Verdict in Singh doping case just adds to confusion

By Rex HoggardMay 1, 2013, 5:10 pm

Where once there was black and white, gray now resides. In place of analytical fact, we now have ambiguity. With one curious ruling it seems as if science has been Shanghaied by subjective art.

We have studied the PGA Tour’s anti-doping manual and not once in its 38 pages did we find the phrase, “unless a sanction just doesn’t feel right” or “until science catches up with the sampling.”

There is no Rule 33-7, the addendum that kept Tiger Woods from being disqualified following a rules snafu at last month’s Masters, in the doping manual. At least there wasn’t until Tuesday.

Since 2008, when the Tour lurched into the anti-doping era, IGF-1 has been listed as a prohibited substance. That was until last Tuesday when the World Anti-Doping Agency waffled and deemed the growth factor, which is like human growth hormone, clean. Well, sort of.

What WADA said in correspondence with the Tour is that IGF-1, which Vijay Singh admitted to using in a January Sports Illustrated article, is “not considered prohibited.”

The WADA response continued with a crystal clear, “On the other hand it should be known deer-antler spray contains small amounts of IGF-1 that may affect anti-doping tests.

“Players should be warned that in the case of a positive test for IGF-1, or HGH, it would be considered an adverse analytical finding.”

Got that?

IGF-1 is not prohibited, but if you test positive for it, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. may come calling. But then there are no tests for IGF-1, or HGH, on the Tour or any way to quantify what an elevated level of IGF-1 would be for, say, a 6-foot-2, 208-pound surly Fijian.

Tour drops anti-doping case against Singh

PGA Tour's official statement on Singh decision

Q&A: Finchem's news conference

The fear since Day 1 of anti-doping is that players would find the methods and testing madness confusing and Tuesday’s news that Singh would not be sanctioned for his use of the deer-antler spray prompted a collective question mark from the rank and file.

“Well, it sounds like I can use deer-antler spray,” one Tour type joked. “The thing is anybody could be taking HGH. A blood test is the only way to test for HGH.”

Even during Tuesday’s 20-minute Q&A with commissioner Tim Finchem there were far too few answers.

When asked about the possibility that the Tour would begin blood testing, which Greg Norman called for earlier this week, the commish could offer only, “the science isn’t right yet.”

As for WADA’s ruling, Finchem seemed even less certain how players and officials would respond. “A positive reading means that you’re surpassing a certain level. There hasn’t been any level ever set ...,” he said. “Just know that we’re not liable here if for some reason or another you managed to trigger a positive test even though there is no test out there. It is kind of silly, but it is what it is.”

That the collective might of anti-doping was reduced to a sporting cliché is disturbing enough, but that no one with any authority could say with any amount of certainty that IGF-1 is clean as the driven snow is borderline criminal.

If players flocked to the S.W.A.T.S. (Sports with Alternatives to Steroids) website today and began buying the deer-antler spray in cases, it seems like the ultimate Pandora’s Box.

For Mitch Ross, the owner of S.W.A.T.S. who found himself in the middle of a media maelstrom when the Sports Illustrated article implicated Singh and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, Tuesday’s news was the only logical outcome and a measure of vindication.

“What they wanted to do is hang Ray and make me look like an idiot, but the tables have turned,” Ross said. “(IGF-1) is undetectable. What happened is with Ray Lewis and Vijay, WADA has realized they can’t test for it.”

According to Finchem’s prepared statement from WADA, the agency never said that IGF-1 was not performance enhancing, nor did they give Tour players and other athletes carte blanche to spray away.

In short, the Tour, via WADA, only added an unexpected level of uncertainty to testing with Tuesday’s announcement.

Whether Singh should have been issued a sanction will remain a matter of opinion; what is not up for debate is the need for absolute clarity when it comes to testing for performance-enhancing drugs. There can be no ambiguity when an athlete’s livelihood is a stake.

As Finchem explained, the Tour has always deferred to WADA when it comes to testing, which made sense. Players play, WADA wonks test. But that deference has now led to even more uncertainty and the perception, however unfair, that golf is not as clean as advertised and that in this case the circuit is playing favorites.

In a world where perception is reality, that is an unenviable position. The only way testing was ever going to work was through unwavering transparency, on the part of the players and the testers.

That clarity took a body blow on Tuesday.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.