Singh's legal battle just getting started as Players goes on without him

By Rex HoggardMay 7, 2014, 7:00 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Missing from this year’s Players Championship proceedings is as iconic a figure as anything at TPC Sawgrass.

As ubiquitous as photos of the island-green 17th hole, the palatial clubhouse and even Pete Dye, whose twisted mind gave creation to the Stadium Course, this year’s Players seems strangely incomplete without the stoic figure of Vijay Singh pounding range balls into the bright, blue sky.

When he isn’t out making millions of dollars at far-flung Tour events, Singh is a fixture at TPC Sawgrass, almost always digging holes on the far side of the practice tee, the players' side, in search of answers.

But for the first time in more than two decades the Fijian, who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., is conspicuously absent from the venue he is most associated with.

Instead, Singh will spend this week awaiting answers that don’t seem to be forthcoming.

It was a year ago Wednesday that Singh stunned the golf world when he announced on the eve of the 2013 Players that he had sued the Tour for, among other things, the “reckless implementation of its anti-doping program.”

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Singh, you may recall, ran afoul of the circuit’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs when he told a Sports Illustrated reporter that he’d used the Ultimate Spray, which contained IGF-1, a growth hormone like HGH that is on the Tour’s prohibited list.

Singh was suspended and during the appeals process the World Anti-Doping Agency, which is what the circuit’s PED policy is modeled after, pulled a U-turn, claiming that the use of the spray was not a violation, and the Tour dropped the case against Singh.

But Singh wasn’t interested in absolution.

He wanted more. He wanted a full accounting for being “labeled by the PGA Tour, media, some fellow golfers and fans as someone who intentionally took a banned substance in an effort to gain a competitive advantage.”

At the time, many of Singh’s Tour frat brothers considered the suit, and particularly the timing, bad form. Many believed Singh had been given the ultimate mulligan via WADA’s adjusted stance on deer-antler spray and should be content with the outcome.

Twelve months, 75 motions and countless hearings later, we now know why Singh wanted his day in court.

Last Friday, for example, we learned via a discovery filing that in a letter dated April 28, 2013, the Tour was trying to interpret WADA’s change of heart in a letter sent to Dr. Olivier Rabin, WADA’s director of science.

“Am I correct (that) WADA’s position today is that the ‘use’ of deer-antler spray is not a doping violation?” wrote Andy Levinson, the Tour’s executive director of policy administration.

Two days later the Tour announced that Singh had been absolved of any wrongdoing.

A year removed from that hectic day, Singh likely isn’t sitting around awaiting his legal resolution or his Players fortunes.

He’s currently the third alternate into the field this week and hasn’t missed a Players since 1992, but with each passing day his chances of landing a coveted tee time are dwindling.

Similarly, an order filed by New York Supreme Court judge Eileen Bransten in March made it clear his case is on the slow track.

According to an adjusted conference order, all of the depositions will be completed by Dec. 19 and the deadline for the discovery phase of the lawsuit is June 30, 2015.

The “note of issue,” which is used to have the court’s clerk enter a case into the calendar for trial, is due by Aug. 31, 2015. Which means the lawsuit will not likely go to trial until the end of next year or the beginning of 2016.

It is a long, drawn-out process that at least partially explains Singh’s pedestrian play.

Since last year’s Players, Singh has just a single top-10 finish on the PGA Tour (he was runner-up at the Open) and the episode has clearly taken a toll on the multiple major winner.

“It has been going on for a whole year and it kind of messed up my whole season,” Singh said in December at the Australian Masters. “The best thing I told myself to do is just focus on what I know best which is playing golf and let the legal side take care of its own.”

The “legal side” will be sorted out eventually, languidly. As for the competitive component, there was a glaring answer in the spot on TPC Sawgrass’ practice range where Singh normally resides.

At 51, it seems Singh’s pursuit of legal answers is just beginning, while his dogged quest for competitive clarity may be coming to an end.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.