Finchem PGA Tour clean on 1-year anniversary

By Doug FergusonJuly 1, 2009, 4:00 pm
AT&T NationalBETHESDA, Md. ' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was the first to be tested for drugs under its anti-doping policy that began last year at the AT&T National. Tim Clark was the first player to be tested.
One year and more than a thousand random samples later, Finchem says the tour remains clean.
There have been no suspensions because of doping, Finchem said Wednesday. Its not going to surprise me if we have some issue, but I think whats clear is we do not have a doping problem. Having an issue or two as we go forward does not mean were having a problem. It could mean a lot of things. But ' knock on wood ' were very pleased at this point in time.
Under the anti-doping policy, the tour is required to notify the media if a player tests positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
Finchem declined to say, however, if anyone has tested positive for a recreational drug, such as marijuana.
While such drugs are covered under the policy, the tour treats that as conduct unbecoming a professional and would not make any positive tests public.
I said we have had not positive tests with respect to performance enhancing, he said. We may have had some test results that trouble us in other areas that we treat in a different bucket. But we dont publicize those.
We may in those instances ' Im not saying this has happened or not, Im just saying what the process is ' consider it conduct unbecoming, and what are our choices? We can suspend a player, we can fine a player, we can do both of those and put a player into treatment. We could also add to that regular treatment.
He asked to confirm if anyone has tested positive for recreational drugs.
I wouldnt say yes or no to that, he said. Ill say this ' we dont have a problem in that area.
Finchem said the International Olympic Committee observed the tours drug-testing procedures earlier this year and was impressed. And while he says golf remains clean on the one-year anniversary of testing, he would not be surprised if that changed.
I think when youre dealing with hundreds of athletes, and things can get into your body, we may very well have problems, Finchem said. But at this point, not only do the players accept the rule, they put it on the same level as any other rule of golf. They work hard to understand what they need to be doing. They stay updated, and weve avoided problems.

CONGRESSIONAL HIATUS: Most players have found Congressional to be in the best shape in the three years of the AT&T National, especially the greens. Just in time for the greens to be rebuilt for the U.S. Open in 2011.
Tournament host Tiger Woods will take the tournament to Aronomink outside Philadelphia for the next two years, as new greens are being installed and the U.S. Open is held. It will return through 2014, with an option for three more years.
Its unfortunate, with the U.S. Open coming here. We have no choice, Woods said. We have to go, and its part of what the USGA makes you do. I think the golf course can be in even better shape with the new greens.
Jim Furyk tied for fifth at Congressional in the 1997 U.S. Open, six shots behind Ernie Els. The course has been renovated since then and no longer closes with a par 3 over the water on the 18th.
Furyk already has noticed more changes, such as extended tee boxes. Hes mostly concerned about the greens, however.
The one thing you have here from a U.S. Open standpoint is that its very difficult to make the greens here too quick, he said. If you get them up there at 12, 13 (on the Stimpmeter), you really lose a lot of your pin placements, and you lose your ability to make the golf course playable.

GROOVES AND ROUGH: The PGA Tour is moving ahead with a USGA rule on smaller grooves next year, and commissioner Tim Finchem says there might be changes to how a golf course is set up ' but not right away.
Finchem says the rough has not been as high this year at several golf courses, main to compare the effect with previous years.
The reason we did that was to set the stage for now measuring what happens on those same golf courses when we shift grooves, he said. Youre not going to see us revolutionize our setup the first month of next year, but over time were going to be experiments with a lot of different ways to set things up.
Our hope is that this change is going to make the game more interesting to watch from a variety of perspectives.
He also said the tour is leaning toward applying the new grooves to Monday qualifying at PGA Tour events, but not the pre-qualifiers that are typically held five days earlier. Those pre-qualifiers rarely have PGA Tour members, while Monday qualifying that offers four spots in the tournament have more PGA Tour players.

