Golf enters sports' realm of suspicion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 30, 2013, 8:08 pm

This is not a love story. In the world of big-money, sports-hero worship has become an unrequited pastime best left to the innocence of children and fools.

From Lance Armstrong on Oprah’s couch to Roger Clemens’ dogged denials, we’ve been conditioned to lower our expectations, not to mention our ability to be shocked. There was no handwringing then when the last 24 hours delivered the classic doping dance.

Buried some 39 paragraphs into a 69-paragraph opus on SportsIllustrated.com, in itself a measure of how cavalier we have become about doping in professional sport, came news on Tuesday that Vijay Singh regularly used the Ultimate Spray, a liquid derived from deer antlers that contains IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor).


Sobel: Singh did the crime, now he should do the time


According to the company that sells the spray, S.W.A.T.S. (Sports with Alternatives to Steroids), IGF-1 is a natural, anabolic hormone that stimulates muscle growth. It’s also universally banned by every major sports league including the PGA Tour.

In an interview last week with Sports Illustrated, Singh said he used the spray “every couple of hours … every day,” and “sleeps with the beam ray on and has put chips on his ankles, waist and shoulders.”

“I’m looking forward to some change in my body,” Singh told the reporter. “It’s really hard to feel the difference if you’re only doing it for a couple of months.”

On Wednesday, Singh did what every athlete backed into a doping corner would do – deny, deny, deny.

“While I have used deer antler spray, at no time was I aware that it may contain a substance that is banned under the PGA Tour anti-doping policy,” he said in a statement.

“In fact, 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.”

Never mind that IGF-1, which is what HGH is converted into in the liver, has been on the Tour’s list of banned substances since it began testing in 2008. Never mind that on Aug. 17, 2011, the Tour issued an “anti-doping warning” via the green sheet which is circulated to players monthly that cautioned players about the spray and reiterated IGF-1’s status as a banned substance.

“The PGA Tour has learned that a supplement product marketed as ‘deer antler spray’ contains a prohibited substance under the PGA Tour anti-doping program,” the warning read.

“Deer antler contains IGF-1 which naturally occurs in the human body and is a growth factor, like human growth hormone. IGF-1 protects cartilage, promotes the growth of bone cells, and facilitates recovery. It is universally banned in all sports.”

Never mind that there are few players on Tour who spend more time tuning body, mind and swing than Singh. Never mind that the Fijian has scorched conventional wisdom having won more events in his 40s (18) than he did in his 20s and 30s combined (16).

Never mind that on S.W.A.T.S’ own website they list IGF-1 not once but twice as an active ingredient in the Ultimate Spray and characterize it as “a precursor for the production of growth hormone (HGH).”

Never mind that under the Tour’s anti-doping policy while HGH and IGF-1 are banned, there is no current test for either substance. “We have not determined a reliable test for it,” said Ty Votaw, the circuit’s executive vice president of communication and international affairs.

It’s the same in most other sports because the only way to test for HGH or IGF-1 is via a blood sample and union athletes and independent contractors have shown an almost universal reluctance to do that.

The only law that applies here is that athletes are responsible for what they put in their bodies and while being “angry” that he inadvertently juiced may work in the court of public opinion the doping courts take a slightly harder line (see Barron, Doug 2009).

There is no small amount of irony that the same month that baseball’s Hall of Fame refused to induct anyone into Cooperstown because of the pall cast over the game by the so-called “steroids era” sees a member of Golf’s Hall of Fame run afoul of the circuit’s doping standards.

An aside to the current dust up with Singh is that, according to two longtime Tour trainers, the Fijian could have been doing shots of the deer antler spray every hour for a year and it would provide virtually no performance benefits.

“You can get stuff off the counter at GNC that is legal that would provide better muscle growth and recovery,” said one trainer.

But in the dogmatic world of anti-doping neither intent nor outcome justifies the crime. How the Tour plans to proceed next is the million dollar question – or maybe it’s the $9,000 question, which is how much Singh reportedly paid for the spray, chips, beam ray and powder additive in November.

