PGA Tour breaks silence in Barron case

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2009, 7:56 am

PGA Tour

The PGA Tour’s silence regarding the ongoing challenge to its first anti-doping violation ended on Tuesday when Rich Young publicly addressed Monday’s ruling by a U.S. magistrate regarding Doug Barron.

Young, a Colorado-based lawyer who argued on behalf of the Tour the first challenge to the circuit’s anti-doping policy on Friday in Memphis, said U.S. magistrate Tu Pham’s rejection of  Barron’s request for a restraining order to play Q-School was “encouraging,” and called the one-year suspension “fair.”

“If a player wants a (therapeutic use exemption for a banned substance) he’s given every chance to submit his medical records to a committee and ask for one,” Young said. “The question is if he didn’t get a TUE would he suffer and, in Doug’s case, the recommendation from the committee was no, he would not and that didn’t justify a TUE request.”

Barron began taking beta blockers in 1987 when he was diagnosed at age 18 with mitral valve prolapse, a heart condition that can cause chest pain and difficulty breathing. In 2005, Barron was diagnosed with low testosterone and began taking monthly injections of testosterone. Although he was taking both substances under doctor’s orders, they are both prohibited under the Tour’s anti-doping policy which began in July 2008.

Barron asked for and was denied therapeutic use exemptions for both drugs, first in 2008 for the beta blocker Propranolol and again in January 2009 for testosterone. He was told to stop using both drugs.

Young, an expert in anti-doping circles who spearheaded the litigation against convicted cyclist Floyd Landis in 2007 and helped the Tour develop its policy regarding performance-enhancing drugs, said the testosterone violation is “pretty straightforward” since Barron admitted to taking a testosterone injection shortly before testing positive on June 11 during the St. Jude Classic when symptoms from his low testosterone levels returned.

Despite almost blanket support from his fellow Tour players and a consensus among those who know the 40-year-old journeyman that he was not seeking a competitive advantage or a performance enhancement, Young said intent to gain an advantage is not an anti-doping consideration.

“Intent doesn’t factor in for a couple of reasons,” Young said. “It would be very hard to prove what’s in somebody’s head and why they used a banned substance. Secondly, the rules are clear on this. They know what they are allowed to use. Doug clearly used testosterone even though he knew he wasn’t allowed to.”

Young also addressed concerns the Tour’s punishment of Barron, who played just one Tour event in 2009 and has not made enough in the last three seasons to cover the potential $500,000 fine for his violation, was too harsh when compared to other sports like baseball, which suspended Los Angeles slugger Manny Ramirez for a blatant doping violation for 50 games this season, or one-third of a season.

“When he was told he couldn’t do (testosterone, although Young concedes Barron’s use of beta blockers is a more “complicated” issue), he may not have liked the decision, but for him to ignore the decision is a flat out intent to violate the rules,” he said. “He may not have done it to become Barry Bonds, but he was told what the rules were and chose to break them.”

Nor does Young consider Major League Baseball, an organization besieged by doping scandals, the benchmark for doping punishments. Instead, he said a similar violation under the World Anti-Doping Agency rules would result in a similar one-year penalty if not a two-year sanction.

As for where Barron’s case goes from here Young would not speculated, although he estimates it will be months, not weeks, before a challenge to the Tour-mandated suspension could be heard in court.

“No, I don’t know what he’s going to do,” he said, “but we’re encouraged by the judge’s decision.”

As for Barron, he planned to meet with his lawyers on Wednesday in Memphis to review his legal options, but his lawyer Jeffrey Rosenblum was similarly encouraged by much of Pham’s decisions.

“We saw a 33-page opinion (from Pham) that is packed full of good stuff for us,” Rosenblum said.

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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.


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“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.”

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Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

“I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”


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The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

“There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

“I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.


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It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

“If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

“It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

“It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”


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Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

“I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

“If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”