GLOVER THE GOLFER: U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover played just about every sport until sticking with golf in the eighth grade.
It was an easy decision.
I was a short, dumpy kid, so I played line in football and I didnt like to be on the bottom of the pile, he said.
It ultimately came down between golf and baseball.
I was a catcher, and I got hit a few times where it didnt feel great, Glover said. So I pulled the plug on that pretty quick.
Someone found it hard to believe that Glover was short and dumpy. When did that change?
About the time I quit all those other sports, he said. My shoe size and my age were the same from when I was 7 to 14, if that tells you anything about how much I was growing.
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    New dad Garcia removes shoes, wins match

    By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 12:48 am

    AUSTIN, Texas – In one of the day’s most explosive matches, Sergio Garcia rolled in an 8-footer for birdie at the 18th hole to defeat Shubhankar Sharma, 1 up, at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

    The duo halved just nine holes on Day 1 at Austin Country Club, with Garcia going from 2 up through four holes to 1 down with five holes to play.

    But the Spaniard rallied with five birdies over his final eight holes and pushed his record to 20-17-1 in the Match Play. He also gave himself his best chance to advance out of pool play since the format began in 2015.

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    The victory continued what has already been a memorable week for Garcia, whose wife, Angela, gave birth to the couple’s first child last Wednesday.

    “I already feel like I’m a winner after what happened on Wednesday,” Garcia said. “Obviously, it's something that we're so, so happy and proud of and enjoying it as much as possible.”

    The highlight of Garcia’s round on Wednesday came at the 12th hole when he took a drop on a cart path. After considering his options, he removed his shoes and hit his approach from 212 yards to 29 feet for a two-putt birdie to halve the hole.

    “I have spikes. So if I don't take my shoes off, I'm going to slip. It's not the kind of shot that you want to slip,” Garcia said. “I had tried it a couple of times on practice swings and I was already slipping a little bit. So I thought I would just take my shoes off, try to get a little bit in front of the hole and it came out great.”

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    On a wild Wednesday, DJ, Rory, Phil saved by the pool

    By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 12:39 am

    AUSTIN, Texas – Call it black Wednesday, but then the one-and-done aspect of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was dulled three years ago with the introduction of round-robin play that assures every player at least three matches in pool play.

    Otherwise Wednesday at Austin Country Club would go down as one of the championship’s darkest hours for the top of the dance card. In order, world No. 1 and defending champion Dustin Johnson dropped his Day 1 match, 3 and 1, to world No. 56 Bernd Wiesberger; last week’s winner Rory McIlroy lost to PGA Tour rookie Peter Uihlein, 2 and 1, and Phil Mickelson, the winner of the last WGC in Mexico, dropped a 3-and-2 decision to Charles Howell III.

    All told, 11 lower-seeded players pulled off “upsets” on Wednesday, although it’s widely held that the Match Play is more prone to these types of underdog performances than the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

    But if it wasn’t March Madness, it was at the least March Mayhem, particularly for those who shuffled around Austin Country Club in a state of mild confusion.

    Although there were plenty of matches that went according to plan – with top-seeded players Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama and Sergio Garcia all winning – it was still a tough day for chalk with three of the top 10 players in the world ranking either losing or halving (world No. 3 Jon Rahm halved his duel with Keegan Bradley) their matches.

    At least McIlroy made things interesting after finding himself 5 down through 13 holes. The Northern Irishman played his last six holes in 5 under par to push the match to the 17th hole, but Uihlein closed out the bout with a par.

    “If he birdies seven straight on you, hats off to him. It is what it is,” Uihlein said of McIlroy’s late surge. “I felt like if I just kind of kept giving myself a chance, I didn't want to give him any holes. He made me earn it, so hats off to it.”

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    Johnson couldn’t say the same thing.

    After not trailing in any match on his way to victory at last year’s Match Play, Johnson hit a ball in the water, two out of bounds (on the same hole, no less) and began to fade when he made a double bogey-5 at the 11th hole. Although scoring is always skewed at the Match Play because of conceded putts, Johnson was listed at 9 over through 17 holes before his day came to a merciful end.

    “We both didn't have a great day. I think we only made three birdies between us, which is not a lot out here,” Wiesberger said. “Obviously it wasn't his best day. It wasn't the best of my days. I think we both have to do a little bit of work this afternoon.”

