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News & Tours

Vijay Singh cleared of violating PGA Tour's drug policy

By John Strege

Vijay Singh has been cleared of charges that he violated the PGA Tour's anti-doping policy after the World Anti-Doping Agency declared recently that it no longer considered the use of deer antler spray prohibited unless a drug test for the growth factor it contains turns up positive.

Related: Greg Norman criticizes PGA Tour's drug policy

Singh, in a January story on SI.com, admitted to using deer antler spray, which, according to information provided the tour by WADA "is known to contain small amounts of IGF-1," a growth factor prohibited at the time by the WADA and the PGA Tour.

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The tour, in a news release it issued Tuesday afternoon, said that Singh had been in violation of the tour's anti-doping policy and that it had sanctioned him, though Singh subsequently appealed the sanction.

"During the appeal process, PGA Tour counsel contacted WADA to confirm a number of technical points," the news release said. "At that time, WADA clarified that it no longer considers the use of deer antler spray to be prohibited unless a positive test results."

The tour currently does not test for IGF-1.

WADA, in its communications with the tour, stated that, "it should be known that Deer Antler Spray contains small amounts of IGF-1 that may affect anti-doping tests. Players should be warned that in the case of a positive test for IGF-1 or hGH, it would be considered an Adverse Analytical Finding."

"Based on this new information, and given WADA's lead role in interpreting the Prohibited List, the tour deemed it only fair to no longer treat Mr. Singh's use of deer antler spray as a violation of the tour's anti-doping program," the tour's statement said.

Singh has declined to discuss the matter, though he did issue a statement in early February: "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. In fact, when I first received the product, I reviewed the list of ingredients and did not see any prohibited substances."

Related: The week in golf and beyond

Singh further said he was cooperating with the tour's investigation, which the tour confirmed in its news release.

"Since his initial quote was made public, Mr. Singh has cooperated with the tour investigation and has been completely forthcoming and honest. While there was no reason to believe that Mr. Singh knowingly took a prohibited substance, the PGA Tour Anti-Doping Program clearly states that players are responsible for use of a prohibited substance regardless of intent. In this regard, Mr. Singh should have contacted the PGA Tour Anti-Doping Program Administrator or other resources readily available to players in order to verify that the product Mr. Singh was about to utilize did not contain any prohibited substances, especially in light of the warning issued in August 2011 in relation to deer antler spray."

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Gear & Equipment

Mixed Blessings: Tour pros are increasingly playing with diversified iron lineups -- with good reason

By E. Michael Johnson

gwar01-equipment-0506.jpgBreaking up may be hard for some folks, but when it comes to irons PGA Tour pros have no qualms about splitting up matched sets. Heck, it's the thing to do.

Just four years ago at the 2009 Honda Classic, no more than a dozen players were using mixed sets. Lately, however, iron lineups on the tour are seeing more breakups than a busy divorce lawyer.

At the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, 68 players had at least one iron that was a different model from the rest of their set. Of that number, 25 had two or more clubs that varied from the rest.

The use of mixed sets has changed over the last decade, with many players gravitating toward them in the early-2000s before a slowdown later in the decade when hybrids became more prominent. Now the return of utility irons as a viable long-iron alternative has swung things back the other way.

Although splitting iron sets is again fashionable, it is not revolutionary. When Lynx introduced its game-improvement Black Cat irons in 1995, Fred Couples put the 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-irons in his bag while keeping his Lynx Parallax 6-iron through pitching wedge. Johnny Miller also said that when Callaway came out with its Great Big Bertha tungsten-titanium irons, he replaced his Callaway X-10 long irons with the easier-to-hit clubs.

According to Rodney McDonald, director of tour operation for Cleveland/Srixon, the process is just part of the evolution of set makeup.

"From a player standpoint it is just a continuation in the process of fine- tuning their equipment and worrying more about what 14 clubs are best for their game rather than about whether their clubs all 'match' cosmetically," said McDonald. "From the manufacturer's standpoint, as players go in this direction, it is our responsibility to provide them with options. We can't expect to bind them contractually to 11 or more clubs and not have these choices."

Related: The best without a major

Of course, astute players have always paid attention to their set composition. It started with wedges and then moved to the long end of the set with fairway woods and then hybrid clubs. Players will hit whatever they have to hit to carry the ball a certain distance and stop it.

Charlie Beljan is an example. Earlier this year he noticed that he almost never hit his 3-wood because it didn't fit into any distance slot he normally faced. Not liking hybrids, Beljan emptied his bag of all fairway woods and added three Cleveland 588 MT irons (2- through 4-iron) to go with his Cleveland 588 CB irons (5-iron through PW). "I've always loved to hit irons," said Beljan. "When I won the U.S. Junior, I used a 1-iron and didn't have a 3-wood then either. Now I have a good transition through my iron set."

