Patel's PED violation raises more questions for Tour's testing policies

By Rex HoggardJanuary 14, 2015, 6:41 pm

Doug Barron can finally give up the infamous title he was saddled with in the fall of 2009. No longer is the former journeyman alone atop the PGA Tour’s anti-doping hit list.

On Wednesday the circuit announced that Bhavik Patel, a Web.com Tour member who has never played a PGA Tour event, had become the second player suspended for violating the performance-enhancing drugs policy.

Barron, you may recall, was bounced for a year for a variety of violations that stemmed from a low testosterone level and severe panic disorder, while Patel began his suspension on Oct. 7 for what appears to be a bona fide violation.

“In an effort to overcome an injury, I made a lapse of judgment. I regret my decision but have learned from the experience and look forward to returning to competition,” Patel said in a statement released by the Tour.

Unlike Barron, who was later granted a therapeutic use exemption for at least one of the substances that caused his suspension, and Vijay Singh, who was initially sanctioned when he admitted to taking a banned substance in 2013 but was later absolved when the World Anti-Doping Agency reversed its decision on the use of IGF-1, Patel appears to have run afoul of the anti-doping policy for all the wrong reasons.

Not that those reasons are particularly clear at the moment, which leads to even bigger concerns involving the Tour’s anti-doping program that go well beyond a lone pair of non-descript violators.

Whatever it is Patel did to warrant his one-year suspension remains unknown. Although the Tour’s original PED manual in 2008 stated, "... the PGA Tour will, at a minimum, publish the name of the player, the anti-doping rule violation, and the sanction imposed,” for a performance-enhancing violation, that policy was amended in January 2009 when “the anti-doping violation” wording was removed from the policy.

However subtle the reworded policy may seem, it only serves to further extend a cloak of secrecy that has defined the anti-doping program since its inception.

The radio silence is particularly concerning following reports last fall that Dustin Johnson had been suspended for six months following a third failed drug test. The Tour’s policy is to not comment on violations involving recreational drugs (the Golf.com report stated Johnson tested positive for cocaine according to an unnamed source), but the Tour later sent out a release clarifying, “Johnson has taken a voluntary leave of absence and is not under suspension from the PGA Tour.”

It’s exactly the kind of obfuscation an anti-doping policy is designed to avoid, particularly for a sport that is less than two years away from returning to the Olympics.

In fact, it’s likely the 2016 Games prompted the Tour to double its efforts to weed out violators.

In a little over a year each country’s Olympic committee will submit a list of potential golfers to play the Games at which time those athletes will be subject to testing through WADA, which doesn’t hold a player’s privacy in as high regard as the Tour.

A recent Reuters story pointed out the significant differences between the Tour’s anti-doping program versus WADA’s program and a recent move to help educate potential Olympic golfers.

“What's going to be key is a full understanding of the differences, how that impacts a clean player and making sure a clean player has an opportunity to be successful,” U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) chief Travis Tygart told Reuters.

“The WADA code has things like the beta-2s (agonists that are used to treat asthma and other pulmonary disorders) that are going to be different than what the current (PGA Tour) list looks like.”

To Tygart’s point consider that the WADA code is rather clear on the publication of violations, stating, “The anti-doping organization responsible for results management must publicly report the disposition of the anti-doping matter including the sport, the anti-doping rule violated, the name of the athlete or other person committing the violation, the prohibited substance or prohibited method involved and the consequences imposed.”

With few exceptions, the Tour has followed the WADA code and has largely deferred to the agency in its ongoing lawsuit with Singh, but when it comes to public disclosure, something the circuit has always been adverse to, it has deviated in a crucial way.

If transparency is what Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., is vying for so be it, but Wednesday’s announcement only served to leave a cloud of more uncertainty.

Perhaps Patel’s violation is a sign of increased scrutiny by the Tour, but after six years and untold thousands of tests (each player is reportedly tested twice a year) the circuit’s anti-doping efforts have yielded a grand total of two violators – the 971st-ranked player in the world, who appears to have taken a mystery substance to recover from injury, and a forty-something journeyman whose most egregious violation seems to have been an aversion to the proper paperwork.

Despite six years of trial and error, the Tour seems to be missing the key component of an affective testing program – transparency.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.


Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''


Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf


Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.