It is not the best-case scenario for Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., considering that a high-profile player has admitted publically that he used a banned substance that would otherwise be undetectable to Tour testers.

One can only imagine that Barron, who is the only player suspended under the Tour’s anti-doping policy for using testosterone and beta blockers that had been prescribed by his doctors for health reasons, will be paying particularly close attention.

As for the rest of us, well, we’ll probably move on because we’ve learned that expecting too much out of our athletes is a recipe for disappointment. It took golf a little longer than other sports to reach this desensitized crossroads but it seems we’re finally there.

Aaron Wise, Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods Getty Images, @TGRLiveEvents

Monday Scramble: This is their jam

By Nick MentaMay 21, 2018, 2:00 pm

Aaron Wise asserts himself, Trinity Forest draws mixed reviews, Tiger Woods hangs out in Vegas, and somebody maybe (or maybe not!) punches somebody else. All that and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble.

Aaron Wise's learning curve lasted exactly 17 starts. That's how many events he had played as an official PGA Tour member before breaking through for his maiden win Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson. A kid plenty ready for the moment, the 2016 NCAA Division I individual champion entered the final round tied for the lead and ran away from Marc Leishman with six birdies in a seven-hole stretch. Once firmly in control, Wise made eight straight pars on his way into the clubhouse. Heady stuff for a 21-year-old.

You need look back only a couple weeks for evidence that Wise was ready for something like this. Saturday at the Wells Fargo Championship, he could have melted down on the 18th hole. With his ball sitting on a steep bank inside the hazard line, Wise thought about taking a drop next to the green but ultimately chose after minutes of indecision to play it where it was. And he whiffed. He went right under it. He thinned his next shot over the green and looked as though he was going to throw away three days of fabulous play all at once. Instead, he steeled himself and chipped in to save his bogey-5.

Although Wise couldn't run down Jason Day a day later, his tie for second played a vital role in propelling him to victory just two weeks later. Wise said he felt "oddly calm" in the final round and that his experience at Quail Hollow had filled him with the self-belief he needed to close out his first win.

Mark down Wise as yet another young force to be reckoned with, as if there was somehow a shortage of those on Tour.


1. Let's go to the golf course. The Nelson's move to Trinity Forest was met with plenty of skepticism from players, some of whom simply stayed away.

The event's OWGR winner's points and strength of field dropped to 34 and 178, respectively, from 50 and 335 one year ago. The Nelson's strength of field was the lowest for a PGA Tour event in 2018 (excluding the opposite-field Coarles) and looked more in line with what you might expect during the wraparound portion of the schedule.

It's certainly possible top players are taking a wait-and-see approach to the course, but if the Nelson does wind up sandwiched between the Wells Fargo and the PGA, Trinity Forest is not going to be any kind of warmup for a Bethpage Black or a Harding Park or an Oak Hill, not when Quail Hollow is a PGA Championship layout. 



2. And if players are waiting on positive reviews to lure them to a venue that bares little resemblance to any other course on the PGA Tour schedule, they're not going to hear anything positive from Matt Kuchar. Asked on Thursday about the layout, Kuchar answered, "If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” before adding, "I really liked Las Colinas. That place was great. I really, really enjoyed Las Colinas.” After missing the cut, Kuchar admitted his distaste for the layout negatively affected his play, leaving architecture enthusiasts surely enraged.

Objectively, Las Colinas was an immaculately conditioned TPC devoid of character, and Trinity Forest is a rugged, minimalist tract with so much character it could border on caricature under certain conditions. The two designs have nothing in common, and Tour types are generally resistant to change, a sentiment summed up well by Adam Scott: “Majorities just don’t like different, do they? This is just different than what we normally roll out and play." On the plus side, Jordan Spieth, a Trinity member, said that many of the guys who did show up enjoyed the course more and more after each round. Architect Ben Crenshaw is hoping good word will spread. 

