Tour makes right call on Singh after long, strange journey

By Rex HoggardApril 30, 2013, 9:53 pm

Call it an interesting execution of the right idea.

In sport, and particularly golf, there are times when reason takes a 6-and-5 whipping at the hands of small print. The Rules of Golf are riddled with violations that assault the senses and result in senseless violations when there was no chance of a competitive gain.

We learned on Tuesday afternoon the anti-doping laws are not as dogmatic.

This was about justice – slow and minutia filled and sometimes, like in the curious case of Vijay Singh, entirely unexpected. A slam dunk in doping parlance, turned into a slippery slope over the last few weeks that luckily, for both golf and Singh, had an emergency exit.

Tour drops anti-doping case against Singh

PGA Tour's official statement on Singh decision

Q&A: Finchem's news conference

In January when Singh admitted in a Sports Illustrated article he’d used deer-antler spray, which reportedly contained a substance (IGF-1) that was banned by the PGA Tour, there were only two options. Either the spray didn’t contain IGF-1, in which case there would be no sanctions, or scientists would find the growth-like factor and deem Singh in violation.

“If it’s (the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency) they will seek a ban. It’s ‘Law & Order’ time; they will try to negotiate a plea bargain,” Matt Lane, a lawyer with extensive experience in the world of anti-doping litigation, told your scribe at the time.

The Tour thought so, too, finding Singh guilty of a violation and issuing a sanction. Over the ensuing weeks of appeals and legal wrangling, however, the World Anti-Doping Agency had a change of heart.

“It is the position of WADA, in applying the prohibited list, that the use of deer-antler spray (which is known to contain small amounts of IGF-1) is not considered prohibited,” the agency told the Tour.

As a result, Singh is in the field this week at the Wells Fargo Championship. And next week at The Players Championship and beyond.

If Singh’s case doesn’t exactly leave the sports world with a warm and fuzzy feeling of accomplishment, consider this process akin to making sausage – you want to know the end result, not how it was made.

Since entering the anti-doping era in 2007 the Tour has followed WADA policy nearly word for small-print word, and on this the world body decided IGF-1 won’t make you run faster, jump higher or putt better.

What is curious is the Tour’s decision to check with WADA after issuing Singh’s sanctions. What would have happened had the Fijian not appealed the ruling and WADA’s 180 wasn’t realized until after the circuit had gone public with whatever penalties they felt the Hall of Famer deserved?

It’s also worth pointing out that IGF-1 was on the banned list when Singh admitted to using it. By comparison, if someone is given a speeding ticket for going 70 mph in a 55 mph zone, but the speed limit is increased on the same stretch of byway the next day to 70 mph, was there a violation?

But that’s a debate for another day.

Tuesday’s news also leaves players to decide if any level of IGF-1 is legal under the current policy. “It should be known that deer-antler spray contains small amounts of IGF-1 that may affect anti-doping tests,” WADA told the Tour.

It was not the kind of ambiguity one has come to expect from the anti-doping hawks at WADA. “Positive analytical” results have become the new norm in anti-doping, violations that come to light through published reports or federal investigations – just like the Singh case – not positive tests.

But with Singh, WADA took common sense over the letter of law, and that’s not a bad thing.

It was a commonly held theme throughout this affair that Singh could have consumed gallons of IGF-1 and enjoyed no performance benefit. In short, the deer-antler spray was described by trainers and scientist as an $8,000 placebo, which made possible sanctions against Singh arbitrary at best.

Back in February, Lane told your scribe that the anti-doping world would be watching the Tour closely. The Singh case would serve as a litmus test as golf prepares for its return to the Olympics in 2016 and whatever the circuit did would be scrutinized.

Turns out Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., with an assist from WADA, got it right. It wasn’t perfect, but it was just.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."