Singh broke rules by taking banned substance, deserves punishment

By Jason SobelJanuary 30, 2013, 8:14 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – In golf, as in life, cheating and breaking the rules are two very different actions with very similar consequences. Kick your ball from the rough into the fairway and you’re subject to penalty. Ground your putter only to see your ball oscillate slightly and you’re also subject to penalty, even if the intent wasn’t the same.

In the aftermath of revelations that Vijay Singh has used deer-antler spray that contains IGF-1, a chemical banned under the PGA Tour’s Anti-Doping Policy, observers will be trying to differentiate between whether he cheated or simply broke a rule. It’s a major distinction as far as the Hall of Fame member’s public image, but mere semantics when it comes to the letter of the law.

In a statement released Wednesday, Singh said, “When I first received the product, I reviewed the list of ingredients and did not see any prohibited substances. I am absolutely shocked that deer-antler spray may contain a banned substance and am angry that I have put myself in this position.”

Shock and anger – not to mention a healthy dose of admission – will go a long way toward keeping public perception on his side. In an era when most athletes deny all allegations until finally taking a seat on Oprah’s couch, Singh’s confirmation may be viewed as a breath of fresh of air, his quick compliance proof that he didn’t cheat.

He did, however, unequivocally break a rule.


Hoggard: Golf enters sports' realm of suspicion

Video: Singh releases statement about using deer-antler spray


According to the Anti-Doping Policy, Singh’s conduct is in direct violation of the program, which was implemented in 2008. It states: “Other conduct may lead to the finding of a violation and sanctions under the program, including the possession, use or attempted use of a prohibited substance or method; refusing or failing to be tested; tampering with a sample; trafficking in or administering any prohibited substance; or admitting to any conduct that violates the program.”

The last part of that statement should serve as the tipping point. Singh clearly admitted to conduct that violated the program, even if it was as unknowingly as he claims.

As if that isn’t enough to implicate him in this matter, the policy further states: 'It is each player’s personal duty to ensure that no prohibited substance enters his body. … Accordingly, it is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or knowing use on the player’s part be demonstrated in order to establish an anti-doping violation.”

That’s it. Singh is guilty of breaking that policy. End of story.

Well, sort of.

There are still gray areas here, the grayest of which is the fact that the PGA Tour doesn’t test for IGF-1, because it can only be detected through blood testing, not urine testing, which is the only method currently administered.

Consider it golf’s philosophical conundrum on par with, “If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?”

To wit: If a professional golfer uses a banned substance that isn’t tested for, did he really break a rule?

“That’s like when you cheat off somebody’s test in middle school,” Bill Haas compared. “If the teacher doesn’t see you, did you cheat? Yeah, you cheated.”

“If you’re going over the speed limit but don’t get caught, are you speeding?” asked Stewart Cink. “Yeah, because it’s an ethical thing and an intent thing.”

Of course, admitting to the use of IGF-1 is akin to paying a speeding ticket that was never administered. It shouldn’t, though, serve as an out for Singh in this matter.

Major League Baseball can – and has – suspended players for what it calls “non-analytical evidence,” which is another way of saying that when officials own proof a player broke the substance abuse policy, they can dispense punishment without having a failed test.

Ask any professional golfer and he’ll steadfastly maintain that the game doesn’t have a drug problem because its competitors wouldn’t cheat. Call that a naïve viewpoint or the honest truth, but it doesn’t cover the fact that players can still break the rules - and this latest incident should serve as further evidence.

“Golf is a little bit different,” explained Cink, who has served on the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council in the past. “I just don’t think that deer-antler spray or a lot of the stuff that’s banned by WADA is going to help you play golf better. A lot of that stuff can help you be a better cyclist or a more explosive defensive back, but we’re not out here to be explosive. So I don’t really think that golf needs to test for every single thing on the banned list. We don’t have a rules official with every single golfer. We just play by the rules.”

Whether Singh knowingly used deer-antler spray with the knowledge that it contained a banned substance is something for which he alone may have the answer. The affirmative may be the very definition of cheating, just like kicking a ball from the rough into the fairway.

What we do know is that Singh did use the banned substance, which is at the very least akin to grounding your putter before seeing the ball oscillate on the green.

In other words, he broke a rule. And as much as it may pain the PGA Tour to punish one of its superstars for a violation without any deemed intent, the only acceptable message here is to administer the proper penalty. In golf, as in life, that’s what happens when you break the rules.

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Twitter spat turns into fundraising opportunity

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 6:30 pm

Country music star Jake Owen, along with Brandt Snedeker, has turned a spat on Twitter into a fundraising campaign that will support Snedeker’s foundation.

On Thursday, Owen was criticized during the opening round of the Web.com Tour’s Nashville Golf Open, which benefits the Snedeker Foundation, for his poor play after opening with an 86.

In response, Snedeker and country singer Chris Young pledged $5,000 for every birdie that Owen makes on Friday in a campaign called NGO Birdies for Kids

Although Owen, who is playing the event on a sponsor exemption, doesn’t tee off for Round 2 in Nashville until 2 p.m. (CT), the campaign has already generated interest, with NBC Sports/Golf Channel analyst Peter Jacobsen along with Web.com Tour player Zac Blair both pledging $100 for every birdie Owen makes.