There's nothing wrong with Trinity Forest. It was actually nice to see something a little different on Tour. But the Nelson's place on the schedule may prove an obstacle to attracting the game's best regardless of where the event calls home.



3. As for the top talent who did show up, Spieth - say it with me now - was once again let down by his putter. The club that played such a pivotal role in his three major victories has abandoned him this season. Spieth entered the week second on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green and 183rd in strokes gained: putting. When he walked off the final green Sunday at Trinity Forest he was third in the field in SG: off-the-tee, fourth in SG: tee-to-green, fourth in proximity to the hole and 72nd in SG: putting. Those numbers left him 12 shots behind young Mr. Wise.

Remember when Spieth was a 21-year-old dusting the best in the world? Those were the days.

In all seriousness, the putting will get better, and when he finally matches general competence on the greens with his elite ball-striking, he'll finally capture his first trophy of the season. Don't be surprised if it happens this week at Colonial in another hometown event, one he won in 2016.



4.The aforementioned Scott remains - by the slimmest of margins - unqualified for the U.S. Open. Needing to crack the Official World Golf Ranking's top 60, Scott appeared to have done enough when he closed a final-round 65 with a birdie to pull into a four-way tie for sixth. Unfortunately, just moments later, he'd drop into a three-way tie for ninth, missing out by a single shot. 

Scott has played the last 67 majors in a row, dating back to 2001. It's a streak bested by only Sergio Garcia. Having missed this week's cutoff, he'll need to either head to sectional qualifying on June 4 or be inside the top 60 on June 11.

5. I understand golf is different than basketball and football, but the concern over how gambling might negatively impact the game feels a little like pearl-clutching. Yes, some idiot with money on the line could yell in somebody's backswing on the 72nd hole. That absolutely could happen. And yet, somehow we survive every Open Championship and every other tournament played in countries that allow gambling.

Then again, fans outside the U.S. don't yell mashed potatoes or baba booey.

I take it all back. We've made a huge mistake.



6. You might not be familiar with the name Adrian Otaegui, but that could change in a hurry if he keeps up his current form. The 25-year-old Spaniard just backed up a runner-up at the Volvo China Open with a win at the Belgian Knockout.

He's finished in the top 20 in each of his last six European Tour starts and he hasn't finished worse than T-40 in nine events. Both of his wins in the last year have come via match play (or something close enough in the case of the Knockout). With the victory, Otaegui is now up to 77th in the world, making him the fourth-highest Spaniard behind Jon Rahm, Sergio Garcia, and Rafa Cabrera Bello. 

7. While we're on the subject of the Belgian Knockout, two notes about the format. First, credit again goes to Keith Pelley and company for being unafraid to try something other than 72 holes of stroke play.

The rechristened Belgian Open, which had been dormant since 2000, featured 36 holes of normal stroke play qualifying before giving way to nine-hole, head-to-head stroke play in the knockout rounds. Considering how divisive the WGC-Match Play's round-robin format has become, early-stage stroke play does seem like an easy enough solution when it comes to both cutting the field and protecting the game's biggest stars from a Day 1 exit.

8. For the second time in as many events, the LPGA shortened an event due to weather.

At least the circuit was able to finish three rounds this time. Two players actually got in 56 holes, with Ariya Jutanugarn defeating Nasa Kataoka in a playoff. The victory is Ariya's first of 2018, but the Jutanugarns' second, following Moriya's breakthrough last month in L.A.

9. The Most Interesting Man in the World, Miguel Angel Jimenez, captured his first senior major at the Regions Tradition, but how about Steve Stricker's start to his PGA Tour Champions career? He's gone T5-1-1-T2-T2. Look out, Langer.

Didn't mean to shortchange Jimenez there. Just figured this image summed up the moment.

10. It never ceases to be amazing, by the way, the fine line between the wilderness and a PGA Tour card. Michael Arnaud had made just one Web.com start this year, and he shot an 81. He made only two of five cuts on the Web all last year. On Tuesday, he was in Oklahoma preparing to play an Adams Tour event when he was informed that he had been moved up to first alternate at the BMW Charity Pro-Am. So he took his chances and raced to South Carolina. He was the very last man into the field. And now he's a Web.com winner, inside the top 25 on the money list. All it takes is one great week to rejuvenate a career. 


