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Singh: Ruthless and immoral, or simply careless?

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Vijay Singh should be remembered as one of golf’s most successful late bloomers, with 22 of his 34 PGA Tour wins taking place in the decade since he turned the big four-oh. He should be honored for his 26 second-place finishes, 17 third-place finishes and the more than $67 million he’s earned on Tour. He should also get a place next to Ben Hogan on the Mount Rushmore of golf as one of the all-time range warriors.

Instead, the last lines of his legacy may end up reading the same as his early entries: cheater.

A recent Sports Illustrated story exposed a small sports supplement company that had been marketing a spray containing IGF-1, a growth hormone-like substance that is banned by every major sports league, including the Tour. The story named several prominent athletes as clients, including Singh. Like most of the athletes who are caught using, he claimed that he did not know the product, which is derived from deer antlers, contained a banned substance. To his credit, Singh has admitted his use of the product and is complying with Tour officials as they investigate they situation.

“I am absolutely shocked that deer-antler spray may contain a banned substance and am angry that I have put myself in this position. I have been in contact with the PGA Tour and am cooperating fully with their review of this matter. I will not be commenting further at this time,” said Singh in a written statement.

Tour officials will want to know how long he has been using the product and what else he may have been using before determining what action to take — including a possible suspension, a decision that could ultimately cost Singh millions in endorsements and prize money. In the meantime, Singh has withdrawn from the latest Tour stop, the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Ariz.

It’s not a stretch to say that Singh is one of the least popular players on the Tour, so it’s no surprise that he isn’t getting much support from his peers.

‘‘It’s sad that people live and die by their sport and they have to, I guess, cheat and go around it and try to better themselves with deer-antler spray,’’ Bubba Watson told reporters in Scottsdale. ‘‘I’m not just going to take something and ask questions later. I’m not going to take deer-antler spray and find out what it is later. I think we should check them for mental problems if they’re taking deer-antler spray. That’s kind of weird.’’

Tour veteran Mark O’Meara went on record calling for Singh to be suspended.

“Probably he should be suspended for a couple of months, and I don’t know what the PGA Tour Commissioner is thinking, but people have had to pay the price before and he should be no different,” O’Meara told reporters.

Like Tiger Woods, Singh doesn’t have an easy smile or a “aw shucks” way of talking to the press or the fans. On the contrary, he seems to go out of his way to alienate, aggravate or intimidate anyone around him that he doesn’t feel the necessity to connect to, which is barely anyone.  Once after a practice session, I asked him if I could get five seconds for a couple of questions. He looked me over, raised and eyebrow and said, “I’ll give you three.”

A lifetime of being crunchy and obtuse leaves Singh ill-equipped for the public relations storm that he will have to navigate over the coming months or even years. Through his many accomplishments, Singh had managed to bury the stigma of allegations of improving his lie and altering his scorecard while on the Asian Tour during the 80s. He also managed to distance himself from the disparaging remarks he made about Annika Sorenstam’s historic appearance on the men’s tour.

But this time, it will be harder to avoid a lasting scar. Singh finds himself now categorized in a group that includes Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez. They’re all considered cheaters, guys who would do anything to obtain and maintain excellence. They all have stellar career records that are now regarded as counterfeit, even the portion of their achievements that came before they began using PEDs.

Bubba Watson has a point; you’d have to be almost crazy to check for the banned ingredients and not see them on the list. I found the ingredient in just a casual search of the Tour drug policy guide. It leads the skeptic to think three things.

  1.  Singh believed that he was getting a product that would help his aging body stay young.
  2. He had faith that the product would achieve that because it contained a substance that is banned precisely because it did just that.
  3. Like every other steroid peddler, the deer antler spray guys likely told Singh that it was untraceable. It seems like a hard line to take, but that has been the path that virtually every other performance enhancing drug case in every other sport has taken.

The PGA Tour is probably as ill-equipped for this situation as Singh. While they do in fact have a detailed policy, they have little practical experience with how to handle a positive test or an admission of guilt like Singh’s. Indeed, since testing began in 2008, only one player, Doug Barron, has tested positive and subsequently been suspended.

Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem would be well served to give MLB Commissioner Bud Selig a call. Selig knows all too well the perils along this path. As the guardian of his sport, Finchem may be tempted to gloss over, minimize or even cover up elements of the story out of a desire to keep the sport out of the negative spotlight. Such actions proved folly for baseball. When every owner and every player knew there was a problem in the sport, instead of confronting the issue they chose collective silence as a course of action. It proved to be a disastrous decision, rendering a generation of its greatest stars irrelevant to the overarching history of the game.

As the Tour determines what to do in the case of Singh, officials should keep in mind that baseball and golf are similar in that their histories are just as important as their present. The ability to draw a line of comparison from Tom Morris to Tom Watson to Bubba Watson is essential to the appreciation of the ancient game. While most have come to grips with the effect that equipment technology has had on the game, there will likely be no tolerance for game improvement via illegal supplements.

For Vijay Singh, the coming days will determine whether he will be perceived as ruthless and immoral, or simply careless and gullible. For the sport, the challenge will be to respond to this incident in a way that prevents an isolated spot from becoming a lasting stain.

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. John Fugazzi

    Mar 12, 2013 at 2:19 am

    One sided, lop sided, and short sighted. Vijay Singh probably was an naive idiot for actually hearing and trying some herbal remedy. Shady players have personal shoppers who buy things like this for them to “give a try.”

  2. Screamin'

    Feb 6, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    I seriously doubt that deer antler spray is the reason for his success after 40.

  3. Red

    Feb 6, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned…always a nice catalyst for rip-job article

  4. Anthony D'Cruz

    Feb 5, 2013 at 8:52 am

    It appears that Vijay is not very popular. Can you imagine what would have happened to him had he stolen a cm or two on the putting green and sank the putt for a win? What if he had declared it was an ‘honest mistake’? Would he have been let off? I’m afraid the poor man’s already been found guilty before the hearing.

  5. Harbaugh

    Feb 3, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Bubba kicking a man while he is down and being applauded for it – what on earth???

  6. Tony

    Feb 3, 2013 at 10:49 am

    I find this article fails in providing an objective view i.e. it is charged with bias. Leave your hurt feelings and opinions at the door if you claim to be a jouurnalist. Epic fail.

  7. Eric Evans

    Feb 2, 2013 at 10:15 am

    This does not surprise me one bit about Vijay considering how much of an a$$ he is.

  8. Troy Vayanos

    Feb 1, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    I couldn’t imagine Vijay Singh ever taking a banned substance to gain an advantage over his opponents. I’m still not sure how this would help in golf anyway.

    The only substance that would benefit in golf would be beta-blockers which are banned anyway.

    I’m be interested to follow this story and see how it turns out.

  9. Mac

    Feb 1, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    its a bunch of b.s. when he says that he didnt know it contained the substance, he obviously knew that it would help with anti-aging to stay in the PGA for as long as he could, but to end like this? Terrible choice, v.j. terrible choice.

  10. Bill's an idiot**

    Feb 1, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Too*

  11. clay smith

    Feb 1, 2013 at 7:58 am

    Although the article nails him in his attitude and how people feel about him, (seen him up close at a tournament), why would he tell a national magazine reporter he was using it if he was hiding it? What’s funny is most of these (over the counter) products are bogus, make bogus claims, and don’t do what they say. Plecebo effect. I think he should be tested to see if he has any IGH-1 in his system, I bet he doesn’t, and then assess a punishment if necessary. Maybe a slap on the hand for not ‘checking’ on the ingredients.

  12. Blanco

    Feb 1, 2013 at 2:22 am

    From what I know about the deer antler, it’s been used in the past by many a high-profile PGA tour player, all of whom are not mentioned in this article… there is also no discussion of what may have led Singh to use it. I also understand that it gives the body a larger dose of one of its naturally occurring chemicals that aids in recovery from injury (as opposed to something that provide a competitive advantage over healthy golfers), ala the Toradol injections used by hundreds of NFL players before every game… This is the extent of what I understand yet I realize there is more to it of course.

    Just as the PGA goes out of its way to be vague and “obtuse” in dealing with rules violations, the author and GolfWRX continues to puzzle me with articles like this. I look to the front page for golf journalism, and the forums for opinion. Most of the writers on Golfwrx write in a journalistic manner and when opinion pieces are written, the “opinion” is clearly understood by reading the article’s title. “Singh: “R”uthless and immoral, or simply careless?” leads me to think I’ll hear at least two sides to this story.

