phones to fulfill the whereabouts requirements in a system called “ADAMS,” which tracks a players schedule and informs them when they are not compliant.

During in-competition days, like Friday for those in the field at this week’s Wells Fargo Championship, players don’t have to fulfill the whereabouts requirement, but – as an example of how attentive potential Olympians will need to be – if they miss the cut they will need to update their whereabouts accordingly.

Levinson said the whereabouts requirement has been the most asked about element of the new testing and for good reason. Three whereabouts failures are treated as an anti-doping violation, which are more common and concerning than one might think.

In a recent report from the World Anti-Doping Agency of the 1,693 anti-doping violations worldwide in 2014, 231 were non-analytical violations that did not include a positive test. A whereabouts failure would be considered this type of violation.

“I'll be taking care of all my whereabouts on the app so I'll be going over that and making sure I know how to handle everything,” said Rickie Fowler, one of four players from the United States currently qualified for the Olympics. “I want to make sure that I can change it on the fly and be able to, if there is a last minute change of plans, that way I'm on top of it and there's no question there.”

Only players who are currently qualified will go into the testing pool, but with each week’s new ranking if a player moves onto the list they will be added to the pool. Players who move into the testing pool will remain there, even if they fall off the qualified list, until July 11 when the final Olympic field is set.

Testing for pool players will be conducted either by officials from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency or a certified independent agency like Drug Free Sport, and golfers will now be subject to testing for the entire WADA list of prohibited substances.

The Tour’s anti-doping program varies slightly from the WADA list.

Although blood testing will be added for the first time, Levinson said players didn’t seem to have any problems over the new testing element.

“Aside from us telling them it’s going to happen it doesn’t really seem to be a concern for players,” Levinson said. “These are athletes who are used to going to doctors for annual physicals and having blood drawn.”

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.