The Biggest Crime

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2009, 4:28 am

PGA Tour

Rich Young once explained to a simple mind the scientific cat-and-mouse game that led to the conviction of cyclist Floyd Landis. Think CSI: Chess club with a dollop of Law & Order.

Essentially, Young and his anti-doping pocket-protected watchdogs nailed Landis because the ratio of Carbon 12 in his body was not equal to the amounts of Carbon 13, which are soy based and, he points out almost parenthetically, the basis of most synthetic steroids. Nature makes everything in equal portions, he finally explained, which makes an out-of-whack C12 to C13 ratio akin to a doping neon sign.

By comparison Doug Barron’s climb to doping immortality must have seemed like second-grade math to Young. After all, the 40-year-old journeyman had asked for permission to take testosterone and beta blockers, was denied and was promptly handed a sample bottle when he arrived at the St. Jude Classic, his only Tour event in 2009. Barron had likely already been flagged for banned substances by a lab rat somewhere by the time he missed Friday’s cut in Memphis.

Although U.S. Magistrate Tu Pham may, or may not depending on who you ask, have ruled on the letter of the law, the basic impulse for those watching from the sidelines is to establish right and wrong. But the truth is there are no sinners or saints in Barron v. PGA Tour Inc., only two distinct yet essentially noble personalities.

Barron the father and friend and family man no more wanted to circumvent the rules or gain a competitive advantage than Casey Martin wanted to upend the competitive integrity of the Tour with a golf cart.

“It’s a sad deal because the guy is not very competitive. If he needed something for his daily life he should have gotten (a therapeutic use exemption),” Jason Bohn said. “Is he really a threat to our system? He’s not gaining an advantage to play golf. His intent was to live a happy life with his family.”

Perhaps Barron’s real miscue was believing that a clear conscience and an utter lack of intent was all he needed to guide him through his troubled doping waters, when a lawyer and a mountain of legal briefs would have been much more useful.

Barron was not in the Memphis court last Friday when his lawyers argued his case for an injunction that would have allowed him to play this week’s second stage of Q-School. Perhaps he should have been because after just 10 minutes it’s evident that Barron’s conscience is clear.

“I went and saw a (Tour) doctor for one day out of my life who said I didn’t warrant (testosterone) therapy over a doctor that has seen me my whole life who said I did. That’s my biggest problem with all of this,” Barron said. “I don’t understand their thinking about this.”

Without full disclosure of the facts from all parties, it seems Barron’s plight would have likely been a vastly different tale had he not undergone a testosterone treatment just before the St. Jude Classic.

The Tour may not have liked his use of beta blockers, but his doctors had warned him of the health risks if he stopped “cold turkey” and even Young admits it would have been a much more complicated case.

But the last-minute testosterone injection, at least in Young’s mind, is the smoking gun, regardless of doctor’s orders or the best of intentions.

“The testosterone question is pretty straight forward,” Young said. “It’s straight out of the (World Anti-Doping Agency) code.”

Which, in a Twitter-society way, sums up Young the lawyer, if not the man. Simply put, a banned substance in an athlete’s body is all the witness Young needs, regardless of intent.

“(Intent) doesn’t factor in,” said Young, a soft-spoken type with a sneaky-good sense of humor often masked by a dogmatic approach to his job. “It would be very hard to prove what’s in somebody’s head and why they used? Secondly, the rules are clear – they know what they are allowed to use, Doug clearly used testosterone even though he knew he wasn’t allowed to.”

Young is, with all due respect, a bulldog guarding an empty safe. A hired gun tasked to take down a sleeping kindergartener.

Landis, by all accounts, worked tirelessly to elude detection and was armed with an army of mad scientists whose only goal is a better body through chemistry. As was once the battle cry in NASCAR, Landis participates in a sport that adheres to the “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” watchword.

It’s a reality in most sports, and the reason Young has become one of the most important people in sport. It’s why the Tour hired the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based attorney to help craft its anti-doping policy and why they sent him to the four corners of the circuit’s schedule in 2008 to educate its members.

But then golf is different. Barron is different. The guy who has called penalties on himself on the golf course did not walk into his doctor’s office more than four years ago looking for 20 extra yards off the tee or one fewer three-putt per round. But then, in fairness to Young and the Tour, they never said he did.

Barron v. PGA Tour Inc. is a story about collateral damage and a crisis of conscience. It is a tale without antagonist or hero, just two quiet and easily likable men on opposite sides of a doping reality that has no use for reason or common sense. And that may be the biggest crime.

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Bhatia loses U.S. Am match after caddie-cart incident

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 2:21 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – One of the hottest players in amateur golf had his U.S. Amateur run end Wednesday under unusual circumstances.

Akshay Bhatia, the 16-year-old left-hander who has been dominating the junior golf circuit over the past year, squandered a late lead in his eventual 19-hole loss to Bradford Tilley in the Round of 64.

Bhatia was all square against Tilley as they played Pebble Beach’s par-5 14th hole. After knocking his second shot onto the green, Bhatia and his caddie, Chris Darnell, stopped to use the restroom. Bhatia walked up to the green afterward, but Darnell asked what he thought was a USGA official for a ride up to the green.

“The gentleman was wearing a USGA pullover,” Darnell explained afterward. “I asked if I could get a ride to the green to keep up pace, and he said yes. So I hopped on the back, got up to the green, hopped off and thought nothing of it.”

Conditions of the competition prohibit players and caddies from riding on any form of transportation during a stipulated round unless authorized.

It turns out that the cart that Darnell rode on was not driven by a USGA official. Rather, it was just a volunteer wearing USGA apparel. A rules official who was in the area spotted the infraction and assessed Bhatia an adjustment penalty, so instead of winning the hole with a birdie-4 to move 1 up, the match remained all square.


