Singh should take leave of absence from PGA Tour

By Doug FergusonFebruary 12, 2013, 11:17 pm

LOS ANGELES – This is one time the PGA Tour needs to avoid the perception of slow play.

It has been two weeks since the Sports Illustrated story that Vijay Singh spent $9,000 on products that included deer-antler spray, telling the magazine he used the spray ''every couple of hours ... every day'' and that he was ''looking forward to some change in my body.'' Singh issued a statement the next day that he used the spray and was shocked to learn it might contain a substance that is banned under the Tour's anti-doping policy.

Singh is still playing.

The Tour is not talking, except to say it is looking into the matter.

In what is shaping up as a bright year in golf, this is becoming a dark cloud. Tiger Woods won at Torrey Pines. Phil Mickelson missed a 59 by a fraction of an inch, when he won the Phoenix Open. The next week, every conversation among players at Pebble Beach seemed to start with the same question.

''What's going to happen with Vijay?''

Singh met with Tour commissioner Tim Finchem at Pebble Beach and then made his 15th consecutive cut.

He is playing again this week at Riviera.

The big Fijian, a week away from turning 50, is one of the more remarkable success stories on Tour. He has three major championships, a record 22 wins in his 40s and a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

But he is looked upon differently now and not just because he is the source of jokes.

One photo circulating last week showed Singh's face photo-shopped on a deer. A magazine reported seeing Singh in the fairway at Spyglass Hill during a practice round with his caddie, trainer, manager – and five deer that had wandered out of the woods.

Also at stake is his integrity.

It doesn't help that Singh had to overcome allegations early in his career that he doctored his scorecard to avoid missing the cut in Indonesia. Singh, who has denied the charges, was banned by the Asian Tour. It dogged him for so much of his career, even as he worked his way out of the jungle in Borneo to become No. 1 in the world.

He hasn't won since 2008, when he was the FedEx Cup champion with back-to-back wins in the playoffs. He has been slowed by injuries the last four years. Clearly, he was trying to gain an edge with the deer-antler spray and other products from Sports with Alternative to Steroids.

Singh either forgot or ignored the Tour's warning a year earlier that deer-antler spray might contain an insulin-like growth hormone known as IGF-1, which has been on the list of banned substances since the program began in 2008.

Every now and then, the Tour will warn the players of a substance that could get them into trouble, which is what it did in the fall of 2011.

Singh said he reviewed the list of ingredients on the antler spray and did not see any banned substances.

That's not being very vigilant. And it's not much of an excuse.

If he's spending $9,000 on products, does he not become suspicious enough to run this by the Tour? Even a change in their nutrient program should be enough for players to ask questions. One player told a story Tuesday of getting a prescription for a new eye medicine. His first call was to the Tour to make sure it was OK. The prescription cost $10.

Just as much is at stake for the integrity of the Tour.

Doug Barron is the only player who has been suspended under the anti-doping policy, which didn't cause too much of a ripple because only the hard-core golf fans had even heard of him. Singh is a Hall of Famer. The longer this drags on, the more speculation that the Tour treats stars differently.

What hurts the Tour in this case is its longtime lack of transparency.

Finchem has decided that no news is the best news when it comes to player discipline. The Tour does not disclose fines or suspensions for conduct. No one can say for certainty that Woods has ever been fined for his course language or if Mickelson was fined last year for using his cellphone in the middle of a round at the Memorial to complain about too many cellphones in the gallery.

We know John Daly was suspended, but only because he called The Associated Press to refute rumors he had been suspended for life (it was only six months).

Players suspect that at least two of their colleagues have been suspended from testing positive for recreational drugs. If true, the Tour won't say.

Golfers are not choir boys.

Finchem wants to protect the image of golf, which is one reason he refuses to publicize their indiscretions, however large or small. That image is not derived exclusively from clean living but from the very nature of the sport. It's a congenial game, and the vast majority of the pros are respectful of the sport and those who play it. That's why golf has such a good image and is so appealing to the corporate world.

Under the anti-doping policy, the Tour is required to disclose the name, confirm the violation and declare the penalty.

So far, there has been silence.

This is not a call for the Tour to rush to judgment. Singh's case is muddled. Yes, a player who admits to using a banned substance is the same as a player testing positive. But is there evidence that IGF-1 was in the spray that Singh was using? More than one doctor has said it's impossible for IGF-1 to enter the blood system through a spray. And the Tour does not have a blood test, anyway.

Plus, players have the right to appeal, and the policy says a hearing must take place within 45 days.

Singh brought this mess on himself, and now is the time for him to give back to the game that has provided him with so much. Singh could eliminate this distraction by taking a leave of absence until the Tour sorts this out. The sooner the better.

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Dunlap, in 'excruciating pain,' shares early Dominion lead

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:29 pm

RICHMOND, Va. – Scott Dunlap and Fran Quinn shot 5-under 67 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Fighting a left wrist injury that will require surgery, Dunlap matched Quinn with a closing birdie on the par-5 18th on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''Maybe excruciating pain is the key to playing good golf because I'm not getting nervous on a shot, you're just trying to get through it,'' Dunlap said. ''The worst parts are gripping it and getting the club started ... that's when that bone hits that bone.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.


Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


The 55-year-old Dunlap entered the week 29th in the standings. Playing through the wrist injury, he's coming off ties for ninth and seventh in his last two starts.

''I think I finally taped it the right way,'' Dunlap said. ''Or maybe it's the pain meds kicking in. I don't know, one of the two.''

Quinn is 64th in the standings.

''I finished up strong last year, too, kind of secured my privileges for the following year making eagle on 18,'' Quinn said. ''I played solid all day. I had a lot of opportunities. A couple hiccups.''

Jay Haas was a stroke back with Kent Jones, Stephen Ames, Woody Austin and Tim Petrovic. The 64-year-old Haas won the last of his 18 senior titles in 2016.

Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, were at 69 with Joey Sindelar, Tom Gillis, Billy MayfairLee Janzen, Glen Day and Gene Sauers.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer opened with a 70. The 61-year-old German star won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the points lead. He has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland had a 71. He's 14th in the standings. No. 3 Jerry Kelly shot 72. No. 4 Scott McCarron, the 2016 tournament winner, had a 74.

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Weather continues to plague Valderrama Masters

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 7:55 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Marc Warren helped his chances of retaining his European Tour card by moving into a tie for second place behind Englishman Ashley Chesters at the rain-hit Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Friday.

Bad weather interrupted play for a second straight day at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain before darkness caused the second round to be suspended until Saturday, with overnight Chesters still ahead at 5-under.

Weather delays on Thursday, including a threat of lightning, had kept 60 golfers from finishing their opening round. They included Scottish player Warren, who went out on Friday and finished his first round with a 2-under 69.

He then made three birdies to go with one bogey on the first nine holes of the second round before play was halted. He joined Frenchman Gregory Bourdy one shot behind Chesters.


Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


''I'm hitting the ball as well as I have in a long time,'' Warren said. ''Hitting fairways and greens is the most important thing around here, so hopefully I wake up tomorrow with the same swing.''

Chesters and Bourdy were among several golfers unable to play a single hole in the second round on Friday.

Warren, a three-time European Tour winner, has struggled this season and needs a strong performance to keep his playing privileges for next year.

Currently ranked 144th, Warren needs to break into the top 116 to keep his card.

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

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Cut Line: Johnny's exit, Tiger's fatigue

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.


Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.