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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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1

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Perez (T-3) looks to remedy 'terrible' major record

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 7:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez’s major record is infinitely forgettable. In 24 Grand Slam starts he has exactly one top-10 finish, more than a decade ago at the PGA Championship.

“Terrible,” Perez said when asked to sum up his major career. “I won sixth [place]. Didn't even break top 5.”

It’s strange, however, that his status atop The Open leaderboard through two rounds doesn’t seem out of character. The 42-year-old admits he doesn’t hit it long enough to contend at most major stops and also concedes he doesn’t exactly have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the game’s biggest events, but something about The Open works for him.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I didn't like it the first time I came over. When I went to St. Andrews in '05, I didn't like it because it was cold and terrible and this and that,” he said. “Over the years, I've really learned to like to come over here. Plus the fans are so awesome here. They know a good shot. They don't laugh at you if you hit a bad shot.”

Perez gave the fans plenty to cheer on Friday at Carnoustie, playing 17 flawless holes to move into a share of the lead before a closing bogey dropped him into a tie for third place after a second-round 68.

For Perez, links golf is the great equalizer that mitigates the advantages some of the younger, more powerful players have and it brings out the best in him.

“It's hard enough that I don't feel like I have to hit perfect shots. That's the best,” he said. “Greens, you can kind of miss a shot, and it won't run off and go off the green 40 yards. You're still kind of on the green. You can have a 60-footer and actually think about making it because of the speed.”