    Instead, I’ve just wasted two minutes on a purple anti-Vijay tabloid piece. If Williams considers himself a journalist, he has again compromised his integrity by revealing his personal distaste for Vijay (and Tiger Woods conveniently) and giving zero voice to the contrary of Mark O’Meara and Bubba Watson of which there is plenty. In fact, I’ve read a few articles published in respected news outlets where the “least popular player on the PGA tour” stigma has been accurately painted as a media-born concept and holds no weight in reality.

  13. DH2

    Feb 1, 2013 at 12:51 am

    He is a selfish person who doesn’t care about others. I pulled some major strings for him and no gratitude was given back. I work for a major Hotel in Denver and called in a favor to a trainer at an exclusive athletic club. Vijay got to have the weight room to himself for half an hour each day for a week. Vijay and his trainer did not thank me or give me a gratuity for my efforts. I hope the tour suspends him.

  14. Gibby

    Jan 31, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Once a cheater, always a cheater. Remember the hat he wore that said “Tiger Who”

    Well soon it will be “Vijay Who” He will always be remembered as a cheater who treated everyone around him like crap!

  15. LBW

    Jan 31, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    VIJAY IS AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN A PERSON THAT PUSHES THE RULES TO THE POINT OF CHEATING

  16. MaxW

    Jan 31, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    Vijay strikes me as an intelligent guy; irascible and a curmudgeon, and definitely not careless and gullible. He knows you play the game of golf by the rules. He knows there are banned substances. He knows one phone call to the PGA tour would determine if the product and/or substance was banned or not. Just like on the course he can ask a rules official about a rules situation or not. He did not ask the Tour about the product/substance and now he should pay the penalty.

  17. naflack

    Jan 31, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    It doesn’t surprise me considering who his trainer is…

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Opinion & Analysis

WATCH: How to Pull a Shaft from a Composite Club Head

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Composite club heads are increasing in popularity with golfers thanks to their technological and material advantages. For that reason, it’s important to know how to pull shafts from composite club heads without damaging them. This video is a quick step-by-step guide that explains how to safely pull a shaft from a composite club head.

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10 Years Later: Why the assistant coach has made college golf better

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It’s been 10 years since the NCCA Legislation began allowing assistant golf coaches to perform on-course coaching in college events. Today, 94 percent of the top-100 men’s golf teams have assistant coaches, and the coaching pool is stronger than ever, with individuals such as Jean Paul Hebert (Texas), Jake Amos (South Carolina), John Handrigan (Florida), Robert Duck (Florida State), Donnie Darr (Oklahoma State), John Mills (Kent State), Garrett Runion (LSU), Zach Barlow (Illinois), Bob Heinz (Duke), and 2017 Assistant Coach of the Year from Baylor, Ryan Blagg. The list includes a guy with 20+ PGA Tour experience (Bob Heinz), several former college standouts and some National Championship wins (Jean Paul Hebert – 1, Runion – 2, Amos – 2).

In the 10 years since the expanded role of the assistant golf coach, the National Championship has still been dominated by major conference schools, with only three non-major conference schools earning a spot in match play (Kent State 2012, and Augusta State in 2010, 2011). Of course, Augusta State went on to win both of its appearances in match play, earning back-to-back national championships under Coach Josh Gregory.

One of best examples of the success of assistant golf coaches is Chris Malloy at Ole Miss. Malloy, a graduate of Ole Miss, began his coaching career as the women’s assistant golf coach at Florida State. Shortly after, he was working with both programs and had an immediate impact, which included helping the men win their first ever ACC championship. Shortly after, Chris took over as the men’s golf coach at University of South Florida, transforming the team into a National Contender and a top-30 ranking. Today, at Ole Miss, Chris has done the same thing, transforming a team and a culture in three years, earning a spot in the 2017 NCAA National Championship at Rich Harvest Farms.

