Votaw defends golf as a 'clean sport'

By Will GrayAugust 5, 2015, 5:15 pm

AKRON, Ohio – After recent findings from the World Anti-Doping Agency raised more questions about the possible role of performance-enhancing drugs in golf, International Golf Federation vice president Ty Votaw defended golf as a “clean sport.”

WADA released its 2014 test findings from a number of Olympic sports and found eight “adverse analytical findings” among 507 samples from golfers. While the sample size is a fraction of some other sports like soccer and cycling, golf’s 1.6 percent rate of positive tests trailed only equestrian and weightlifting among the 21 sports tested.

The tests included AAFs for cortico-steroids, for which the PGA Tour does not currently test, and diuretics. Votaw noted that while the Tour does test for diuretics, they are “usually” accompanied by a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) to explain the positive result. The WADA findings, according to Votaw, do not account for that possible explanation.

“I think in a vacuum, these are just lab-level analysis. It doesn’t give you the circumstances,” Votaw told GolfChannel.com. “If most of the drugs are cortico-steroids or diuretics, there is a very real possibility that those have TUEs associated with them. We don’t consider them to be performance-enhancing in the first place. Now diuretics, I suppose, can be used as a masking agent of some sort to someone else, but we aren’t seeing a lot of diuretics in our testing.”

Votaw added that WADA does not have access to the test results or samples from the lab through which the Tour conducts its regular testing, meaning the 507 samples in question came from other corners of the game.

“It’s probably at national federation-level events that the national federations within the IGF conduct, maybe at those events that the national anti-doping organization in that country conducts,” Votaw said. “France is very aggressive in that regard. So we don’t have a sense of that, but they’re not from the PGA Tour level.”

Votaw said that the IGF anti-doping policy is “fully WADA-compliant,” but conceded that there are some differences between WADA's protocols and those currently administered by the Tour. Notably, WADA and IGF both conduct blood testing, which the Tour does not currently conduct, and WADA also requires whereabouts testing, whereby athletes must make their whereabouts known for possible unannounced tests.

On May 6, 2016 – 13 weeks before the start of the Olympics – potential participants will become subjected to WADA’s code, which will include whereabouts and blood testing. Votaw is in the midst of an “education process” with players from the PGA, European and LPGA tours, one that he said began earlier this year and will “ramp up” as the transition to WADA guidelines approaches.

“We think that so long as we do our job relative to educating players as to what goes into their bodies and what their responsibilities are in terms of whereabouts testing, or ultimately blood testing, we’ll be fine,” Votaw said.

While Votaw said it is “hard to come to any definitive conclusions” about the recent WADA findings because of the potential role of TUEs in the positive results, he remains confident that doping won’t be an issue for golf when it returns to the Olympics next year for the first time since 1904.

“We feel that our sport is a clean sport,” he said. “It’s one that, certainly from a performance-enhancing perspective, it’s a clean sport.”

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.