Thursday, March 14, 2013
Singh, PGA Tour playing quiet game
By Bob Harig ESPN.com
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- This is awkward. Really awkward. And has the potential to get extremely awkward.
What if Vijay Singh wins this week's Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank?
Or what if he wins the Masters?
If Vijay Singh faces any disciplinary action from the PGA Tour, will either side admit to anything publicly?
Singh might be the first champion to get a green jacket without saying a word.
This is not to pick on Singh, who finds himself in a precarious position, already admitting to having potentially taken a substance that is banned under the PGA Tour's anti-doping policy but saying that he did not know the deer-antler spray he used might contain it.
That was at the beginning of February. Six weeks later, the process continues with no meaningful comment from either side -- this possible drug-policy cloud hanging over a Hall of Famer who recently turned 50 and ought to be enjoying the view.
Instead, he plays on, offering nothing more than the statement he gave back in February prior to the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Singh shot a 2-under-par 69 on Thursday at Innisbrook that put him in a tie for sixth and four strokes off Shawn Stefani's lead.
Singh would not even give a PGA Tour media official a few cursory comments about his round.
"No comment to you. No comment to anybody," were Singh's relayed words.
It would be great if he won the tournament and said the same thing.
It would be even better if he captured his fourth major championship at the Masters, becoming the oldest major champion in the game's long history.
TAMPA BAY CHAMPIONSHIP
• Defending champion: Luke Donald
• Experts' picks | FOREcaster
• Venue: Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club; par-71, 7,340 yards
• Location: Palm Harbor, Fla.
• TV coverage: Thu., Fri. 3-6 p.m. ET, Golf Channel; Sat., 1:30-3 p.m ET, Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m. ET, NBC; Sun. 1-3 p.m. ET, Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m. ET, NBC
• Dates: Thursday-Sunday
• Payout: 156-man field with winner earning $990,000 of $5.5 million purse
• Format: 72-hole stroke play with 36-hole cut to top 70 and ties
• Quick links: Money leaders | Schedule | World rankings
• Follow @ESPNGolf on Twitter
The situation is pathetic -- not helped by the tour's lack of transparency when it comes to anything having to do with discipline of players. Fines are never disclosed, wrist slaps never acknowledged. Slow play, swearing, club throwing the tour dishes out penalties but doesn't say to whom or for how much.
"Our process is continuing," PGA Tour vice president of communications and international affairs Ty Votaw said on Thursday.
In the case of the tour's drug testing policy, however, a positive test for performance-enhancing substances is to be disclosed and discipline announced. In Singh's case, he did not fail a drug test but rather conceded that he took a substance, deer-antler spray, that may or may not contain IGF-1, a banned substance that is similar to HGH.
The tour treats an admission the same as it would a failed drug test, but the question concerns whether or not the deer-antler spray Singh took contains the banned substance.
Presumably -- and there is no way to know for sure -- the tour is going through a process of testing the substance. It could have issued a penalty to Singh that he is appealing, or perhaps nothing has happened yet. The tour has only acknowledged that it is investigating.
Singh is permitted to play while the process drags on -- and to be fair, the tour's drug testing policy does have an appeal avenue that should not be dismissed -- but depending on the outcome, all of his results since he acknowledged taking the substance could be voided.
At the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Feb. 25, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was asked about the Singh situation, saying: "There's no time urgency here because if action is taken, it'll be reported. If no action is taken, it won't be reported, and that'll be the end of that. I'm not concerned about that.''
That suggests the situation could already be resolved. If they're not going to release anything, maybe it is done? Or, more likely, if the tour determines there was no violation in the coming weeks, it would actually take the extraordinary step of saying nothing? If so, doesn't it make this drug policy a farce?
After all, Singh admitted in a statement released through the tour that he took something that might be banned, and whether or not the deer-antler spray he took contains the substance in question, tour members were warned in 2011 about it. At the very least, some sort of penalty is due for that: an acknowledgement that an error was made.
If you're Singh, don't you shout to everyone who will hear it that you've been exonerated?
Maybe not. He's never been very talkative, even when he was ranked No. 1 in the world. He'd rather put his head down and continue to try and find his game in the dirt. And his disdain for the media is legendary.
So again what if he wins?