Although to date, mid-major teams have not fared consistently on the national level. The system of assistant coaches has proven to be an excellent tool in broadening the pool of candidates. Last year’s National Championship featured six mid-major schools with half being wily veterans, and half being a product of the assistant coach route; Michael Beard of Pepperdine served as the assistant at Arizona State; Bryce Waller of University of Central Florida served as the assistant at the University of Tennessee; Bryant Odem of Kennesaw State served as the assistant at the University of Wisconsin. It will also feature teams like Oklahoma State, Baylor, Virginia, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Purdue, which have coaches who have benefited from their experience as assistant coaches in their roles with these programs.

Practice Facility at the University of Central Florida

Practice Facility at the University of Central Florida

The pool of candidates for coaching positions today is deeper than ever. Athletic Directors are blessed to be able to interview several good candidates for almost each job. The result for the players are fully engaged coaches who bring passion and desire to improve each of their programs.

Bowen Sargent, the current head coach at University of Virginia and former assistant coach at the University of Tennessee under Jim Kelson, started coaching when the rules only allowed one coach. In the 10 years since the rule change, Bowen believes “it’s a positive change for sure. Having two coaches allows for a better student-athlete experience and for them to have more access to their coaches.”

Coach Bowen Sargent of UVA, along with former players Denny McCarthy and Derek Bard at the US Open

Coach Bowen Sargent of UVA, along with former players Denny McCarthy and Derek Bard at the U.S. Open

The diversity among coaches is also greater. Today’s juniors have the option to play for a skillful player such as a Mike Small at Illinois or Casey Martin at Oregon, or Doug Martin at Cincinnati, or even a world class instructor like Bryce Waller at UCF, Ben Pellicani at Limpscomb or Casey Van Dame at North Dakota State. Waller, an excellent instructor himself, has lead UCF to three National Championship appearance in 7 years. Likewise, Ben, a Golf Digest top-40 under-40 instructor who spent several years learning from Mike Bender has been instrumental in transforming Limpscomb into a national contender, participating in their first ever National Championship in 2017. Lastly, Casey who spent several years under Jim Mclean, then as the assistant at University of Tennessee, has transformed North Dakota State Men’s and Women’s Golf, with both teams currently ranked in the top-100 in the country.

Ben Pellicanni of Limpscomb University helping to read a putt

Ben Pellicanni of Limpscomb University helping to read a putt

Athletic Directors are also starting to put more funding towards golf resources. The result has been an explosion of golf-specific training facilities across the scope of college golf. Many mid-major schools have top-notch practice facilities, including places such as University of North Texas, University of Richmond, University of Central Arkansas and Illinois State to name a few.

Golf facility at the University of Central Arkansas

Golf facility at the University of Central Arkansas

The tremendous pool of coaching candidates has also benefited other levels of golf. For example, 2014 Assistant Coach of the Year Chris Hill is now the head men’s and women’s golf coach at Concordia University, a Division 3 School near Austin, Texas. In his two years as coach, he has already lead the program to seven tournament titles.

As time passed, I believe that we will see a change at the NCAA Championship and it will include a growing trend towards mid-major universities not only earning spots at the National Championships, but having success like Augusta State. The person at the head of one of those programs is likely to have come from the assistant coach ranks and should be thankful for the rule change, which lead to these opportunities.

Please note: As of writing this article, only 6 men’s teams in D1 do not have assistant coaches. They are UTEP (51), McNeese (84), Nevada (88), Richmond (89), Cincinnati (92) and Tennessee at Chattanooga (96).

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Fantasy Preview: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

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The West Coast Swing kicks off this week with the CareerBuilder Challenge in Southern California. Last year, Hudson Swafford survived the difficult weather conditions and prevailed to win the event by one shot at 20-under par, one stroke ahead of Canadian Adam Hadwin who shot a 59 in the third round.