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Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 5:33 pm

Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.

He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.

McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.

"That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."

Check out the full interview below:

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Bubba gets to drive dream car: K.I.T.T. from 'Knight Rider'

By Grill Room TeamMay 25, 2018, 4:42 pm

Bubba Watson is a known car aficionado.

He purchased the original General Lee from the 1980’s TV show “Dukes of Hazzard” – later saying he was going to paint over the Confederate flag on the vehicle’s roof.

He also auctioned off his 1939 Cadillac LaSalle C-Hawk custom roadster and raised $410,000 for Birdies for the Brave.

He showed off images of his off-road Jeep two years ago.

And he even bought a car dealership near his hometown of Milton, Fla.

While recently appearing on the TV show “Jay Leno’s Garage,” the former “Tonight Show” host surprised Watson with another one of his dream cars: K.I.T.T.

The 1982 Pontiac Trans Am was made famous in the ‘80s action show “Knight Rider.”

Though, Bubba didn’t get to keep this one, he did get to drive it.

Bubba Watson gets behind the wheel of his dream car—the KITT from Knight Rider from CNBC.

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Cut Line: USGA readies for Shinnecock 'mulligan'

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 3:26 pm

In this week’s Memorial weekend edition, the European team adheres to the Ryder Cup secret formula, the USGA readies for the ultimate mulligan at next month’s U.S. Open and a bizarre finish at the Florida Mid-Am mystifies the Rules of Golf.

Made Cut

Cart golf. When the U.S. side announced the creation of a Ryder Cup task force following the American loss at Gleneagles in 2014, some Europeans privately – and publicly – snickered.

The idea that the secret sauce could be found in a meeting room did stretch the bounds of reason, yet two years later the U.S. team emerged as winners at Hazeltine National and suddenly the idea of a task force, which is now called a committee, didn’t seem so silly.

To Europe’s credit, they’ve always accomplished this cohesion organically, pulling together their collective knowledge with surprising ease, like this week when European captain Thomas Bjorn rounded out his vice captain crew.

Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald (a group that has a combined 47-40-13 record in the matches) were all given golf cart keys and will join Robert Karlsson as vice captains this year in Paris.

Perhaps it took the Americans a little longer to figure out, but Bjorn knows it’s continuity that wins Ryder Cups.



Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

The USGA’s mulligan. The U.S. Open is less than a month away and with it one of the most anticipated returns in recent major championship history.

The last time the national championship was played at Shinnecock Hills was in 2004 and things didn’t go well, particularly on Sunday when play had to be stopped to water some greens that officials deemed had become unplayable. This week USGA executive director Mike Davis was asked about the association’s last trip to the Hamptons and, to his credit, he didn’t attempt to reinvent history.

“Looking back at 2004, and at parts of that magnificent day with Retief (Goosen) and Phil Mickelson coming down to the end, there are parts that we learned from,” Davis said. “I’m happy we got a mulligan this time. We probably made a bogey last time, maybe a double bogey.”

Put another way, players headed to next month’s championship should look forward to what promises to be a Bounce Back Open.

Tweet of the week:

Homa joined a chorus of comments following Aaron Wise’s victory on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, which included an awkward moment when his girlfriend, Reagan Trussell, backed away as Wise was going in for a kiss.

“No hard feelings at all,” Wise clarified this week. “We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was.”


Missed Cut

Strength of field. The European Tour gathers this week in England for the circuit’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, and like the PGA Tour’s marquee stop, The Players, the event appears headed for a new spot on the calendar next year.

As the PGA Tour inches closer to announcing the 2018-19 schedule, which will feature countless new twists and turns including the PGA Championship’s move to May and The Players shift back to March, it also seems likely the makeover will impact the European Tour schedule.

Although the BMW PGA currently draws a solid field, with this week’s event sporting a higher strength of field than the Fort Worth Invitational on the PGA Tour, it’s likely officials won’t want to play the event a week after the PGA Championship (which is scheduled for May 16-19 next year).

In fact, it’s been rumored that the European Tour could move all eight of its Rolex Series events, which are billed as “unmissable sporting occasions,” out of the FedExCup season window, which will end on Aug. 25 next year.

Although the focus has been on how the new PGA Tour schedule will impact the U.S. sports calendar, the impact of the dramatic makeover stretches will beyond the Lower 48.

Rules of engagement. For a game that at times seems to struggle with too much small print and antiquated rules, it’s hard to understand how things played out earlier this month at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Jeff Golden claimed he was assaulted on May 13 by Brandon Hibbs – the caddie for his opponent, Marc Dull, in the championship’s final match. Golden told police that Hibbs struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

The incident occurred during a weather delay and Golden conceded the match to Dull after the altercation, although he wrote in a post on Twitter this week that he was disappointed with the Florida State Golf Association’s decision to accept his concession.

“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.”

Because of the conflicting statements, it’s still not clear what exactly happened that day at Coral Creek Club, but the No. 1 rule in golf – protecting the competition and the competitors – seems to have fallen well short.