Our Ryan Lavner normally writes this column, but he's on NCAA duty the next couple weeks. That said, he is checking in with this story about a fist fight that might not have actually happened at the Florida Mid-Am! Here's a little taste:

In a one-paragraph post on its website, the Florida State Golf Association declared Marc Dull the winner of the 37th Mid-Amateur Championship on May 13 after his opponent – in a tie match with two holes to go – was unable to return because of an “unfortunate injury” sustained during a lengthy weather delay.

Left unreported was what allegedly happened.

According to a police report (see below) obtained by GolfChannel.com, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office received a call that afternoon from Dull’s opponent, Jeff Golden, who claimed that he’d been assaulted in the parking lot at Coral Creek Club, the tournament host site in Placida. In a statement provided to police, Golden said that he was sucker-punched in the face by Dull’s caddie, Brandon Hibbs.

You know you want more. Click here.

This week's award winners ...

A master class in big timing: Hosting his annual Tiger Jam event at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, Tiger Woods "challenged" World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a showdown, but rather than wait and see who won, Woods got up on the tee, unleashed a drive, and simply walked away, going full mic drop.

This may have been a savvy play by Tiger, considering Mullins won a WLD event last summer with a drive of 374 yards.

Life is just a party and parties weren't meant to last: We compiled a photo gallery of some of Woods' best celebrity interactions at Tiger Jam over the years, but this image tops them all:

Who needs local knowledge? Tip of the cap to Hideki Matsuyama and his caddie for this read. "I think we start this a good 10 feet left, let it funnel right, and then it should take a hard left at the hole."

Kuchar should have just done that.

Belgian Wave: Is this the opposite of a Belgian Dip?

New rule: Backstopping is absolutely fine as long as we stop marking balls altogether.

And finally:

I like to think we have a lot in common, as I randomly pick up this column, quickly put it back down, and then try to (not-so) casually slip away. Cheers, buddy.

Getty Images

What's in the bag: AT&T Byron Nelson winner Wise

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 21, 2018, 1:52 pm

Aaron Wise won the AT&T Byron Nelson for his first PGA Tour victory. Here's a look inside the winner's bag.

Driver: Callaway Rogue (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Pro 75X shaft

Fairway woods: Callaway Rogue (15 degrees), with Fujikura ATMOS Black 8 X shaft

Irons: Callaway X Forged UT (2), with KBS Tour prototype Hybrid shaft; Apex 16 (4), Apex MB (5-PW), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 Tour Issue shafts

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 (50, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts

Putter: Odyssey O-Works Red V-Line Fang CH

Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft X

Getty Images

2018 NCAA Golf Championships TV Schedule

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 21, 2018, 12:29 pm

Golf Channel will shine a spotlight on college golf across the next two weeks at the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Golf National Championships. With more than 60 hours of live tournament and news coverage on-site from Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater Oklahoma (Monday-Wednesday May 21-23 and May 28-30), Golf Channel’s coverage connects 18 straight days of live tournament golf.

Watch live coverage of the NCAA Golf Championships beginning Monday, May 21 at 4pm ET on Golf Channel and streaming.

Keep up with the social media conversation by following Golf Channel on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Join in by using #NCAAGolf 

Golf Channel NCAA Women’s Golf Championships Coverage (all times ET)

Monday, May 21: Individual National Championship  4-8 p.m. (Live)

Tuesday, May 22:Quarterfinals, Team Match Play 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)

Tuesday, May 22: Semifinals, Team Match Play 4-8 p.m. (Live)

Wednesday, May 23:Team Match Play National Championship 4-8 p.m. (Live)

 

Golf Channel NCAA Men’s Golf Championships Coverage (all times ET)

Monday, May 28: Individual National Championship 4-8 p.m. (Live)

