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Archive for January, 2013

Mickelson Barely Misses Magical 59

January 31st, 2013 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Phil Mickelson flirted with a course record 59 at TPC Scottsdale today at The Waste Management Phoenix Open and ended tying the course record with an eleven under par 60.  Phil came painfully close to the Holy Grail of 59 with this excruciatingly painful lip out on his final hole.   That’s Phil for you…always so painfully close.  Check out Phil’s caddie’s reaction at the 1:25 mark.  Bones couldn’t take it standing up.

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Vijay Singh Plays Dumb

January 31st, 2013 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Vijay Singh has released a statement saying that he was shocked that the deer antler spray was banned by the PGA Tour.

“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,” he said. “In fact, when I first swats-spray2received the product, I reviewed the list of ingredients and did not see any prohibited substances. 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.”

Unfortunately for Vijay, ignorance is no defense.  Singh’s admission is a blatant violation of the PGA Tour’s Drug Policy: “Other conduct may lead to the finding of a violation and sanctions under the program, including the possession, use or attempted use of a prohibited substance or method; refusing or failing to be tested; tampering with a sample; trafficking in or administering any prohibited substance; or admitting to any conduct that violates the program.”

It goes on to say that it is the player’s responsibility to know what he puts in his body: “It is each player’s personal duty to ensure that no prohibited substance enters his body. … Accordingly, it is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or knowing use on the player’s part be demonstrated in order to establish an anti-doping violation.”

It would appear that Singh would warrant punishment from the PGA Tour however back in 2011 Mark Calcavecchia wasn’t disciplined after he admitted use of the deer antler spray.  Calcavecchia was told to stop using the substance, he did and the matter was finished.

If Singh was concerned enough to check the list of ingredients on the label of the spray he could have taken a few clicks on his computer and checked out the S.W.A.T.S. website.  The front page is filled with publicity about their products.  And it appears that the company is proud of all the leagues prohibiting their products as they have story after story of such actions.  Included on that home page is Calcavecchia’s reprimand from the PGA Tour.

But in today’s environment and since players all would have seen the Calcavecchia incident maybe it’s time for different action.

If The PGA Tour is anything like the NFL or MLB there is a defined method of review for violations of the drug policy and Tim Finchem’s men are probably knee deep in that right now.  But the “admission” by Singh is a clear violation of the policy.

Singh is scheduled to play today at The Waste Management Phoenix Open and while the Tour may not have much time to act before his tee time today it could get pretty nasty out there, especially at the riotous 16th hole.

Reports had Singh leaving the practice range yesterday to get treatment for an ailing back.  It might be best for all right now if Singh withdraws and let this play out with him off the course and out of range of fifteen thousand drunk, screaming fans.

10:30am Update to this story:  Vijay Singh has withdrawn from the Waste Management Phoenix Open citing a back injury.

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Funniest Golf Video Ever

January 31st, 2013 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

This is one of the funniest golf videos ever.  Maybe it was a bit of “karma payback” for that maternity ward outfit of pink pants and blue shoes.  More likely it’s a result of combining too much alcohol with one big knucklehead.

Thanks to Golf Digest’s Alex Myers for the link.

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Vijay Singh Linked to Banned Drugs

January 30th, 2013 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Another week goes by and another story breaks on performance enhancing drugs in sports.  Has there been a recent story about A-Rod that doesn’t touch on his use of performance enhancing drugs?  This week, right in the middle of all the Super Bowl hype a Sports Illustrated article names All-Pro and future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis as a user of PED’s.  According to David’s Epstein’s article, Lewis used banned substances to recover from his torn triceps.

Accusations of PED use occurs in every sport from Lance Armstrong to A-Rod to high school athletes but this article names World Golf Hall of Fame member Vijay Singh as a user of PED’sSingh and a satisfied one at that.

The SI piece, by David Epstein and George Dohrmann, centers on Christopher Key and his company S.W.A.T.S, Sports with Alternative to Steroids, and his controversial products that are designed to improve performance and facilitate injury recovery.

Key offer products like frequency chips, negatively charged water, powders and a beam ray to help improve performance. Now that may sound like some weird science fiction hogwash but athletes are subscribing to these products.  The most popular item is his “Deer Antler Spray” used to stimulate muscle growth.  The spray contains IGF-1 which is banned by every sport.

HGH is converted in the liver to IGF-1, and it is the IGF-1 that helps the body build more muscle.

Key states that the IGF-1 is harvested from deer in New Zealand, whose antlers “are the fastest growing substance on earth.”  Users who spray it under their tongue can expect increased muscle growth.

The IGF-1 is only detectable through blood tests and undetectable in urine drug tests.  The PGA Tour only uses random urine tests to check their players.

