Stallings back from suspension, finds relief and motivation

By Rex HoggardOctober 14, 2015, 3:24 pm

There will be at least one player in this week’s Frys.com Open field who has embraced the PGA Tour’s version of Opening Day on Thursday with profound zeal.

If the Tour’s nearly non-existent off-season – it’s been exactly 17 days since Jordan Spieth wrapped up a historic campaign at the Tour Championship – makes it difficult for some to embrace the wraparound schedule consider Scott Stallings’ last 90 days.

In July, Stallings became the third player suspended under the Tour’s anti-doping policy for taking an over-the-counter supplement, DHEA, for fatigue. The anabolic agent is a precursor to testosterone production and is banned by the Tour.

For three months Stallings has watched and waited. He played with his son, spent time with his wife and friends and discovered, thanks to a litany of tests, that the fatigue that led to the bizarre violation was curable.

“That was the biggest priority – we didn’t know. I didn’t know why I was feeling bad. It almost drives you crazy because you feel good one day and bad one day,” Stallings told GolfChannel.com. “To find out ultimately that I had to have throat surgery was the last thing in my mind I thought I was going to have.”

It was a doctor at UCLA who eventually unraveled Stallings’ medical mystery through multiple tests, from a sleep study and allergy tests to a CT scan of his head.


Frys.com Open: Articles, photos and videos


Doctors discovered that Stallings was suffering from a severe case of sleep apnea that resulted in about 15 minutes of REM sleep a night. On July 28, he underwent throat surgery in Knoxville, Tenn., to repair a deviated septum as well as other “soft palate” repairs.

“They basically cut out an opening in my throat,” said Stallings of the 45-minute procedure. “It felt like you swallowed acid coated nails.”

The improvement for Stallings has been profound.

“It will change your life,” he said.

In many ways the entire surreal episode has changed Stallings’ life.

The 30-year-old never intended to become a talking point for a performance-enhancing drug policy that leaves no room for intent or interpretation, but his brush with the anti-doping world has prompted many to question the status quo.

Stallings was suspended for taking a supplement, DHEA, that many medical experts say has no performance benefit when taken orally, and he never failed a drug test while taking the substance.

“Hopefully it will create some type of transparency between the Tour and the players,” Stallings said. “I hope what happened to me doesn’t happen to anyone else. Understanding the policy and agreeing with it are two different things, but I should have checked. Hopefully it makes guys more aware to what is going on.”

Stallings, who said he took, and passed, two drug tests while taking the supplement, essentially turned himself in for the violation when he realized he may have violated the policy.

He also didn’t care for the way the Tour portrayed the incident. In accordance with the circuit’s policy, neither the drug nor the details of the violation were disclosed to the public, which prompted plenty of speculation.

“The innocence of intent has no bearing on what happens. I didn’t know, and I think if you are intending to break the rule you are aware of the rule,” said Stallings, whose Tour status remained unchanged thanks to his victory at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open. “I think everyone says [the anti-doping policy] has some flaws.”

Stallings said the support this week at Silverado Resort from his fellow players has been overwhelming and getting back to work has rejuvenated him.

His plan is to play in as many of the fall events as possible, including next week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, and although he anticipates that his game will be rusty after three months away from the Tour he is looking forward to getting back to work.

“I just realized that I really missed playing,” he said. “You can take a step back and realize I really love this. I’m thankful for the opportunity the Tour provides.”

He also said he expects to be selected for a “random” drug test this week, “guaranteed,” he laughed.

But most of all he’s looking forward to moving on after a peculiar three months, healthy and happy.

“I would have liked to go out and have surgery on my own terms and not be forced into it,” Stallings said. “But it was just nice to be a dad and a husband.”

It’s also nice to get back to work.

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.'"


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


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."

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.