For fantasy players and gamblers, the CareerBuilder Challenge is one of the most frustrating events of the year. The event is played over three courses… and only one provides Shotlink. That is the PGA West Stadium Course, which will host two of the four rounds. Along with the frustration of not knowing how your picks are faring on each hole, there is also the added frustration of only having stats available from one course, which makes things tricky in identifying the key categories for scoring on the other two.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Jon Rahm 10/1
  • Brian Harman 14/1
  • Patrick Reed 18/1
  • Webb Simpson 18/1
  • Kevin Kisner 20/1
  • Phil Mickelson 22/1
  • Zach Johnson 28/1

The best player in the field by some distance is Jon Rahm. The Spaniard has had a phenomenal rise since holing an improbable monster eagle putt to win The Farmers Insurance 12 months ago. He’s added two big wins on the European Tour since then, and he’s now No. 3 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Odds of 10/1 are certainly attractive, and if he plays his best or near to it then he’ll win the tournament. But the CareerBuilder Challenge is an event in which his immense driving ability will be nullified slightly; you can’t simply grip it and rip it. Instead, placement in the correct portion of the fairways offering the best angle of attack on the many short par 4’s is often the key here. Last year, Rahm managed a modest T34. At 10/1 he’s likely to be the most popular DraftKings pick, but I feel there may be better value down the line with Rahm — particularly on courses where he can showcase his dominant driving.

As I noted, hunting the value in this event is not an easy task. Fan favorite Phil Mickelson (22/1, DK Price $10,000) offers appeal at a time of year where he seems to always play well. Over the last three years, Mickelson has finished inside the top-25 each time. His best performance came in 2016 when he finished T3. Likely to have plenty of scoring clubs in hand from the fairway, Mickelson’s precise iron play should pay dividends this week. Last season, he finished 14th in Strokes Gained Approaching the Green. Through eight rounds in this new season he sits T2. In his last 10 rounds, he has averaged positive numbers on all the key statistics (Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, Off the Tee, Approaching the Green, Around the Green and Putting), which suggests his game is in very solid shape. After the media attention surrounding his split from long-term caddy Jim Mackay, I expect a doubly determined Phil Mickelson this year.

Kevin Na (80/1, DK Price $7,400) has had a disappointing 10 months on the golf course. Despite his lack of scoring, his statistics are indicating that he still has the game. Kevin enjoyed a brilliant stretch before 2017,  where he seemed to always be there or thereabouts on the leaderboard. But his inconsistent results of late have driven his price back to where I consider it value for a quality player. Kevin Na’s iron play is lethal, and on a course that demands aggressive approaches to the green he should be able to give himself lots of looks for birdie. In his last 12 rounds, Na sits second in this field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green. This should come as no surprise; in 2017, he finished 8th in the statistic for the season. His course form is solid if not spectacular, a T3 in 2016 being the highlight. He missed the cut at the Sony Open last week, but it’s not something I’d be overly concerned about. It came down to a brutal two days on the greens, where he dropped 7.6 strokes to the field.

At the same price and in the same mold in terms of a disappointing 2017, Scott Piercy (80/1, DK Price $7,400) looks like a value play. Piercy suffered injuries last season that caused a disruptive and frustrating season for him. But the three-time PGA Tour winner is showing signs of turning things around in this wraparound season. He recorded a top-20 at the Safeway Open back in October, and last week at the Sony Open he played well. He finished T25 despite dropping 4.4 strokes to the field on the greens for the four days. Piercy is seventh in this field for his last 12 rounds for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green; he sits 9th in ball striking over the same period. The main concern is his putting. He does struggle with the flatstick at times, but on these pure greens he may be able to give himself enough chances to improve on last year’s performance where he finished T41.

It is worth a reminder that this is an event where there are three days of action before there is a cut, and I certainly feel that it’s worth adding an extra long shot to your DraftKings teams as an extra round opens a lot of possibilities. My long shot for the week is Hunter Mahan (300/1, DK Price $6,800). Mahan’s drop from the top echelons of the game is a reminder of how quickly it can all fall apart… but Mahan’s story might be turning around. He had his best stretch in some time at the back end of last year, where he managed to put a run of three-consecutive top-20 finishes together. He holds a positive Strokes Gained Total of 4.2 over his last 5 events, particularly showing promise off the tee and on the greens. At his price, there’s not much to lose in hoping Hunter can put together four rounds like he did at the back end of last year.

Recommended Plays

  • Phil Mickelson 22/1, DK Price $10,000
  • Kevin Na 80/1, DK Price $7,400
  • Scott Piercy 80/1, DK Price $7,400
  • Hunter Mahan 300/1, DK Price $6,800
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