Epstein has stated he had free reign at S.W.A.T.S. and actually saw the check from Vijay Singh.   From the SI article, “Vijay Singh, however, remains a vocal supporter. In November, Singh paid Ross $9,000 for the spray, chips, beam ray and powder additive — making him one of the few athletes who is compensating S.W.A.T.S. He says he uses the spray banned by the PGA “every couple of hours . . . every day,” sleeps with the beam ray on and has put chips on his ankles, waist and shoulders. “I’m looking forward to some change in my body,” Singh says. “It’s really hard to feel the difference if you’re only doing it for a couple of months.”

So far Singh hasn’t commented on the article but he is scheduled to play at The Waste Management Open this week and he is sure to be bombarded with questions concerning the quotes.

While there have been issues of drug use in the past, Mark Calcavecchia used the spray, Matt Every’s suspension for marijuana and Doug Barron’s ban for doctor prescribed beta blockers, the reputation of the PGA Tour differs from the NFL and MLB.  The Tour instituted random drug testing in response to the PED epidemic a few years ago but HGH goes undetected in urine tests.

How Vijay and the Tour react to this will be interesting.  Tim Finchem will have to take some action and  Singh needs to address this and soon.

Vijay isn’t the most media friendly player on tour but the most successful over forty  player in the history of the PGA Tour has put his reputation and legacy in peril.

Singh, however has an advantage that the baseball and football players do not: he’s already in the Hall of Fame. And that just might make this firestorm more intense.

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Memorable Moments: Waste Management Open

January 30th, 2013 No comments

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Tiger Wins…But Season Starts in April

January 29th, 2013 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Tiger Woods took a long walk spoiled yesterday, a very long walk.  When Tiger claimed his 75th PGA Tour win at the Farmers Insurance Open what looked like a probable run away had turned into a death march.   The excruciatingly slow pace of play took a toll on Woods as he let his eight shot lead dwindle to a four shots before he closed it out.  His nearly four hour, eleven hole round got the better of him, “I started losing my patience a little bit, and that’s when I made a few mistakes,” Woods said.Tiger Walk 2013 Torrey

As painful as it might have been Tiger is now one for one in PGA Tour starts and may have set the tone for a successful season.  Woods drove the ball fairly well, putted superb and his short game, that handicapped him last season, was in fine form.  Woods stated that his short game was back due to the fact that he is comfortable with his rebuilt Sean Foley swing and that allowed him the needed practice time to refine the short game. True to the old Woods form prior to scandal and injury, Woods scrambled like mad and got the ball in the hole from all over.

For some golfers one win would make a season but as we know for Tiger that’s not the case.   Multiple win seasons are the norm for Tiger, multiple wins with a major thrown in were the standard for Woods before 2010.  In 17 years on tour he has 13 seasons with multiple wins and only four seasons with zero or one win.  As a matter of fact he has nine seasons with five or more wins.  His staggering totals took a hit during 2010 and 2011 when he was shut out but with three wins last year he looked to be back on track.

Of course, Tiger’s track is slightly different from most players.  Even with last season’s three wins most Tiger watches would deem 2012 a failure: no major championships.

Does this win at Torrey signify a blockbuster season for Woods?  Or will it be another “average” year with wins but no majors.  Tiger may be comfortable with his swing but there were a few wayward shot on Monday and the Tiger of old takes that six stroke lead and increases it to win by double digits.  His sputtering over the last few holes put some doubt in the minds of some Tiger watchers.

To that extent Woods is a victim of his own success.  He could win a dozen times this year but if he is blitzed at the majors, he’s failed.   No other player can win so many tournaments and still be looked upon as a failure.

Whether Tiger can find the formula to break his major winless streak (2008 US Open) is one of the big questions of the 2013 season and he’s off to an impressive  start.  71 days to the Masters and the real start to Tiger’s season.

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Tiger Woods All Smiles After Another Torrey Win

January 28th, 2013 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Chalk up number 75 for Tiger Woods as his win at The Farmers Insurance Open leaves him only seven wins short of the all time PGA Tour winner, Sam Snead.  Tiger may have stumbled down the stretch but when it takes 3 hours and 45 minutes to play eleven holes you can understand a lapse in concentration, even from him.

The PGA Tour has the magic formula to get Tiger smiling: Amanda Ballionis.  Tiger hasn’t smiled that much at a member of the press since he caught Jimmy Roberts shopping in the boys department at J.C. Penney.

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Where the Heck Is Stewart Cink?

January 28th, 2013 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

We are introducing a new feature on Links Life Golf dedicated to those golfers that have entered the witness protection program. “ Where the Heck…” will focus on those players that had the good fortune to have some success on the big stages but have now become invisible on the course.  First up: Stewart Cink

The 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry was one of the most exciting and fascinating major championships in recent years.  Eight time major champion Tom Watson had recaptured the spirit of Turnberry and was walking down the final fairway with a one stroke lead.  But for a hard bounce and a weak putt, Watson would have fashioned the greatest win in golf history.

