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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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:
It's okay, Kip. The tickets were for your wife, right?
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.
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!
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.
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.
Inbee Park. Or should we just start calling the No. 1 player in women's golf "Winbee"?
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.
PGA 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).
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!
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.
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!
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.
THIS WEEK IN TIGER WOODS-LINDSEY VONN DISPLAYS OF PUBLIC AFFECTION
(. . . )
THIS AND THAT
A 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?
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.
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.
The realty company called it the "largest tent in wedding history," so you can add another line to the competitive Jordan's career accomplishments.
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.
Summit View GC in rural Grant-Valkaria, Fla., (pop. 3,850) is totally overgrown today, but the memories are still vivid for Billy Horschel Sr. This 2,611-yard, par-58 is where his son grew up playing golf, back when Senior was a foreman for a local construction company, and before that part of a crew that put up dry wall and framing.
At his brother-in-law's home yesterday, Horschel watched his son win his first PGA Tour event with wife, Kathy, and four other family members. What did they do to celebrate Billy Horschel's victory in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans? "We all jumped into the swimming pool because we knew Billy couldn't with all those gators [in the ponds at the TPC Louisiana]. We jumped in clothes and all, shoes and everything. Then we broke out the champagne."
Golf's breakout star of 2013 couldn't have come from a more blue-collar background. With a win, a T-2, a T-3 and a T-9 in his last four starts, Horschel, 26, has moved to third behind Tiger Woods and Brandt Snedeker in the FedEx Cup standings and has qualified for the Players and next year's Masters. He is also the PGA Tour's most consistent player, having made 23 straight cuts. That's quite a leap considering he started the 2012 season without fully exempt status on the PGA Tour.
"I'm proud of where I came from," Horschel said from his car on the way to a night of celebrating in the Big Easy. "There are people back home who helped me out from the time I was a little kid to get me where I am now. Some people are still there, some have passed away, but they all know who they are."
Billy Horschel Sr., now 61, is at the top of the list. The story goes that before Horschel was allowed to play Summit View, his father made him hit a golf ball over their house. When Billy played baseball, his father was the coach. When I asked where Billy Jr. got his competitive toughness, there was never any hesitation from his dad.
"Probably from me," he said after his son shot 64 and birdied the 72nd hole to win by one. "I was always tough on him, but the Horschel family was always competitive. Between myself and Buddy Alexander, we molded him into what he is today."
Alexander, the University of Florida coach, told me he passed on a recruit who was a better player, "because something in Billy stood out with me." Part of that was the toughness, part of it the golf IQ. As a freshman he was an All-American. As a sophomore in 2007, he played on the same Walker Cup team as Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Kyle Stanley and Webb Simpson. When he beat Rory McIlroy in singles at Royal County Down, Horschel didn't consider it an upset.
"If you ask Billy, he'd say he was the equal of Rickie Fowler in college," Alexander said.
Billy Horschel was in a good place last week, gastronomically and attitudinally, which brings up the old New Orleans question: Which came first, the Chicken Clemenceau or the Eggs Sardu?
There was the Acme Oyster House Thursday night ("unbelievable food," he wrote on Twitter), Desi Vega's Steakhouse Friday night ("one of the best steak places in NOLA") and Impastato's Saturday night ("the best Italian restaurant in NOLA").
Food presumably always tastes better when you're playing well, and the way Horschel has been playing, he could have dined at Popeye's Louisiana Chicken every night and compared it favorably to Emeril's.
Horschel, who was stamped with stardom leaving college, a three-time first-team All-American at Florida, is at 26 beginning to live up to his potential. He won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in dramatic fashion, holing a 27-foot birdie putt on the 18th green following an hour weather delay.
So, his last four starts look like this: ties for second, third and ninth and his first PGA Tour victory. He has five top 10s in 2013, tying him for the tour lead.
It is telling that he closed with an eight-under par 64, the best round of the day for a player who had been ranked 108th on the PGA Tour in final-round scoring average (71.55). A year ago, he was ranked 138th.
He is, by his own definition, and evident to anyone watching, high strung, not a personality trait conducive to the withering heat of a Sunday in contention. Again by his own definition, he also is a perfectionist, playing a sport renowned for exposing imperfections.
Yet on this particular Sunday, he had a stretch of six consecutive birdies that thrust him into the lead. He kept his composure when a bogey at 15 momentarily dropped him into a tie with D.A. Point and he rebounded with a birdie at 16.
Then came the 18th and the horn sounding after he'd hit his tee shot. He had an hour to burn, or fret, sitting on a one-stroke lead, and when play resumed he hit two indifferent shots, the lay-up and the approach.
The final-round demons might have been laid to rest when his long birdie putt was dead in the center, the culmination of a long, trying journey. In 2010, a wrist injury that required surgery ended his rookie season in March. He went to the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament four straight years, which doesn't reflect the resume he brought to professional golf.
Horschel was the medalist at the 2006 U.S. Amateur, shooting a 60 in the first round of medal play. He played on the U.S. Walker Cup team in 2007. He finished seventh in his first PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament in 2009.