One of Beljan's Cleveland stablemates, Jason Kokrak, employs three types of irons, using a 588 MT 3-iron, 588 CB 4- and 5-irons and the 588 MB model for his 6-iron through pitching wedge. Other players utilizing three types of irons include Titleist's Graham DeLaet and Martin Flores, Callaway's Luke List and, on occasion, Nike's Carl Pettersson.

Although many players who break up their iron set stay within a given company's clubs, some do not. Brian Gay, who for years used three or even four different types of Mizuno irons to make up his set, currently uses TaylorMade's RocketBladez 4- and 5-irons and Mizuno's MP-60 for the rest of his irons. That allows Gay to get the height and distance he needs with the long irons and control with the shorter clubs.

Related: Hot List 2013: Golf Balls

Consumers pay attention to anything that's going on at the professional level with equipment, and split sets are no exception. In fact, the idea has been tried before with mixed results. Langert Golf's Transition irons and Cleveland Golf's "One-at-a-Time" system in the early 1990s are examples of an idea that may have been before its time as both failed to catch on. Companies now, however, are much more willing to accept special orders for sets that comprise two or even three different models at minimal cost or even no charge.

Then there's the fact that some "split sets" are not truly "split sets." Nike's Pro Combo model, for example, is really three different sets of irons in one. As a result, players benefit from the extra attention designers have paid to each end of the iron spectrum -- particularly in the better-player designs. Sets that used to start and end with the same basic design are now more likely to morph from club to club. Long irons now boast wider soles with cavity-backs that provide greater perimeter weighting while, in some instances, short irons are more blade-like, with narrower soles and centers of gravity higher up to help keep ball flight down -- something most better players desire in their scoring clubs.

Still, some prefer a different look, including Champions Tour star Bernhard Langer, who uses a set comprised of Ben Hogan Apex long irons (3- through 5-irons) and Adams Idea Pro Black MB (6-iron through pitching wedge).

"I've tried going with one or the other, but this combination just seems to work for me," said Langer.

Since Langer has won the money title four of the last five years, there just might be something to mixed sets.

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Jason Dufner played a Scotty Cameron by Titleist Futura X prototype mallet at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. The club is the same model as the one Adam Scott used to win the Masters, but unlike Scott, Dufner's was a conventional-length 34 inches. ... One player who had been anchoring but did not at TPC Louisiana was Retief Goosen, who switched from a TaylorMade Spider midsize to the company's new counterbalanced Daddy Long Legs model. The move worked: Goosen ranked fifth in strokes gained/putting in his first tournament with the club.


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Celebrity

Samuel L. Jackson names his pick for the best celebrity golfer

By Brendan Mohler

During a recent drive to the golf course, golf fanatic Samuel L. Jackson was accosted by a TMZ crew and asked who the best celebrity golfer is. To those who don't follow golf tournaments for a living, his answer may come as a surprise. But for us in the Golf Digest/Golf World Office, Jackson hit the nail right on the head with his response.

Related: Golf Digest's My Shot with Samuel L. Jackson

"Kenny G," he said without hesitation.

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Yes, Kenny G, the 56-year-old saxophonist, is the best celebrity golfer. In 2006, he was ranked first on our list of the Top 100 musician golfers and carried a handicap index of 0.6.

Kenny G is a regular participant in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and, with partner Phil Mickelson, shared the Pro-Am title with Tiger Woods and Jerry Chang in 2001. Not bad for a saxophonist competing against a field of players sporting bloated handicaps.

Related: Our favorite golf-crazed celebrities

While he's certainly got game, it's hard to say how many PGA Tour players are fans of Kenny G's music. Without even being asked, longtime caddie Kip Henley (currently on Brian Gay's bag) provided a little insight today via Twitter:

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It's okay, Kip. The tickets were for your wife, right?

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News & Tours

Vijay Singh will not be suspended by PGA Tour

Official statement by the PGA Tour:

The PGA TOUR Anti-Doping Program, which has been in effect since July 2008, closely follows the International Anti-Doping Standard set forth by the World Anti-Doping Agency ("WADA") particularly as it relates to the interpretation and application of the List of Prohibited Substances and Methods.

