Technicalities unlikely to get Singh off the hook

By Rex HoggardFebruary 13, 2013, 3:30 pm

A furious 15 minutes has given way to silent gridlock. The wheels of justice are moving in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., but there will be nothing swift when it comes to Vijay Singh and his anti-doping snafu.

That’s not how these things work, not on the PGA Tour – where slow play is a way of life – or in the anti-doping halls of justice. As absolute as the anti-doping bylaws are, the intricate dance that follows any violation makes grass growing seem like a contact sport.

The Sports Illustrated article that initially linked Singh to the Ultimate Spray, which reportedly contains an insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) that is banned by the Tour and every other major sports league, was quickly followed by a public mea culpa that, at least to the doping world, was akin to a plea of no contest.

“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,” Singh said in the statement. “In fact, when I first received the product, I reviewed the list of ingredients and did not see any prohibited substances. . . . I have been in contact with the PGA Tour and am cooperating fully with their review of this matter.”

Last week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Singh tied for 50th place and he is in the field again this week at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera.

Singh met with Tour commissioner Tim Finchem last Wednesday at Pebble Beach and while what follows will be a closely-guarded secret, the process, at least according to the circuit’s policy, is as straightforward as it is structured.

According to the policy, Singh’s statement is tantamount to a positive test, or, according to Matt Lane, a Maine-based lawyer with the firm of Preti Flaherty who represents track and field athletes and has argued on behalf of athletes who have run afoul of various doping policies, it is considered a “non-analytical positive.”

Nor does it matter that the Tour, like most other major sporting leagues, doesn’t allow blood tests, which would be the only way to detect IGF-1.

“Now that you’ve admitted to taking a banned substance you have admitted to a doping violation,” Lane said.

In recent weeks it’s also been suggested that even if Singh used IGF-1 it would not have had any performance benefit.

Dr. Roberto Salvatori, an endocrinologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, told the Sun there is no medically valid way to deliver IGF-1 orally or in a spray. “If there were, a lot of people would be happy that they don't need to get shots anymore,” Salvatori said. “It’s just simply not possible for it to come from a spray.”

Many long-time Tour trainers echoed those comments last week, “You could get much more of a performance benefit from things you could buy legally, that aren’t on the banned list, from GNC,” one said.

That, however, would have no impact on Singh’s culpability, at least it would not under the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s policy, which the Tour used to model their program after back in 2008 when the circuit began testing.

By way of example Lane points out that Olympic athletes are regularly sanctioned for testing positive for marijuana.

“No one is going to argue that if you smoke pot you are going to run the 100 meter faster,” Lane said. “You can take a lot of things that don’t have any performance enhancing properties, for a long time Sudafed was on the banned list. It doesn’t really matter if it’s truly a performance enhancing.”

All of this could factor in as mitigating circumstances if sanctions are ever doled out, which according to the policy could be up to a one-year suspension and up to a $500,000 fine. But as a matter of determining guilt, intent has little influence in the anti-doping realm.

At this point it seems Singh’s primary defense would be to have the spray analyzed by the Tour. If it is found not to contain IGF-1, or any other banned substance, there would be no violation.

On the company’s website that sells the spray, however, IGF-1 is listed as an active ingredient in the spray twice and in an August 2011 advisory via the green sheet, which is circulated to players monthly, the Tour warned of a potential violation.

“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.”

Unless Singh can prove there was no banned substance in the spray he used, the question, at least to Lane, moves to the sentencing phase, where intent and other mitigating factors are a consideration.

“The question is what would (the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency) do?” Lane said. “If it’s USADA they will seek a ban. It’s Law & Order time, they will try to negotiate a plea bargain.”

Based on the Tour’s anti-doping policy following discovery of a violation, either by a positive test or non-analytical positive, the circuit is mandated to notify the player who has seven days to provide a written explanation. If a sanction is issued the player then has seven days to appeal the ruling and a hearing is held within 45 days.

If the process goes the distance according to policy, and Singh appeals, a hearing could occur in early April which could place a possible final ruling, which under the policy would be made public, sometime around The Masters, which Singh won in 2000.

For a circuit often criticized for slow play the wheels of anti-doping justice fittingly dovetail with the languid status quo. Considering what’s at stake that seems about right.  

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Descending into golf's depths, and trying to dig out

By Brandel ChambleeApril 23, 2018, 3:05 pm

Watching Alvaro Quiros finish second this past week in Morocco, I was reminded of just how rare it is for player to come back from the depths of golf hell.

Quiros, a player of immense ability, hype and length, won the Dubai World Championship – his sixth win in four years – to close out 2011 and then went down the rabbit hole of trying to change his golf swing. He would miss 11 cuts in 2012 and either miss the cut or withdraw in another 41 European Tour events over the next four years. Because he hadn’t won a major championship, his epic backwards slide in the world rankings (435th prior to this past week) mostly went unnoticed – but it was far from unusual.

Ian Baker-Finch won the 1991 Open Championship, but just three years later, when he played 20 events on the PGA Tour and missed 14 cuts, he no longer looked anything like a recent major champion. In 1995, he played in 18 events and either missed the cut, withdrew or was disqualified from every one of them. In 1996, he missed the cut in all 11 events he entered on the PGA Tour; and in 1997, he shot 92 in the first round of The Open, withdrew from the championship and stopped playing professional golf.