Now, finally, he's a PGA Tour winner. It is not known with what kind of meal he intends to celebrate, but suffice it to say it will be, as Mark Twain once said of New Orleans cuisine, as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin. Bon appetit, Billy.
Former PGA Tour and Champions Tour player Al Geiberger has a tax issue, but he said that's not the reason he auctioned off much of his memorabilia, including the clubs with which he recorded the first 59 in PGA Tour history.
Geiberger, 75, said that his Champions Tour pension, an annuity on which he began collecting at age 65, expired at age 75 and that his PGA Tour pension pays "a whopping $128 a month."
Bidding, conducted through Green Jacket Auctions, closed on the Geiberger Collection on Saturday night, earning him nearly $130,000, including $54,754 for the Wanamaker Trophy he received for winning the PGA Championship in 1966 and $10,832 for the clubs from his round of 59.
"No, not that's not the reason," he said about selling his collection. "We've been handling that with Bernie Gartland [of the Gartland Group, tax attorneys]. We settled with the IRS, but the state is ridiculous to work with. Bernie's been working with them."
He sold the memorabilia to generate cash to augment his retirement income. "I didn't make any retirement on the regular tour," he said. "The senior tour is where I built up some, but the annuity ends in 10 years."
The memorabilia, at any rate, had been locked away in a storage facility near his home in Palm Desert, Calif. "We've actually been in touch with Al for the last couple of years," Ryan Carey, president of Green Jacket Auctions, said. "We'd known he has been interested in selling his collection. It's been sitting in a storage locker for several years. He knew he wasn't really appreciating it."
The original World Golf Hall of Fame, then in Pinehurst, N.C., wanted the clubs he used in shooting 59 in the second round of the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic in 1977. "But I was still playing with them," he said. Instead, he sent the ball, a Hogan model that he used for all 18 holes, which has turned up missing, he said.
His auction take, incidentally ($129,983, to be exact), was more than he earned in all but two seasons in his PGA Tour career. In 1975 and '76, he earned $176,000 and $195,000 respectively.
When Jack Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters at age 46, we know it was for his sixth green jacket. What we don't know -- or at least can't seem to agree upon -- is whether the win was Nicklaus' 18th or 20th in a major championship.
The gray area has to do with whether you count Nicklaus' two wins in the U.S. Amateur as a major, an argument that has even greater relevance these days since Tiger Woods has three U.S. Am wins of his own (putting his career major total at either 14 or 17 depending on your definition).
So should the Amateur be considered a major, counting as much as the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open, or the PGA Championship? Two of our writers, Ryan Herrington and Alex Myers, square off in one of golf's great debates.
COUNT IT AS A MAJOR
To apply the label of major championship to a golf tournament is a subjective task, but it is one that can be done using objective truths. A "major" is a tournament that has the mortar of history providing its foundation. It annually assembles the best available competitors, all of whom aspire to win the championship above most any other title. It provides a superior challenge inside the ropes, one that separates the sensational from the standard and identifies the best player for that week.
Set against these measures, the U.S. Amateur Championship wears the label of "major" quite well. For 112 years the USGA has given out the Havemeyer Trophy, longer than any U.S. organization has been naming a winner of any golf tournament. The names that appear on that hardware have defined the game for generations.
The event is taken to the country's best courses, set up under conditions as demanding as any event in the world. (I might remind you that it wasn't until the participants at the 2005 U.S. Amateur were sufficiently stymied by Merion GC did the USGA decide to bring another U.S. Open to the course). There isn't a golfer alive who is eligible to play who wouldn't accept a spot in the 310-player field and longingly hope to obtain the spoils of victory at week's end.
There is one thing that the U.S. Amateur doesn't have that the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship possess: professional golfers. Some will consider that a deficiency. For me, it's hardly a major problem.
Even the casual golf fan knows that Bobby Jones' "Grand Slam" in 1930 included the U.S. and British Amateurs. And while at the time those events were considered majors, guess what? Times change.
The U.S. Amateur remains a big event, but it doesn't have the prestige it once had and isn't nearly the stepping stone to a golfer's career it once was. Unlike in the days of Jones, today's amateur events, even the pinnacle of the amateur golf calendar, cannot be compared to professional tournaments due to the obvious disparity in talent. The U.S. Amateur has a terrific field of talented prospects, but it consists mainly of American golfers who aren't old enough to drink yet.
Also, today's best amateurs don't stay amateurs for long, giving them only a small window to win the event. Yet for some reason, despite the wide gap in competition, keeping amateur and professional accomplishments separate is more of a sticking point in golf than in other sports. Take basketball, where Michael Jordan's six rings with the Chicago Bulls aren't grouped with the NCAA title he won at UNC.
And if we are to include the U.S. Amateur when counting a golfer's major championships, where do we draw the line? Wouldn't the British Amateur count as well since it did for Jones? If so, then congratulations, Sergio Garcia! You have won a major!
No, let's continue to count the professional majors separately, meaning Jack Nicklaus has 18, Tiger Woods has 14, Jones has seven and Garcia (sorry!) has zero. Keeping score in this game is hard enough as is.