In a Jan. 28, 2013 article that appeared on SI.com, Vijay Singh was quoted as admitting to his use of a deer antler spray supplement. Subsequently, Mr. Singh confirmed his use of deer antler spray in a statement he issued. Deer antler spray contains IGF-1, a growth factor listed on both the WADA and PGA TOUR Prohibited Lists, which the TOUR warned players about in August 2011. After the SI.com article came out, WADA also issued a warning about deer antler spray on Feb. 5, 2013.

There is no test for IGF-1 currently available in routine blood testing. However, the PGA TOUR Anti-Doping Policy provides that an admission to the use of a prohibited substance is a violation of the policy even if there is no positive drug test. After confirming the presence of IGF-1 in the deer antler spray product provided to the TOUR by Mr. Singh through tests at the WADA-approved UCLA laboratory, the TOUR proceeded with the matter as a violation of the PGA TOUR Anti-Doping Policy, and a sanction was issued. Mr. Singh subsequently appealed the sanction under the PGA TOUR Anti-Doping Program guidelines. During the appeal process, PGA TOUR counsel contacted WADA to confirm a number of technical points.

At that time, WADA clarified that it no longer considers the use of deer antler spray to be prohibited unless a positive test results. Indeed, on April 30, WADA subsequently provided written confirmation to the TOUR that:

"In relation to your pending IGF-1 matter, it is the position of WADA, in applying the Prohibited List, that the use of "deer antler spray" (which is known to contain small amounts of IGF-I) is not considered prohibited.

On the other hand it should be known that Deer Antler Spray contains small amounts of IGF-1 that may affect anti-doping tests.

Players should be warned that in the case of a positive test for IGF-1 or hGH, it would be considered an Adverse Analytical Finding."

Based on this new information, and given WADA's lead role in interpreting the Prohibited List, the TOUR deemed it only fair to no longer treat Mr. Singh's use of deer antler spray as a violation of the TOUR's anti-doping program.

Since his initial quote was made public, Mr. Singh has cooperated with the TOUR investigation and has been completely forthcoming and honest. While there was no reason to believe that Mr. Singh knowingly took a prohibited substance, the PGA TOUR Anti-Doping Program clearly states that players are responsible for use of a prohibited substance regardless of intent. In this regard, Mr. Singh should have contacted the PGA TOUR Anti-Doping Program Administrator or other resources readily available to players in order to verify that the product Mr. Singh was about to utilize did not contain any prohibited substances, especially in light of the warning issued in August 2011 in relation to deer antler spray.

Going forward, the PGA TOUR is committed to increasing its educational initiatives to remind players of the PGA TOUR Anti-Doping Program and the risk of utilizing any product without a full understanding of the ingredients contained in that product. Such educational initiatives will include reinforcing with its members the many resources available to them on a 24/7 basis to respond to any questions they may have concerning any product.

The PGA TOUR recognizes that the science of anti-doping is an ever evolving subject, and the TOUR will continue to work with its consultants and WADA to stay abreast of all current developments in this area. This will include staying abreast of developing policies and procedures, specifically with regard to testing for growth hormone and IGF-1. When fully implemented tests for those substances become available in routine blood testing, the TOUR will continue to monitor the situation and make changes to the policy as necessary or appropriate.

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Gear & Equipment

Have hybrids lost their luster?

hybrid-luster.jpgBy E. Michael Johnson

It took awhile for consumers to latch on to hybrids, but once they did, the movement was swift and substantial. During the past five years, hybrid sales have often accounted for 30 percent or more of the metalwood market. However, Golf Datatech's February sales report (the latest available) reveals that hybrid sales comprised just 24 percent of the metalwood market.

Is the trend reversing?Probably not. Craig Zimmerman, general manager of RedTail Golf Center in Beaverton, Ore., says that more clubmakers are integrating hybrids into "combo" iron sets.

Some of these sets have two or three hybrids included," he says. "So although fewer individual hybrids are being sold, the total number is likely the same. These are still extremely helpful clubs for a large number of golfers."



[Illustration by Eddie Guy]

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Celebrity

The Grind: Jason Collins' announcement, Rory's b-day gifts & pies in the face

By Alex Myers

Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we are really impressed by Jason Collins. It takes a lot of guts to do what he did. A finely-tuned professional athlete coming out and admitting he's a bad golfer? Well done. Ohhh, that wasn't the big announcement? He also did what?! Wow. Good for him and hopefully others will follow. And great job by him to pay tribute to a cause close to his heart by wearing the No. 98. We just hope he doesn't think that's the type of score he should settle for on the golf course. After all, the NBA's off-season coincides perfectly with the golf season in most of this country. Jason, get to work!