    Although not as scrappy as Johnson’s round, Mickelson has also seen better days. Lefty made just a single birdie and played 17 holes in even par to lose just his second match in pool play.

    But then this event hasn’t exactly been kind to Lefty, who has advanced to the weekend just twice in 13 starts.

    “I was fortunate today, obviously, to get past him,” said Howell, who is the second-lowest seeded player to advance out of pool play when he did it in 2017 as the 61st player in the field. “But with this pod play the way it goes now, you never know. You've got to keep playing good. Last WGC we had, he won. So he's never out of it.”

    That will be the solace those high-profile players who find themselves on the wrong side of the round-robin ledger now cling to. There is a path back.

    Since pool play began, just four players have lost their Day 1 matches and went on to win their group. One of those players is Johnson, who lost to Robert Streb on Wednesday in 2016 but still advanced to the quarterfinals.

    But if that helps ease the sting for those who now embrace the Match Play mulligan, it did little to quiet the crowds on what turned out to be a wild Wednesday.

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    Match-by-match: 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 1

    By Will GrayMarch 22, 2018, 12:22 am

    Here is how things played out on Day 1 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as 64 players take on Austin Country Club with hopes of advancing out of pool play:

    Group 1: (52) Bernd Wiesberger def. (1) Dustin Johnson, 3 and 1: Down goes the defending champ. Johnson never trailed in any match en route to victory last year, and he won five holes against Wiesberger. But that wasn't enough as the Austrian turned an all-square affair into an upset victory by winning three straight from Nos. 15-17.

    Group 1: (32) Kevin Kisner vs. (38) Adam Hadwin, halved: This was a tight one throughout, as neither player held more than a 1-up lead. Kisner held a lead for much of the back nine, but Hadwin birdied the 17th to draw even and the match was halved when they both made par on the final hole.

    Group 2: (2) Justin Thomas def. (60) Luke List, 2 up: In perhaps the most entertaining match of the morning, Thomas edged List in a rematch of last month's Honda Classic playoff despite List spending much of the round putting with a wedge after bending his putter. Thomas was 3 up with four to play before List pushed the match the distance.

    Group 2: (21) Francesco Molinari def. (48) Patton Kizzire, 3 and 1: Molinari turned a tight match into a victory thanks to a few timely errors from Kizzire. Pars on Nos. 14 and 17 were good enough to win the hole for Molinari, with the latter sealing his victory and moving him a step closer to a potential winner-take-all battle with Thomas on Friday.

    Group 3: (3) Jon Rahm vs. (63) Keegan Bradley, halved: Rahm was a runner-up at this event last year, but he got all he could handle from one of the last men in the field. Bradley was 2 up with three holes to play, but bogeys on two of the final three holes opened the door for the Spaniard to escape with a draw.

    Group 3: (28) Kiradech Aphibarnrat def. (43) Chez Reavie, 3 and 2: Aphibarnrat took the lead in his group with a victory over Reavie during which he never trailed. The globetrotting Thai held a 2-up lead at the turn and closed things out with a birdie on No. 16. Reavie won only two holes all day.

    Group 4: (4) Jordan Spieth def. (49) Charl Schwartzel, 2 and 1: The top seed in the group scored an early point in a battle between former Masters champs. Spieth never trailed and took control of the match with three straight wins on Nos. 12-14.

    Group 4: (19) Patrick Reed def. (34) Haotong Li, 3 and 2: Reed's much-anticipated match with Spieth is still two days away, but he dispatched of Li in his opener by winning the opening hole and never trailing the rest of the way. Li got to within one of Reed after 10 holes but the American won three of the next five to separate.

    Group 5: (5) Hideki Matsuyama def. (53) Yusaku Miyazato, 2 and 1: This all-Japanese battle went to the group's top seed, as Matsuyama poured in a birdie on the par-3 17th to close out the match. Miyazato got off to a strong start, holding a 2-up lead through six holes, before Matsuyama turned the tables with two birdies over the next three holes.