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Even more interesting was what Darnell said happened earlier in the match.

“I had already seen the other caddie in our group do it on the ninth hole,” Darnell said. “Same thing – USGA pullover, drove him from the bathroom up to the fairway – so I assumed it was fine. I didn’t point it out at the time because everything seemed kosher. He had the USGA stuff on, and I didn’t think anything of it.”

Bhatia won the 15th hole to go 1 up, but lost the 17th and 19th holes with bogeys to lose the match. He didn’t blame the outcome on the cart incident.  

“What can you do? I’ll have plenty of opportunities to play in this tournament, so I’m not too upset about it,” he said. “It’s just frustrating because I deserved to win that match. That wasn’t the outcome I wanted, but I can’t do anything about it.”

Bhatia, of Wake Forest, N.C., has been a dominant force in the junior ranks, going back-to-back at the Junior PGA (including this dramatic hole-out), capturing the AJGA Polo, taking the Sage Valley Invitational and reaching the finals of the U.S. Junior.

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1, 2, 3 out: Thornberry, Suh, Morikawa lose at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 1:14 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The top three players in the world had a tough afternoon Wednesday at Pebble Beach.

Braden Thornberry, Justin Suh and Collin Morikawa – Nos. 1-3, respectively, in the World Amateur Golf Ranking – all lost their Round of 64 matches at the U.S. Amateur.

Thornberry lost, 2 and 1, to Jesus Montenegro of Argentina. As the No. 1 amateur in the world, the Ole Miss senior was in line to receive the McCormack Medal, which would exempt him into both summer Opens in 2019, provided he remains amateur. But now he’ll need to wait and see how the rankings shake out.

Suh and Morikawa could have played each other in the Round of 32, but instead they were both heading home early.


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Suh, a junior at USC, never led in his 1-up loss to Harrison Ott, while Cal's Morikawa lost to another Vanderbilt player, John Augenstein, in 19 holes.

Englishman Matthew Jordan is the fourth-ranked player in the world, but he didn’t make the 36-hole stroke-play cut.

The highest-ranked player remaining is Oklahoma State junior Viktor Hovland, who is ranked fifth. With his college coach, Alan Bratton, on the bag, Hovland beat his Cowboys teammate, Hayden Wood, 3 and 2, to reach the Round of 32.

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Fiery Augenstein outduels Morikawa at U.S. Amateur

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 12:55 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Around the Vanderbilt golf team John Augenstein’s nickname is “Flash,” and it’s easy to see why.

The swing loaded with speed.

The on-course charisma.

The big shot in the big moment.

The Commodores junior added another highlight to his growing collection Wednesday, when he defeated world No. 3 Collin Morikawa in 19 holes during a Round of 64 match at the U.S. Amateur.

Out of sorts early at Pebble Beach, Augenstein was 2 down to Morikawa after butchering the short seventh and then misplaying a shot around the green on 8.

Standing on the ninth tee, he turned to Vanderbilt assistant coach/caddie Gator Todd: "I need to play the best 10 holes of my life to beat Collin."

And did he?

“I don’t know,” he said later, smirking, “but I did enough.”

Augenstein won the ninth hole after Morikawa dumped his approach shot into the hazard, drained a 30-footer on 10 to square the match and then took his first lead when he rolled in a 10-footer on 14.

One down with three holes to go, Morikawa stuffed his approach into 16 while Augenstein, trying to play a perfect shot, misjudged the wind and left himself in a difficult position, short and right of the green. Augenstein appeared visibly frustrated once he found his ball, buried in the thick ryegrass short of the green. He told Todd that he didn’t think he’d be able to get inside of Morikawa’s shot about 6 feet away, but he dumped his pitch shot onto the front edge, rode the slope and trickled it into the cup for an unlikely birdie.

“Come on!” he yelled, high-fiving Todd and tossing his wedge at his bag.

“It was beautiful,” Todd said. “I’m not sure how he did that, but pretty cool that it went in.”  


U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


Morikawa answered by making birdie, then won the 17th with a par before both players halved the home hole with birdies.

On the first extra hole, Augenstein hit his approach to 15 feet while Morikawa left it short. Morikawa raced his first putt by 6 feet and then missed the comebacker to lose the match.

It may not have been the best 10-hole stretch of Augenstein’s career, but after that pep talk on 9 tee, he went 4 under to the house.

“He’s a fiery little dude,” Morikawa said of his 5-foot-8-inch opponent. “You don’t want to get him on the wrong side because you never know what’s going to happen. He’s not going to give shots away.”

The first-round match was a rematch of the Western Amateur quarterfinals two weeks ago, where Augenstein also won, that time by a 4-and-2 margin.

“It’s the most fun format and where I can be my true self – emotional and aggressive and beat people,” Augenstein said.

That’s what he did at the 2017 SECs, where he won the deciding points in both the semifinals and the finals. He starred again a few weeks later at the NCAA Championship, last season went 3-0 in SEC match play, and now has earned a reputation among his teammates as a primetime player.

“I’ve hit a lot of big shots and putts in my career,” said Augenstein, ranked 26th in the world after recently winning the Players Amateur. “I get locked in and focused, and there’s not a shot that I don’t think I can pull off. I’m not scared to fail.”

The comeback victory against Morikawa – a three-time winner last season at Cal and one of the best amateurs in the world – didn’t surprise Todd. He’s seen firsthand how explosive Augenstein can be on the course.

“He’s just fiery,” Todd said. “He does things under pressure that you’re not supposed to do. He’s just a special kid.”

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Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:44 pm

The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.

Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.

According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.

"My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"

Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.

Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.