PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – There are plenty of desirable destinations for a PGA Tour professional to set up home base. The weather is perfect in San Diego; there are terrific facilities in Scottsdale; travel to both coasts is simplified in Dallas; many live in Orlando. With all of these potential choices in play, Vijay Singh long ago decided to make his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, right around the corner from PGA Tour headquarters.
He’s hardly an unseen neighbor. On most days when he isn’t competing in a tournament, Singh can be found methodically beating golf ball after golf ball on the TPC Sawgrass practice range, his hard-earned reputation harvested right here on PGA Tour property, the ostentatious clubhouse framing his background, commissioner Tim Finchem’s office just a few par 5s away. Not far down the road is the World Golf Hall of Fame, into which he was inducted seven years ago.
This is home for the Fiji native.
With his recent actions, Singh set his home ablaze.
It was revealed on Wednesday that Singh is filing suit against the PGA Tour “to reclaim his reputation” after an “unwarranted effort” to sanction him for admitted use of deer-antler spray, charging the organization with “violating its duty of care and good faith.”
This comes even after Singh was the one who first revealed to Sports Illustrated that he had used the substance, which was believed to contain the banned chemical IGF-1. Even after the PGA Tour was mum on the matter for three months while investigating its merit. Even after he was exonerated last week, the sanctions dropped after an apparent loophole was found when the World Anti-Doping Agency altered its stance on the affecting amount of IGF-1 contained in deer-antler spray.
Even after he made this place his home.
“I am proud of my achievements, my work ethic, and the way I live my life,” Singh said via statement. “The PGA Tour not only treated me unfairly, but displayed a lack of professionalism that should concern every professional golfer and fan of the game.”
Singh’s decision to file a lawsuit is the ultimate example of a sore winner. Filing that lawsuit on the eve of the PGA Tour’s flagship tournament, The Players Championship, is a slap in the face to an organization which has not only handed him $67,479,870 in career earnings, but attempted to protect him throughout this process.
It’s akin to a recreational golfer hitting a tee shot out of bounds, being granted a mulligan by a playing partner, hitting another, then contending that the mulligan was disrespectful.
“I’m just not going to comment on this action for a lot of different reasons. It’s a matter in the court right now,” Finchem said. “We go by the WADA list. When WADA changed its list we dropped the charges.”
Some players weren’t so restrained.
'This is bull----,' said one player, speaking on anonymity. 'How many millions of dollars has he made on the PGA Tour? And then they let him off and he sues them? What a joke. I'd say more, but they'd probably suspend me.'
When it's suggested that the Tour can't levy a punishment for freedom of speech, the player explained, 'But I bet they'd try, since I don’t have 30-something wins.'
There is growing sentiment amongst the other 144 players competing this week that neither the PGA Tour nor Singh is completely devoid of guilt. According to its Anti-Doping Policy, admission of guilt – even without a positive test – is grounds for penalty. We learned on Wednesday through the lawsuit that prior to WADA’s new findings regarding deer-antler spray, that penalty was a 90-day suspension. However, since he made the admission while the substance was still banned, Singh should have been punished according to the policy’s language. Many of his fellow Tour members believe he was only exonerated because of his status inside the ropes.
It is a remarkable turn of events that has pinballed fault from Singh for his admission to the PGA Tour for its exoneration and now back to Singh for his lawsuit.
His statement issued with the lawsuit was his first since the deer-antler spray admission came to light on Jan. 29. Even after rounds which have found him on the leaderboard, even when asked to speak only about his golf game, Singh has declined all media requests.
On Wednesday morning, he was playing the 12th hole at TPC Sawgrass, practicing in advance of this week’s tournament, not far from his home here in Ponte Vedra Beach, when a lone camera crew began filming. Singh requested, not gently, that the camera crew cease following him on the course.
For a man who is so obviously shying away from any and all attention, filing a lawsuit to reclaim his reputation on the eve of one of the PGA Tour’s flagship events is a stark contrast from all other actions.
Long ago, Vijay Singh chose to make his home not in San Diego or Scottsdale or Dallas or Orlando, but in the same beach community as PGA Tour headquarters. He’s spent hundreds – no, thousands – of hours on the driving range, honing his craft right here on its property. And now he’s chosen to turn this home into a legal battlefield.