    Group 5: (46) Cameron Smith def. (30) Patrick Cantlay, 2 up: Smith never trailed in the match, but it turned into a closer contest than it appeared when the Aussie held a 3-up lead with four holes to play. Uihlein won the next two holes, but he couldn't get any closer as Smith earned a critical victory as he looks to earn a Masters spot by staying in the top 50 in the world rankings after this week.

    Group 6: (57) Peter Uihlein def. (6) Rory McIlroy, 2 and 1: McIlroy won last week at Bay Hill, but he's now playing catch up after a decisive loss to Uihlein. The American held a 5-up lead before McIlroy reeled off five straight birdies to cut the lead to 2-up, but a par from Uihlein on the 17th hole sealed the upset.

    Group 6: (18) Brian Harman vs. (44) Jhonattan Vegas, halved: This was a tight match throughout, with Harman clinging to a 1-up lead for most of the back nine. But Vegas rolled in a birdie putt on the final green to salvage half a point, much to the delight of the Austin galleries who were out supporting the former Longhorn.

    Group 7: (7) Sergio Garcia def. (62) Shubankhar Sharma, 1 up: Garcia and Sharma took turns leading this match throughout the day, with the Indian holding a 1-up advantage through 13 holes. But Garcia won the next hole to square the match, then earned a full point with a birdie on the 18th hole in his first competitive start since becoming a father last week.

    Group 7: (20) Xander Schauffele def. (41) Dylan Frittelli, 1 up: The reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year got the best of the former Longhorn in a tight match that went the distance. Schauffele led for much of the afternoon before Frittelli drew level with wins on Nos. 14 and 15. But Schauffele won the next hole and held on from there.

    Group 8: (8) Jason Day def. (56) James Hahn, 4 and 2: Day is a former winner of this event, and he separated from Hahn on the back nine to score an early point. Hahn offered a concession on No. 13 to fall 3 down, then conceded again on No. 16 to close the match.

    Group 8: (25) Louis Oosthuizen def. (42) Jason Dufner, 1 up: Oosthuizen appeared poised for an easy point before Dufner rallied with three straight wins on Nos. 14-16 to square the match. But Oosthuizen regained a lead with a par on No. 17 and held on for a hard-fought victory.

    Group 9: (58) Ian Poulter def. (9) Tommy Fleetwood, 3 and 2: The match between Englishman went to the veteran, as Poulter took his putter from the 2012 Ryder Cup out of the closet and put it to quick use. Fleetwood won only two holes during the match, none after the eighth hole, and he now faces the prospect of early elimination as the group's top seed.

    Group 9: (33) Kevin Chappell def. (26) Daniel Berger, 3 and 2: Chappell and Berger were Presidents Cup teammates in the fall, but the opener went to Chappell. Berger won the 13th hole to draw all square, but Chappell reeled off three straight birdies on Nos. 14-16 in response to close out the match.

    Group 10: (10) Paul Casey def. (51) Russell Henley, 1 up: Casey is making his first start since winning at Innisbrook, and he scored an early point after rallying back against Henley. The Englishman didn't lead in the match until the final hole, when Henley's tee shot found the hazard leading to an ill-timed concession.

    Group 10: (45) Kyle Stanley def. (31) Matthew Fitzpatrick, 1 up: Stanley is making his first match play appearance since 2012, and he got off to a promising start by edging the Englishman. Fitzpatrick was 2 up with five holes to go, but Stanley won three holes the rest of the way including a birdie on the 18th hole to secure a full point.

    Group 11: (64) Julian Suri def. (11) Marc Leishman, 3 and 2: Suri was the last man to get into the field following the withdrawal of Joost Luiten, but he's already on the board with an early point. Suri won each of the first two holes and never trailed in the match, closing out Leishman with a birdie on the par-5 16th.

    Group 11: (35) Bubba Watson def. (23) Branden Grace, 5 and 3: Watson was absolutely unstoppable in the biggest rout of the day. The two-time Masters champ made seven birdies over his first nine holes, making the turn with a 6-up advantage. Grace never stood a chance.

