Disclosing doping violations step toward transparency

By Rex HoggardJune 20, 2017, 11:25 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – When newly-minted PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan sat down with a group of golf writers earlier this year in Hawaii, one of the first things he was asked about was the circuit’s policy regarding the publication of fines or suspensions.

“I think the system works,” he reasoned. “I know there is a desire to know everything that happens, but we’re a family. If there is an issue in your family you deal with it with your family. That has worked really well for us.”

The family became a little more transparent on Tuesday when the Tour announced it would begin announcing violations of the circuit’s anti-doping program that include “drugs of abuse,” like marijuana and cocaine.

Since the circuit’s anti-doping program began in 2008, the policy has been to announce violations that lead to suspensions for drugs that were deemed performance enhancing, like steroids and testosterone, but not recreational or drugs of abuse. If the new policy is a dramatic and somewhat surprising change of course, the motivation behind the shift is still somewhat unclear.

“The more transparent you are the better,” said Jason Bohn, one of four player directors on the policy board. “The more honest you are it leads to no speculation. It’s straight out in front of you. Other sports do it, this is what happened.”

While the Tour’s new policy may be a step in the right direction, it’s only a step. Unlike violations that involve performance-enhancing drugs, the commissioner still has leeway in cases involving drugs of abuse. Monahan can decide to fine or require counseling and not suspend a player who tested positive for recreational drugs, and therefore the violation would never be made public.

But even with that proviso, the new rule is a vast improvement over the old line, which held that if a tree fell in the woods, the public and press would never hear it.

Over the years, that kind of obfuscation only led to wild speculation, both among traditional media and now on social platforms, if a player took an extended leave from the Tour. The hope is the new policy will end that kind of rumor-mongering.

“We didn’t want the possibility with social media and things to create a story that wasn’t even there,” Bohn said. “By being transparent it’s right there in front of everybody.”

Internally, this seems to have been a compromise between those in the old guard who held that the Tour must protect the brand at all costs and a growing sentiment among players for clarity.

To be clear, this was not a bold move by the new commissioner to make his mark on the Tour.

“This has been talked about way before Jay,” said Bohn, of the new commissioner who took office in January. “We’ve talked about this for many years.”

The policy changes seemed to gain momentum earlier this year when Tour officials presented the plan to the policy board and 16-member player advisory council at the Farmers Insurance Open.

What exactly prompted the change depends on who you ask. According to Bohn, the Tour came to the players and asked their opinion and the vast majority were in favor of a little more transparency.

“The thinking changed because it was approached way more by the players. They put it in front of the players and the PAC, they talked about it and we had multiple meetings and discussed it and they were asked how they feel about it?” Bohn said. “Management saw that guys think this is a good idea. They felt like they were trying to protect us, which is nice from a management point of view, but once the players kind of spoke and said this is a better way to protect us they opened their ears.”

An informal and unscientific poll of players on Tuesday at the Travelers Championship, however, provided a slightly different snapshot. There were certainly plenty of players who applauded the move as long overdue.

“You break the rules, we’re going to enforce them and if you break them you should be held accountable,” Lucas Glover said. “If there is a penalty or a fine it all should be announced. If I snap my 3-wood on 15 because I hit a bad tee shot and I get fined for it, I would hope they would announce it because they probably showed it on TV.”

And there were those who seemed to have come around on the new policy somewhat begrudgingly.

“I’m not big on that completely, I’m 50/50,” said Geoff Ogilvy, a member of the player advisory council. “Transparency when it comes to drugs of dependence [abuse], in some ways I don’t think it’s anyone’s business, at least outside of the Tour, and on the other hand, it might just put the nail in the coffin and convince players not to do it.”

Ogilvy also had a different take on why the Tour came to such a surprising crossroads.

“You guys [the media],” Ogilvy said when asked what prompted the Tour’s change of course. “You guys win when it gets announced because more people read your stories. If a conduct issue happens that no one knows about, as long as it is dealt with I’m not 100 percent sure everyone needs to know that.”

The idea that improved transparency, however qualified, could serve as a more powerful deterrent than fines or Tour-imposed treatment programs could, in theory, be applied to all of the circuit’s disciplinary policies.

Would it not help speed up the play of some of the Tour’s more sluggish members if the circuit started publishing a weekly list of players who had been fined for slow play?

“That would be awesome,” Billy Hurley III said. “It’s an added deterrent for things, but I’m in the top of the Tour in pace of play. You’re seeing our sport evolve and governance evolve, but I don’t know.”

While there are probably plenty of players who agree with Hurley, it doesn’t appear as if the Tour’s new spirit of transparency transcends the rulebook. Asked if Tuesday’s announcement could open the door for more changes to the Tour’s don’t-ask-because-we’re-not-telling protocol, Bohn smiled.

“Business wise, I don’t think so,” Bohn said. “I don’t think it should, to be honest.”

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.