Newsmaker of the Year, No. 10: Vijay Singh

By Rex HoggardDecember 10, 2013, 1:00 pm

Buried midway through a lengthy article in the Feb. 4 edition of Sports Illustrated entitled “Snake oil for sale and the athletes who, science be damned, think it might work” an unexpected haymaker was delivered to the PGA Tour’s Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., compound by way of Vijay Singh.

In the article, Singh admitted to using the Ultimate Spray, which contained IGF-1, a growth hormone like HGH that is on the Tour’s prohibited list. Within days the Tour launched an investigation into Singh’s use of the spray.

Ten days after the Sports Illustrated article was published, Singh received a letter from the Tour informing him he had violated the circuit’s anti-doping program. On Feb. 19 another letter arrived stating that Singh would be suspended for 90 days.

The title of the article – which outlined the use of various drugs which claim performance benefits but have little, if any, scientific support – is telling because the Tour, at the urging of the World Anti-Doping Agency, eventually ruled that Singh had admitted to taking little more than an expensive placebo.

“During the appeal process, PGA Tour counsel contacted WADA to confirm a number of technical points,” Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said on April 30. “At that time, WADA clarified that it no longer considers the use of deer-antler spray to be prohibited unless a positive test results.”

Singh, who had not failed a drug test, was cleared and nearly $100,000 in winnings, which had been held in escrow, was returned to the Fijian, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame with 34 Tour titles.

Singh, however, had little interest in an anti-doping mulligan. Shortly after being cleared of any violation, he sued the Tour in May, claiming the circuit publically humiliated him and, “as a result of the Tour’s action, Singh has been labeled by the Tour, media, some fellow golfers and fans as someone who intentionally took a banned substance in an effort to gain a competitive advantage.”

The legal give and take since that filing, which occurred on the eve of the Tour’s marquee event, the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, has been predictably contentious, with the circuit arguing in October that the suit should be dismissed.

While both sides continue to wait for judge Eileen Bransten to rule on the Tour’s motion, the central themes of both side’s arguments remain unchanged.

Singh’s lawyers have argued that the IGF-1 that was in the deer-antler spray he admitted to using is not the same chemical found on the Tour’s list of prohibited substances and that the circuit does not uniformly administer its anti-doping program.

In his original claim, Singh’s lawyers claim that Mark Calcavecchia admitted to using the same spray but was never disciplined by the Tour. And in a recent discovery motion his attorneys requested information related to a “possible or actual violation of the program” by Calcavecchia and four other players.

Newsmaker of the Year: Honorable mentions

Vijay Singh: Articles, photos and videos

“The PGA (Tour) has made exception after exception after exception, both with regard to whom it was administering this drug policy and against whom it was disciplining,” Singh’s lawyer Peter Ginsberg argued in October. “For some reason the (Tour) singled out Mr. Singh and treated him in a way that it has not historically or uniformly treated other (Tour) members.”

Attorneys for the Tour dismissed many of Singh’s discovery requests as a “fishing expedition” and have maintained that he “received the full relief to which he is entitled under his agreement with the Tour, and did not miss any PGA Tour tournaments or lose any prize money.”

“No one pressured Mr. Singh to play the PGA Tour,” the circuit’s attorney Jeffrey Mishkin argued on Nov. 1. “Like every other player he expressly agreed to the eligibility conditions set forth in the membership renewal agreement.”

Throughout the legal wrangling Singh has continued to play, and while he failed to advance to the FedEx Cup playoffs in 2013 he began the 2013-14 season with a runner-up showing at the Open.

He also played his first Champions Tour event in September (he turned 50 in February), where he tied for sixth in Hawaii. But he admitted last month at the Australian Masters that the ongoing legal bout has had an impact on his game.

“It has been going on for a whole year and it kind of messed up my whole season,” he said. “The best thing I told myself to do is just focus on what I know best which is playing golf and let the legal side take care of its own.”

That legal solution, however, does not seem imminent. Depending on Bransten’s decision on the Tour’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, a final verdict could still be months, not to mention untold motions and filings, away.

“Snake oil,” it seems, has never been so contentious.

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

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

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

Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.