Punch Shot: What we learned from Singh's case

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 1, 2013, 9:00 pm

The PGA Tour announced Tuesday that it would not suspend Vijay Singh, relating to his admission of using deer-antler spray. With the case officially closed, GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with what they learned.


That testing for performance-enhancing drugs is not as forthright as originally thought.

Maybe the World Anti-Doping Agency got it right and Vijay Singh should not have been sanctioned for using a deer-antler spray that contained IGF-1, a growth factor like human growth hormone, which is banned by the WADA, and PGA Tour, anti-doping policies.

But the question remains, if IGF-1 cannot deliver a performance benefit then why was it listed as a prohibited substance since the circuit began testing in 2008?

In August 2011, the Tour issued a “green sheet” warning players to steer clear of deer-antler spray with the unambiguous statement, “it is universally banned in all sports.” In the ensuing months hard science, and maybe even a little hand-wringing, came to the conclusion that IGF-1 isn’t as evil as advertised, at least not when it is sprayed under the tongue in such low quantities.

As a rule, the anti-doping world doesn’t do vague, just ask Doug Barron, still the only player to be suspended under the Tour’s anti-doping laws for testing positive for testosterone and beta blockers.

At the time, Barron’s doctors said his testosterone levels were low and he deserved a Therapeutic Use Exemption to supplement those levels. The Tour’s doctors disagreed and, as a result, the journeyman lost a year of his competitive life.

At the time that ruling seemed so clear cut, so clinical. But as we’ve learned from the Singh saga the world of anti-doping is not the exact science we were led to believe.


Cheating chemically is apparently a lot easier than I imagined.

And if I were of such dark character and inclination, I would feel a lot less fear that I’d be caught trying to chemically enhance my chances of winning a load of cash. I learned a lot more Tuesday about what the PGA Tour can’t do and can’t test and can’t catch.

I also learned that golf is nowhere near ready to defend itself against the greatest potential threat to its most precious asset. Golf is nowhere near ready for the threat performance-enhancing drugs possess to completely wipe out the honorable traditions upon which the game prides itself. Nothing would destroy the notion golf is nobler and different from other sports more quickly than a Lance Armstrong, Marion Jones, Ben Johnson or Barry Bonds controversy. The threat becomes more relevant with golf’s Olympic push into new frontiers, where the pursuit of gold medals can change everything.


I learned a lesson that has been taught many times over the years, not just in golf: Those making the rules will always remain a step behind those looking to gain an edge.

Whether it’s track and field in the 1980s, baseball in the 1990s or golf today, when it comes to cracking down on performance-enhancing drugs, the various governing bodies are perpetually at a disadvantage, with new testing and procedures typically a defensive reaction to the efforts of an offending participant. Players hoping for a step up on their competition will always be equipped with knowledge of the latest tests and policies, a blueprint to finding the most efficient loopholes and most vulnerable areas of enforcement.

As long as there are ways to gain an edge, certain players will continue to seek them out, whether those methods are legal, illegal or somewhere in between. Enforcement can evolve and improve, and it will, even as lines become blurred among products that directly enhance performance and those that simply reduce recovery time. At the end of the day, those administering the tests and enforcing the rules will still be playing catch up, forever trying to chase the offenders who, for the most part, remain ahead of the proverbial game.


When it comes to sanctions against its players, the PGA Tour isn’t afraid of any slow play penalties.

That’s not just a commentary on the final decision to let Vijay Singh slide based on the latest findings from WADA. It’s an overview of how the entire situation played out.

Singh made the admission to using deer antler spray, which apparently contained the banned substance IGF-1, on Jan. 28. He was sanctioned on Feb. 19 and appealed seven days later. The PGA Tour finally announced its final ruling on April 30 – the entire time remaining mum on the issue.

Hey, I’m all for accuracy over expediency. In matters such as this, it’s more important to get it right than make a quick ruling. That said, when I spoke with PGA Tour executives at various times over the past three months, I was told on each occasion that there was no timeline to close this case.

Maybe there should be, though. This left a lingering issue hanging over the PGA Tour for three months, leaving its members – not to mention the rest of us – wondering when a decision would finally be reached. Here’s hoping that if those execs learned anything, it’s that speeding up isn’t just a concept for inside the ropes.

Getty Images

Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

Getty Images

Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.