Singh turns home course into legal battlefield

By Jason SobelMay 8, 2013, 5:24 pm

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.”

Video: Finchem talks Singh lawsuit

Read full lawsuit: Vijay Singh v. PGA Tour

Singh, attorney full statement

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.

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Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

Just like that other tournament, right?

Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

“I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

“When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

“I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

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Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

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Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”

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Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 10:57 pm

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.

Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.

''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''

Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.

A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.

Full-field scores from the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship

''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''

The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Tour.

''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''

Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.

''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''

McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.

''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''

Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.