WE'RE BUYING

Billy Horschel. We saw this one coming when we plugged him into our lineup last week. Then again, didn't everyone? It seemed like Horschel was going to keep playing every week until he finally got his first PGA Tour win. A Sunday 64, including a dramatic 27-footer for birdie on the final hole, got it done. While the former college star probably felt this was a long time coming, he pleasantly reminded us that you don't have to take a long time to hit a shot to be a good golfer.

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We'd hoot and holler like we just won a million bucks, too, if we just won a million bucks.

Tianlang Guan. For a second time this month, this 14-year-old phenom teed it up at a PGA Tour event and for a second time, he made the cut. To put this accomplishment in perspective, keep in mind Tiger Woods didn't make a PGA Tour cut until he was 19 and in his eighth try at the 1995 Masters.

Related: Golfers who play fast

Inbee Park. Or should we just start calling the No. 1 player in women's golf "Winbee"?

WE'RE SELLING

PGA Tour drug testing. Greg Norman ripped the PGA Tour's drug testing policy, pointing out that the Vijay Singh situation could just be the tip of the iceberg. While we agree the PGA Tour has been lax on this issue (there's no reason golf should lag behind other professional sports), we just wish it didn't come from Norman. Adam Scott's recent Masters win for Australia seems to have put Norman back in the spotlight -- and the Shark seems to be eating it up.

blog-michael-jordan-wife-0430.jpgPGA Tour weather. From fog to snow, we've seen every possible type of delay in the book this year. But a lightning delay with the two contenders -- one of whom has been agonizingly close to getting his first tour win of late -- in the middle of the FINAL hole of regulation? C'mon, Mother Nature. That's just cruel.

Michael Jordan. We love MJ's passion for the game, but a wedding reception on a golf course? On a Saturday? How are the members of the Bear's Club supposed to keep their games sharp? Oh right, they all probably just played at one of their other clubs over the weekend. However, we are NOT selling Yvette Prieto, Jordan's new wife. In addition to being beautiful, she even puts up with sitting through Charlotte Bobcats games with the team owner (above).

ON TAP

Speaking of Charlotte, the PGA Tour heads there for the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow. Unfortunately, a couple of the course's greens had to undergo emergency replacement recently. This means the pros might actually have to play a couple less-than-perfect greens for the first time in years. What an OUTRAGE!

Related: The top 10 players without a major

Random tournament fact: This is the only event in which Tiger Woods has missed the cut twice as a pro. In semi-related news, Tiger Woods isn't playing this week.

WEEKLY YAHOO! FANTASY LINEUP

Why were we such big fans of Horschel's win in New Orleans? A. We had him in our lineup last week; B. We pegged him as one of our Sleeper Picks heading into this season and highlighted him as the guy on the list with the most potential. Man, do we look smart now. . .

Starters -- (A-List): Bill Haas. The 2011 FedEx Cup champ played his college golf up the road at Wake Forest University and has a pair of T-4s on this course.

(B-List): Webb Simpson. Another Demon Deacon with a good track record here, Simpson lives in Charlotte. He'll get to feel what it's like to commute to work for a week and should have plenty of crowd support.

(B-List): Lucas Glover. The 54-hole leader in New Orleans is familiar with being in contention at Quail Hollow as well. He won here in 2011 and was a runner-up in 2009.

(C-List): Lee Westwood. The former World No. 1 finally got the hang of this track last year with a T-5 (68-66 over the weekend) and seems to be hitting his stride with back-to-back top 10s. We also liked his hungover report on Twitter following his 40th birthday celebration.

Bench -- Rory McIlroy (2010 champ), Zach Johnson, John Senden, Rickie Fowler (2012 champ).

VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK

Geoff Shackelford's headline says it all: "Oosthuizen's 500-yard, 120-second cart path drive." As if these guys needed any help with distance.

RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK

-- Phil Mickelson will conduct a 10-minute interview/lecture on Quail Hollow's two make-shift greens and the different types of Bermuda grass: 2-to-1 odds

-- Tianlang Guan has a lot of homework to catch up on: LOCK

-- Michael Jordan will find a way to play golf while on his honeymoon: LOCK

THIS WEEK IN DUSTIN JOHNSON-PAULINA GRETZKY PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION

Paulina tweeted this photo to DJ and he retweeted it. Teamwork!