    Group 12: (12) Tyrrell Hatton def. (55) Alexander Levy, 3 and 2: Hatton won the opening hole with a par and never trailed the rest of the way. Levy's win on the eighth hole proved to be his only victory of the day, as Hatton barely had to break a sweat after building a 3-up lead through five holes.

    Group 12: (36) Brendan Steele def. (22) Charley Hoffman, 1 up: Steele never trailed in the match and at one point held a 4-up lead, but coming down the stretch it took everything he had to keep Hoffman at bay. Hoffman won four in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 13-17, but a par on the final hole was enough to give Steele the full point.

    Group 13: (13) Alex Noren def. (61) Kevin Na, 4 and 2: Noren has come close to winning a few times already this year in the U.S., and he improved his career record in Austin to 5-1 thanks to a steady back nine. The match was all square through 11 holes before Noren took three of the next four, closing things out when Na conceded on No. 16.

    Group 13: (29) Tony Finau def. (39) Thomas Pieters, 2 and 1: Two of the longest hitters in the field squared off in this tilt, with Finau notching a full point despite losing two of the first three holes. The American birdied the 15th to take a 2-up lead, then closed out Pieters with a par on the 17th hole.

    Group 14: (59) Charles Howell III def. (14) Phil Mickelson, 3 and 2: Mickelson is making his first start since his WGC win in Mexico, but he's now on the ropes after Howell put together a strong back nine that included three birdies in a four-hole stretch from Nos. 10-13 to take control of the match.

    Group 14: (17) Rafael Cabrera-Bello def. (40) Satoshi Kodaira, 2 and 1: Cabrera-Bello made a run to the semifinals at this event two years ago, and he's off to another good start following a match in which he never trailed and lost only three holes. With the match tied through 11 holes, Cabrera-Bello's birdies on Nos. 12 and 13 proved pivotal.

    Group 15: (15) Pat Perez vs. (50) Si Woo Kim, halved: The first match of the day ended up in a draw, as the top seed rallied from a deficit to salvage half a point. Kim won three of the first six holes and held a 3-up lead with seven holes to go, but Perez fought back with four birdies over the next six holes to draw even.

    Group 15: (24) Gary Woodland vs. (37) Webb Simpson, halved: This group remains entirely up for grabs since nothing was decided on the opening day. Woodland took a 3-up lead at the turn, but Simpson rallied by winning four of the next seven holes, including a birdie on No. 17 that brought him back to all square for the first time since the third hole.

    Group 16: (16) Matt Kuchar vs. (54) Zach Johnson, halved: This draw likely felt like a victory for Johnson, who was facing a 4-down deficit with four holes to play before closing with four straight birdies to steal half a point.

    Group 16: (47) Yuta Ikeda def. (27) Ross Fisher, 2 and 1: Ikeda now holds the top spot in the group after ousting Fisher, who made the quarterfinals last year. Ikeda squared the match with wins on Nos. 6 and 7 before a pivotal birdie on No. 15 gave him a 2-up lead he would not relinquish.

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    Aggressiveness pays off for Spieth vs. Schwartzel

    By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 9:32 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – On Tuesday, Jordan Spieth said he hoped this week’s format would free him up and allow him to play more aggressively.

    Although that wasn’t the case early in his Day 1 match against Charl Schwartzel, Spieth was able to get his week off to a solid start with a 2-and-1 victory.

    After playing his first nine holes in even par, Spieth moved ahead in the match when Schwartzel made bogey at the par-5 12th hole and the American hit his approach at the par-4 13th hole to 3 feet, a shot he said was “pivotal,” and he added another birdie at the 14th hole to pull away.

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    “I had a couple of iffy numbers and some swirly winds. I did not play aggressively,” Spieth said of his opening nine. “Once I got a couple numbers where I could put really nice, solid swings on, zeroed in at the target with no worry about anything else around, I did just that and it led to three or four birdies from the eighth hole on. You have to go at flagsticks to make birdies here.”

    The early victory puts Spieth on a collision course with Patrick Reed, who also won his first-day match against HaoTong Li, 3 and 2. Spieth and Reed, who are a combined 7-2-2 when teamed together in the Ryder and Presidents Cup, will play each other in the final day of round-robin play on Friday.