Punch Shot: What we learned from Singh's case

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 1, 2013, 9:00 pm

The PGA Tour announced Tuesday that it would not suspend Vijay Singh, relating to his admission of using deer-antler spray. With the case officially closed, GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with what they learned.


That testing for performance-enhancing drugs is not as forthright as originally thought.

Maybe the World Anti-Doping Agency got it right and Vijay Singh should not have been sanctioned for using a deer-antler spray that contained IGF-1, a growth factor like human growth hormone, which is banned by the WADA, and PGA Tour, anti-doping policies.

But the question remains, if IGF-1 cannot deliver a performance benefit then why was it listed as a prohibited substance since the circuit began testing in 2008?

In August 2011, the Tour issued a “green sheet” warning players to steer clear of deer-antler spray with the unambiguous statement, “it is universally banned in all sports.” In the ensuing months hard science, and maybe even a little hand-wringing, came to the conclusion that IGF-1 isn’t as evil as advertised, at least not when it is sprayed under the tongue in such low quantities.

As a rule, the anti-doping world doesn’t do vague, just ask Doug Barron, still the only player to be suspended under the Tour’s anti-doping laws for testing positive for testosterone and beta blockers.

At the time, Barron’s doctors said his testosterone levels were low and he deserved a Therapeutic Use Exemption to supplement those levels. The Tour’s doctors disagreed and, as a result, the journeyman lost a year of his competitive life.

At the time that ruling seemed so clear cut, so clinical. But as we’ve learned from the Singh saga the world of anti-doping is not the exact science we were led to believe.


Cheating chemically is apparently a lot easier than I imagined.

And if I were of such dark character and inclination, I would feel a lot less fear that I’d be caught trying to chemically enhance my chances of winning a load of cash. I learned a lot more Tuesday about what the PGA Tour can’t do and can’t test and can’t catch.

I also learned that golf is nowhere near ready to defend itself against the greatest potential threat to its most precious asset. Golf is nowhere near ready for the threat performance-enhancing drugs possess to completely wipe out the honorable traditions upon which the game prides itself. Nothing would destroy the notion golf is nobler and different from other sports more quickly than a Lance Armstrong, Marion Jones, Ben Johnson or Barry Bonds controversy. The threat becomes more relevant with golf’s Olympic push into new frontiers, where the pursuit of gold medals can change everything.


I learned a lesson that has been taught many times over the years, not just in golf: Those making the rules will always remain a step behind those looking to gain an edge.

Whether it’s track and field in the 1980s, baseball in the 1990s or golf today, when it comes to cracking down on performance-enhancing drugs, the various governing bodies are perpetually at a disadvantage, with new testing and procedures typically a defensive reaction to the efforts of an offending participant. Players hoping for a step up on their competition will always be equipped with knowledge of the latest tests and policies, a blueprint to finding the most efficient loopholes and most vulnerable areas of enforcement.

As long as there are ways to gain an edge, certain players will continue to seek them out, whether those methods are legal, illegal or somewhere in between. Enforcement can evolve and improve, and it will, even as lines become blurred among products that directly enhance performance and those that simply reduce recovery time. At the end of the day, those administering the tests and enforcing the rules will still be playing catch up, forever trying to chase the offenders who, for the most part, remain ahead of the proverbial game.


When it comes to sanctions against its players, the PGA Tour isn’t afraid of any slow play penalties.

That’s not just a commentary on the final decision to let Vijay Singh slide based on the latest findings from WADA. It’s an overview of how the entire situation played out.

Singh made the admission to using deer antler spray, which apparently contained the banned substance IGF-1, on Jan. 28. He was sanctioned on Feb. 19 and appealed seven days later. The PGA Tour finally announced its final ruling on April 30 – the entire time remaining mum on the issue.

Hey, I’m all for accuracy over expediency. In matters such as this, it’s more important to get it right than make a quick ruling. That said, when I spoke with PGA Tour executives at various times over the past three months, I was told on each occasion that there was no timeline to close this case.

Maybe there should be, though. This left a lingering issue hanging over the PGA Tour for three months, leaving its members – not to mention the rest of us – wondering when a decision would finally be reached. Here’s hoping that if those execs learned anything, it’s that speeding up isn’t just a concept for inside the ropes.

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith shot a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron won the Senior Players Championship last year for his first senior major.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.