Tuesday, May 29: Quarterfinals, Team Match Play 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)

Tuesday, May 29: Semifinals, Team Match Play 4-8 p.m. (Live)

Wednesday, May 30: Team Match Play National Championship 4-8 p.m. (Live)

Getty Images

AT&T Byron Nelson purse payout: Wise a millionaire

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 21, 2018, 12:05 pm

PGA Tour rookie Aaron Wise earned his first Tour title on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson. Here's a look at how the purse was paid out at Trinity Forest:

1 Aaron Wise -23 $1,386,000
2 Marc Leishman -20 $831,600
T3 Branden Grace -19 $400,400
T3 J.J. Spaun -19 $400,400
T3 Keith Mitchell -19 $400,400
T6 Ryan Blaum -16 $257,950
T6 Kevin Na -16 $257,950
T6 Jimmy Walker -16 $257,950
T9 Adam Scott -15 $207,900
T9 Charles Howell III -15 $207,900
T9 Kevin Tway -15 $207,900
12 Brian Gay -14 $177,100
T13 Rory Sabbatini -13 $148,867
T13 Ethan Tracy -13 $148,867
T13 Matt Jones -13 $148,867
T16 Russell Knox -12 $115,500
T16 Hideki Matsuyama -12 $115,500
T16 Bronson Burgoon -12 $115,500
T16 Derek Fathauer -12 $115,500
T16 Joel Dahmen -12 $115,500
T21 Jordan Spieth -11 $80,080
T21 Billy Horschel -11 $80,080
T21 Robert Garrigus -11 $80,080
T21 Peter Uihlein -11 $80,080
T21 Martin Piller -11 $80,080
T26 Tyler Duncan -10 $55,825
T26 Anirban Lahiri -10 $55,825
T26 Parker McLachlin -10 $55,825
T26 Martin Flores -10 $55,825
T26 J.T. Poston -10 $55,825
T26 Shawn Stefani -10 $55,825
T32 Cody Gribble -9 $39,116
T32 Johnson Wagner -9 $39,116
T32 Geoff Ogilvy -9 $39,116
T32 Nick Taylor -9 $39,116
T32 C.T. Pan -9 $39,116
T32 Scott Piercy -9 $39,116
T32 Nicholas Lindheim -9 $39,116
T32 Fabian Gomez -9 $39,116
T32 Beau Hossler -9 $39,116
T32 Nate Lashley -9 $39,116
T42 Zac Blair -8 $23,184
T42 Abraham Ancer -8 $23,184
T42 Maverick McNealy -8 $23,184
T42 Denny McCarthy -8 $23,184
T42 Jonathan Byrd -8 $23,184
T42 Eric Axley -8 $23,184
T42 Sam Ryder -8 $23,184
T42 Brian Stuard -8 $23,184
T42 J.B. Holmes -8 $23,184
T42 Sung-hoon Kang -8 $23,184
T42 Andrew Putnam -8 $23,184
T53 Ben Crane -7 $17,659
T53 Steve Wheatcroft -7 $17,659
T53 Troy Merritt -7 $17,659
T53 Patrick Rodgers -7 $17,659
T53 Corey Conners -7 $17,659
T53 Robert Streb -7 $17,659
T59 Ryan Armour -6 $16,632
T59 Peter Malnati -6 $16,632
T59 Vaughn Taylor -6 $16,632
T59 Dominic Bozzelli -6 $16,632
T59 Adam Schenk -6 $16,632
T59 Hudson Swafford -6 $16,632
T59 Michael Thompson -6 $16,632
T66 Matt Atkins -5 $15,862
T66 Roberto Diaz -5 $15,862
T66 T.J. Vogel -5 $15,862
69 Sang-Moon Bae -4 $15,554
T70 Tom Lovelady -3 $15,246
T70 Cameron Percy -3 $15,246
T70 Rod Pampling -3 $15,246
73 Brian Davis -1 $14,938
74 Mark Wilson 1 $14,784
75 Robert Allenby 2 $14,630