Like Quiros, Baker-Finch’s downfall came after his biggest win, when he finally thought he had the time, because of the 10-year exemption he received, to change his golf swing.

David Duval won the 2001 Open Championship and just two years later he shot 83-78 in the same event and missed the cut, which was one 16 events he either missed the cut or withdrew from that year. In 2005, he missed 18 cuts in 19 starts. Duval’s competitive demise may well have been precipitated by injuries and an existential malaise after winning golf’s oldest championship, but it was accompanied by queries far and wide as to how to correct his swing and thinking, just like Baker-Finch before him and Quiros thereafter.

These desperate searches for help, like the indelible ink stains on dyer’s hands, are the one common thread amongst those who suffer from the absolute negation of their technical and then creative abilities. Those who take as indisputable the theories of others are, in the deepest sense, wounding their own intuition. They are controverting the evidence of their own senses in such a way that is comforting to the insecure player, but tragic to the artist. To quote Carl Jung: “Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.”

As I write this, PGA Tour winners Steven Bowditch (1,885th in the world) and Smylie Kaufman (337th) are in similar downward spirals in their careers and no doubt are desperate for, and susceptible to any suggestion.

One player they can look to who made it back from the frantic madness that accompanies losing one’s game, is Henrik Stenson. He put his trust in one man, Pete Cowen, even though while working with Pete he missed 14 cuts in 2002, followed by 15 missed cuts in 2003, and 11 in 2004. What Stenson did not do was panic and run from teacher to teacher, from shrink to shrink, as the missed cuts piled up.

Stenson, with Cowen’s help, slowly built one of the most reliable swings in the history of the game. A swing that regularly leads events in fairways found and greens hit in regulation. A swing that authored the lowest score ever shot in major championship history. A swing that is a far cry from the OB-launching swipes he was taking in late-2001 and 2002.

Given the soul-eating depths of where he came from, a place from which few have dug themselves out of, I watch Stenson play golf with a far great admiration than I otherwise would, and similarly was pulling for Quiros in Morocco. The same way I am pulling for Bowditch and Kaufman to find their games again.

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Langer skipping Senior PGA for son's HS graduation

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 2:53 pm

Defending champion Bernhard Langer will miss this year’s Senior PGA Championship to attend his son’s high school graduation.

Langer made the announcement Monday, during Senior PGA media day at Harbor Shores in Michigan. The event will be held May 24-27.

“I won’t be able to defend my title this year because my son graduates from high school that very same weekend,” he said. “Family comes first in my life, so I have to be there to celebrate.”

Langer said that his son, Jason, will play golf for the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. Langer and his family live in South Florida.

Langer won last year’s event at Trump National outside Washington, D.C. The 60-year-old has no wins but three runners-up in eight senior starts this season.  

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Landry reaches OWGR career high after Valero win

By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 12:40 pm

After notching his first career PGA Tour win at the Valero Texas Open, Andrew Landry also reached unprecedented heights in the latest installment of the Official World Golf Ranking.

Landry shot a final-round 68 at TPC San Antonio to win by two shots, and in the process he cracked the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time at age 30. Landry started the week ranked No. 114, but he's now up to 66th. The move puts him within reach of a possible U.S. Open exemption, given that the top 60 in the May 21 rankings will automatically qualify for Shinnecock Hills.

Trey Mullinax went from No. 306 to No. 169 with his T-2 finish in San Antonio, while fellow runner-up Sean O Hair jumped 29 spots to No. 83 in the world. Jimmy Walker, who finished alone in fourth, went from No. 88 to No. 81 while fifth-place Zach Johnson moved up five spots to No. 53.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

Alexander Levy took home the title at the European Tour's Trophee Hassan II, allowing the Frenchman to move from No. 66 to No. 47. With no OWGR points available at this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Levy is guaranteed to stay inside the top 50 next week, thereby earning a spot in The Players.

Idle since an MDF result at the Houston Open, former world No. 1 Lee Westwood dropped two spots to No. 100 this week. It marks the first time Westwood has been ranked 100th or worse in nearly 15 years, ending a streak of consistency that dates back to September 2003.

The top 10 in the rankings remained the same, with Dustin Johnson leading off at No. 1 followed by Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose. Rickie Fowler remains No. 6 with Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia rounding out the top 10.

With no starts announced until the U.S. Open in June, Tiger Woods dropped two more spots to No. 91 in the latest rankings.

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What's in the bag: Valero Texas Open winner Landry

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 12:34 pm

Andrew Landry won his first PGA Tour event at the Valero Texas Open. Here's a look inside the winners' bag.

Driver: Ping G30 (9 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 65X shaft

Fairway woods: Ping G (14.5 degrees adjusted to 15.5), with Project X HZRDUS Yellow 75X shaft; (17.5 degrees), with Project X HZRDUS Yellow 85X shaft

Irons: Ping iBlade (3-PW), with Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 105 S shafts

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 (52, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts

Putter: Ping PLD ZB-S

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x