Stallings' case further highlights Tour's anti-doping inadequacy

By Rex HoggardJuly 8, 2015, 5:30 pm

On the same day the World Anti-Doping Agency announced it would begin to use “nighttime raids” to catch doping violators at the Tour de France, the Tour de PGA announced Scott Stallings was the third player suspended under the circuit’s anti-doping program.

That’s raids of racers’ compounds – at night – and Stallings, a 30-year-old father and husband who is guilty of nothing more than a simple lack of due diligence.

But the real guilt here rests with the Tour and an anti-doping policy that even seven years down the line seems to be a round peg in the square hole of professional golf.

The new face of performance-enhancing drug use for the Tour is a three-time winner who, at the urging of his doctor, walked out of a health food store with an $11 bottle of DHEA in an attempt to overcome the fatigue that had made life so difficult.

Stallings took DHEA, a precursor to testosterone production and a substance that is banned by the Tour’s anti-doping program, for about two months. He even took a Tour-administered drug test at the Humana Challenge in January while using the supplement, a test which came back negative to any violations.

And then Stallings, after realizing he may have taken a banned substance, took his story to the Tour, turning himself in on Feb. 10 to a stunned official.

“I think they’ve all waited for that moment, but it was a shock that it actually happened. It caught everyone by surprise. Especially when it came from me,” he told on Wednesday.

One of the more popular players on Tour, Stallings was arguably the last guy one would have expected to run afoul of the anti-doping program and earn himself a 90-day suspension.

“Anybody that knows Scott knows he’s not doing it to get an advantage,” Scott Brown, the 2013 Puerto Rico Open winner, said.

To many the punishment didn’t fit the crime.

"He was, in my opinion, trying to help his overall health, doing something that every other citizen in the country has the right to do, and it was taken away from him because he plays golf for a living and I don’t necessarily agree with that," Phil Mickelson said Wednesday at the Scottish Open.

“I think a month would have been totally fine,” Brown added. “If you’re doing it to gain an advantage three months is fine, but he was just trying to be healthy.”

But then the benchmark of fairness has never been a part of the Tour’s anti-doping program, which is modeled after the one used by WADA and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

In 2009, Doug Barron was suspended for one year after testing positive for supplemental testosterone and a beta-blocker, both of which were prescribed by a doctor and he was later granted therapeutic-use exemptions to use.

Stallings’ case, however, more closely resembles that of Vijay Singh’s dustup with anti-doping in 2013. Both players admitted to using a banned substance (the Fijian told Sports Illustrated); both took substances that many argue have no performance benefit if taken orally; and neither failed a drug test.

While Singh was absolved of any sanctions when WADA refined its ruling on the use of IGF-1, the banned substance he admitted to taking, Stallings will miss the rest of the season and was forced to address an extremely personal issue in a very public way.

The Tour had a chance to deviate from the anti-doping world dogma with a player who was clearly not trying to gain a competitive advantage, but instead clung to a notion that drives PED use in other sports – if you’re not cheating you’re not trying.

It’s not as though the circuit hasn’t colored outside the lines when it comes to parts of the anti-doping policy. When the Tour introduced testing in 2008 it didn’t fully follow the WADA list of banned substances or the hallmark transparency that defines the global effort to end doping.

Instead, the Tour announces violations involving performance-enhancing drugs, however innocent they may be, yet remains mum when it comes to failed tests involving recreational drug use.

“What I don’t understand is if you are going to announce names for PED violations why not for recreational offenses?” asked Zach Johnson, a member of the Tour’s policy board when the circuit enacted its anti-doping program. “I’ve never asked.”

Now seems like an opportune time to ask. Now also seems like an opportune time to address the key differences between golf and other Olympic sports.

Stallings said his decision to turn himself in was no different than if his golf ball moved in the rough. While there was no competitive gain and no one around to witness the infraction, that’s not the way golf works.

Referees don’t carry flags in golf, players do.

“There is a character and honesty element in golf that is different from other sports,” Johnson said. “It’s not better or worse, just different.”

A day removed from the announcement Stallings maintained his path on the high road, taking responsibility for his actions and looking ahead to next season and the health challenges that lay ahead.

He paused for a moment when asked if there was a lesson to be learned from his predicament.

“Do your due diligence,” said Stallings, who plans to have surgery on Friday that he hopes will help him sleep better and alleviate his fatigue. “Don’t take anything for granted. Whether we agree with it or not – it’s not our job to justify it – it’s our job to follow those rules. At the end of the day we’re responsible for our actions.”

Never before has the distinction between golf and other Olympics sports been so profound. Lance Armstrong would never “self-report” a doping violation, which at least partially explains the night raids in France. It’s a dramatically different reality that may require a dramatically different approach to anti-doping.

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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.”

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010.