Alas, Watson sputtered and Stewart Cink prevailed in a playoff and claimed his first major championship.  Watson was the first to congratulate Cink and recognized his deserved win.  It Cink & Watsonwas Cink’s sixth PGA Tour win and his life was changed instantly, unfortunately his golf game changed also.  He finished 2009 with a Presidents Cup win and some good finishes during the silly season but since then he has continued a downward spiral.

When he captured the Claret Jug he rose to ninth in the Official World Golf Rankings but his play the last three years has dropped him to 68th.

Carrying the Jug with him may have proved too burdensome as his results the past three years have been progressively declining.  2010 saw Cink tally three top tens, earn $1.5 million and finish 54th in the FedEx Cup standings.  The following year he could only muster one top ten, made less than one million and fell to 82nd in FedEx Cup points.  The decline continued last season with no top ten finishes at all, cashed checks worth  only $477,177 and he fell out of the top 100(139) in FedEx points for the first time since the playoffs started.

At the end of 2012 Cink’s stats backed up his free fall.  He was 112th in Driving Distance, 180th in Driving Accuracy, 150th in Scoring Average and a dismal 182nd in All-Around Ranking.  Numbers like that get you bounced from the PGA Tour but Cink’s get out of jail free card is the exemption he got with his Open Championship.

We often see a player’s production fall off after their first major win but three consecutive years must have Cink searching for answers as to why his game could go south.

There is some good news for Stewart in 2013.  After a missed cut to start his year he already matched his top ten total for the past two years combined with a T10 at The Humana Challenge.  Maybe he has found the answer and he can start his climb back to golf’s elite.

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Tiger Woods Poised For at Torrey Pines

January 27th, 2013 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Tiger Wood resumes his final round at The Farmer Insurance Open at his personal playground (he has 8 wins at Torrey Pines) with a 6 stroke lead.  Tiger has eleven holes left to play.  Bet the farm, it’s in the bag and Tiger is off to a hot start on the PGA Tour.

Watch the finish Monday at 1:30 pm ET on The Golf Channel and then at 4:00pm on CBS.  For those stuck at the office, don’t forget the live streaming on PGA Tour.com.

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TaylorMade CEO Mark King: USGA Will Be a Non-Factor In Golf

January 26th, 2013 1 comment

by Jeff Skinner

Bifurcation: to be split or branched off into two parts.  In golfing terms it may as well mean revolution.   The anchoring/long putter debate is getting more heated with every passing day.  Mike Davis of the USGA has met with the PGA Players and Tim Finchem and his crew are mulling over the effect of a rule change on the PGA Tour.

But if anyone thinks the long putter will go gently into that good night they are mistaken.

Taylor Made CEO, Mark King has taken a serious shot across the bow of the USGA predicting, “The USGA within 10 years will be a non-entity, they will be a non-factor in golf because they are choosing to be on the outside and no one is signing up for what they represent.”

In a lengthy and rebellious interview with Rick Young of Score Golf, King stated the long putter won’t be going the way of the dinosaur.  He says that despite any rule changes he will continue to manufacture long putters and let golfers have a choice.  “What we’re (TMaG) going to do whether there is bifurcation or not is we will continue to make long putters for golfers. If they roll the ball back we’re not going to roll our ball back. We will for a tournament ball but we’re still going to sell you a ball you can play. Like I said, two sets of rules are coming. Whether they’re sanctioned or not we are not going to stop making long putters and I’m not going to stop playing one. I won’t. By the time it happens the USGA is either going to have to get with it or stand off somewhere all by themselves.”

King appears to be starting the revolution, a revolution against the power of the USGA and its ability to dictate to manufacturers and golfers alike.  “I don’t think this is an equipment issue. I think it’s a golfer issue. What I think needs to happen is the industry needs to come together without the USGA. Leave them out.”

“I know but it needs to be extreme. We have an industry that should be growing, it should be exciting, it should be fun and it’s not. And it’s not because the USGA won’t let it. Now the USGA would tell you ‘Oh, we don’t have that power we only make the rules.’ But the way this is constructed is the top of the pyramid is the USGA and until they support a new form of golf that is fun and engaging, nothing is going to change. Nothing.”

King’s remarks are radical but so are the proposed actions of the USGA.  And when faced with a significant threat to their business this is what CEO’s will do, protect their interests.

It is an interesting question and answer and well worth reading.

Click here for the Q & A at Score Golf.

Hat tip to Geoff Shackelford for the link.

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