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THIS WEEK IN RORY MCILROY-CAROLINE WOZNIACKI PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION

Via Twitter: "Got these awesome early birthday presents last night from @CaroWozniacki! #lucky" Apparently, Rory loves him some Louis Vuitton.

blog-rory-mcilroy-gift-0430.jpg

THIS WEEK IN TIGER WOODS-LINDSEY VONN DISPLAYS OF PUBLIC AFFECTION

(. . . )

THIS AND THAT

blog-evan-longoria-0430.jpgA 12-year-old will play in this week's China Open,, breaking the European Tour record. Two questions: Why isn't Guan playing in this and is this kid his younger brother? . . . Muirfield was lengthened for this year's Open championship. Why? Because every course HAS to be lengthened before it hosts a major again. . . . Brad Faxon gave Jeff Sluman a vicious pie in the face after the two teamed up to win last week's Legends of Golf event on the Champions Tour (Unfortunately, there's no picture. Hence, the photo of Evan Longoria giving the treatment to a Rays teammate). It's one thing for younger guys to do this, but the over-50 crowd? We're just glad no one involved was hurt. . . .

RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER

When will a professional male golfer come out as gay?

Is this Dumb and Dumber sequel really going to happen?

What did Tiger get Michael and Yvette as a wedding gift?

-- Alex Myers is an Associate Editor for GolfDigest.com. Feel free to email him and please follow him on Twitter since he has self-esteem issues.

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Gear & Equipment

Bushnell Golf's Wingman Pack for a worthy cause

Bushnell Wingman Pack.jpg

By John Strege

Are you in the market for a laser rangefinder and want to support a worthy cause in the process? Bushnell Golf is offering the Tour Z6 Wingman Pack and is donating a portion of the proceeds to the Folds of Honor Foundation.

The Wingman Pack includes Bushnell's Tour Z6 laser rangefinder, the smallest and most technologically-advanced in its laser line. It includes the company's E.S.P. (extreme, speed, precision) technology. Also included in the Wingman Pack is a carrying case and battery, as well as a Bushnell Golf/Folds of Honor Foundation embroidered microfiber towel.

The Wingman Pack retails for $399 and is available at a variety of golf stores.

Major Dan Rooney, a former F-16 pilot and a PGA of America professional, founded the Folds of Honor Foundation to provide scholarships to the spouses and children of military service members killed or disabled.


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News & Tours

NCAA fills out women's D-I regional fields

By Ryan Herrington

Defending NCAA champion Alabama, Pac-12 champion USC and ACC champion Duke earned the three top seeds when the NCAA Division I women’s golf committee announced the 72 teams and 18 individuals to play in the three regional tournaments May 9-11.

The top eight teams from each regional, and the two individuals with the lowest scores not on those teams, advance to the NCAA Championship at the University of Georgia GC in Athens, Ga., May 21-24.
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News & Tours

Trending: Jason Collins comes out... as a bad golfer

By Derek Evers

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Jason Collins will forever have a permanent place in the annals of sports history thanks to his Sports Illustrated cover story where he came out as the first openly gay male athlete in one of America's "big four" sports. While the occasion has been marked with an outpouring of support, both in the physical and virtual worlds, it should be noted that his first remarks on this momentous day were not about his sexuality, but about his golf game -- on Twitter at least.

Yes, the SEO Gods were with us when his first tweet since the cover story hit newsstands was about how he broke 100 playing a round yesterday, even dropping a birdie. Jason should be commended for both his courage and his game, and if anyone should ask you what he was thinking on the day the news broke, you can now say at least one of his thoughts was about golf. 

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Celebrity

Michael Jordan's wedding reception held on Jack Nicklaus' golf course

By Alex Myers

How much does Michael Jordan love golf? He couldn't even tear himself away from the course for his own wedding weekend.

Related: 10 Rules For Competing From Michael Jordan

Actually, with upwards of 2,000 guests, a golf course was a logical choice, especially one located in the NBA legend's backyard. On Saturday, Jordan wed longtime girlfriend Yvette Prieto and the reception was held at the Bear's Club, a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf club and community in Jupiter, Fla.

According to JeffRealty.com, Jordan's wedding tent was 40,000 square feet -- 5,000 bigger than his mansion, which looks to be located about a solid 3-wood away from where the reception was held in the picture below.

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The realty company called it the "largest tent in wedding history," so you can add another line to the competitive Jordan's career accomplishments.

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Reported guests included Tiger Woods, Patrick Ewing, Spike Lee and Ahmad Rashad. The music entertainment was as impressive with Usher, Robin Thicke, K'Jon, DJ MC Lyte and The Source all performing.

Related: Golf Digest goes behind-the-scenes with Jordan

Nicklaus granted Jordan permission to have the celebration on the course's driving range. We're just wondering if Jordan and Woods were able to sneak out to hit a small bucket.

Photos courtesy of Jeff Lichtenstein, who markets homes in Jupiter and Palm Beach real estate for sale.

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July 28, 2014

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