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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Watch: Koepka highlights from the Travelers

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 21, 2018, 3:30 pm

U.S. Open hangover? Not for Brooks Koepka. The two-time national champion has carried over his form and confidence from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands.

Koepka began his round with a par at the par-4 10th and then reeled off four consecutive birdies, beginning at No. 11.

And here is the capper at the 14th

Koepka turned in 4-under 31. Here's more action from his opening nine holes.

After a par at the first, Koepka added a fifth birdie of the day at the par-4 second.

A bogey at the par-4 fourth dropped him to 4 under, but just one off the lead.

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Lyle going through 'scary' period in cancer recovery

By Associated PressJune 21, 2018, 12:58 pm

MELBOURNE, Australia – Jarrod Lyle's wife says the Australian golfer is struggling through a ''really scary'' period in his third battle with cancer.

Lyle, 36, underwent a bone marrow transplant last December following a recurrence of acute myeloid leukemia.

''It's been 190 days since Jarrod's stem-cell transplant and we are going through a really rough patch at the moment,'' Briony Lyle wrote on ''I'm typing this blog on his behalf because he's not able to do it. Jarrod's not able to drive, struggles to prepare any food for himself, can't read stories to the girls and is not able to offer much help at all around the house.

''He is also starting to look like a very frail, sick person.''

Briony Lyle added: ''We are both very aware of the amount of drugs and medication that has gone into Jarrod's body over the years but things are starting to get really scary at the moment. It looks as if this recovery is going to be the longest and hardest one so far.''

Lyle has twice beaten acute myeloid leukemia, in 1998 and 2012, and was able to return to play professional golf.

He made an emotional comeback to the golf course during the 2013 Australian Masters in Melbourne before using a medical exemption to play on the PGA Tour in 2015. He played four seasons on Tour, where he earned $1.875 million in 121 tournaments.

Lyle has since returned to Australia permanently to be with Briony and daughters Lusi and Jemma.

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Vermeer wins PGA Professional; 20 make PGA Championship

By Associated PressJune 21, 2018, 12:42 pm

SEASIDE, Calif. – Ryan Vermeer won the PGA Professional Championship on Wednesday, overcoming front-nine problems to top the 20 qualifiers for the PGA Championship.

The 40-year-old Vermeer, the director of instruction at Happy Hollow Club in Omaha, Nebraska, closed with a 1-over 73 on the Bayonet Course for a two-stroke victory over Sean McCarty and Bob Sowards.

The PGA Championship is in August at Bellerive in St. Louis.

Three strokes ahead entering the day, Vermeer played the front in 4 over with a double bogey on the par-4 second and bogeys on the par-4 seventh and par-4 eighth. He rebounded with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-4 11th and also birdied the par-5 18th.

Full-field scores from the PGA Professional Championship

Vermeer finished at 5-under 283. The former University of Kansas player earned $55,000. He won the 2017 Mizuno Pro/Assistant Championship and finished ninth last year in the PGA Professional to qualify for PGA at Quail Hollow.

McCarty had a 68, and Sowards shot 69. Sowards won the 2004 title.

David Muttitt and Jason Schmuhl tied for fourth at 1 under, and 2012 and 2015 champion Matt Dobyns, Jaysen Hansen, and Johan Kok followed at even par.

Marty Jertson, Brian Smock and Ben Kern were 1 over, and Zach Johnson, Craig Hocknull, Matt Borchert and 2016 winner Rich Berberian Jr. were 2 over. Nine players tied at 3 over, with Shawn Warren, 2017 champion Omar Uresti, 2014 winner Michael Block, Craig Bowden and Danny Balin getting the last five spots at Bellerive in a playoff. Balin got the final spot, beating Brian Norman with a par on the seventh extra hole after Norman lost a ball in a tree.

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Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”