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Golf roundup: Singh still playing despite deer-antler admission

The SportsXchange

--Vijay Singh, who has admitted using banned deer-antler spray, was allowed to play in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am last week and apparently will play again this week in the Northern Trust Open after meeting with commissioner Tim Finchem.

Finchem did not make a statement after meeting with Singh one day before the Pebble Beach tournament began, and Singh denied requests from the media before playing a practice round at Spyglass Hill Golf Course.

"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," Singh said in a statement the previous week, before he withdrew from the Waste Management Phoenix Open, citing a back injury.

"In fact, when I first received the product, I reviewed the list of ingredients and did not see any prohibited substances. ... I have been in contact with the PGA Tour and am cooperating fully with their review of this matter."

Ultimate Spray, which Singh admitted to taking, contains the chemical IGF-1, which is on the banned-substance list, though it is undetectable by the PGA Tour's drug testers.

In 2011, Mark Calcavecchia and Ken Green of the Champions Tour were told to stop using Ultimate Spray, and the PGA Tour warned in the August 2011 issue of the Green Sheet, which is given to the players, that the spray contained a banned ingredient.

Neither Calcavecchia nor Green was suspended, but there have been calls for Singh to be sanctioned.

"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," said Mark O'Meara, who called Singh a friend.

"I was a bit surprised to hear what Vijay said. I don't think he's a guy that would take advantage of anything, and besides, I like Vijay. I wish the best for him and his family."

One day after Singh's admission, Bob Charles of New Zealand admitted that he has used a product similar to deer-antler spray and that he had no idea that it was banned.

Charles, 76, won the 1963 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and like Singh, is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

"(I was) totally unaware of illegal substances ... being in the horn or the antler of the deer," said Charles, who still plays in Champions Tour events on occasion. "I take one or two deer-velvet capsules daily and have been doing so for virtually 20 years or more."

Doug Barron is the only player to be suspended under the PGA Tour's anti-doping policy, missing part of 2009 and most of 2010. The one-year suspension was lifted in September 2010, and Barron was granted a therapeutic-use exemption for low testosterone.

--The CN Canadian Women's Open will need a new sponsor for next year's event after CN, the Canadian National Railway, said it would end its eight-year run as title sponsor after this season's event.

The railway is modifying its sponsorship, with plans to maintain its support of CN Future Links, Canada's junior golf program.

"We've always felt that the Canadian Women's Open is a major, at least it is one in our hearts, and clearly it's one of the best golf tournaments in the world, no questions asked, so it has never been anywhere near our thoughts in terms of this decision," said Claude Mongeau, president and chief executive officer of CN.

"I think you should take this more in the context that eight years is a long journey of partnership, and we've been able to elevate this tournament to what it is today. We feel very, very proud of that."

The Canadian Open was in financial trouble when CN took over as title sponsor, but it has flourished the past eight years, to the point where there have been suggestions that it could become a major championship.

CN signed a three-year deal to continue as title sponsor in 2010, with a two-year option that it will not exercise.

"We've been quietly talking with a number of Canadian corporations (about title sponsorship) and will continue to do so now, especially now that we've made the news public, but I'm not at liberty to say who those people are," said Scott Simmons, executive director and chief executive officer of Golf Canada.

Lydia Ko of New Zealand, a 15-year-old amateur, became the youngest player to win an LPGA Tour event, winning by three strokes over Inbee Park of South Korea last year at Vancouver Golf Club.

Ko will defend her title at Royal Mayfair Golf Club in Edmonton.

--It was a good news, bad news type of week for Davis Love III.

First, the 48-year-old Love, who captained the United States team during its loss to Europe last September in the Ryder Cup at Medinah, was awarded the 2013 Bob Jones Award at the United States Golf Association's annual meeting.

Several days later, Love underwent surgery for a neck injury that he said has bothered him since 2000. Spinal stenosis and bone spurs have caused numbness and a loss of strength.

Love decided to have the surgery after withdrawing from the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

"I've been working around it, and it's been a nagging thing for a long time," Love told golfchannel.com. "The last three months, it's been more than a nagging thing, it's just been a constant annoyance and needs to be fixed. ...

"I've been anxious for months and months. The nurse called about my pre-op meeting on Thursday, and I told her, 'I can't wait.' I'm going to be way better when I get back."

Love said recovery time is six to eight weeks, and he has been told by his physician, Regis Haid of Atlanta, that he will be chipping and putting within 10 days of the surgery.

The Bob Jones Award received by Love is considered the USGA's highest honor.

"Through his actions on and off the course, Davis has inspired a generation of golfers with his passion for the game and respect for its history," USGA president Glen D. Nager said in a statement. "He exhibits the traits of honesty and sportsmanship displayed by the award's namesake."

Love has won 20 times on the PGA Tour, including the 1997 PGA Championship at Winged Foot.

--Slow play has become one of the biggest problems in golf, from the pro tours to the muni courses. Thus, the USGA has announced plans to develop a broad set of initiatives to identify challenges and solutions regarding pace of play issues in the game of golf.

"The cry that pace of play has become one of the most significant threats to the game's health has become only louder over the last year," Nager said. "Industry research clearly shows that slow play and the amount of time it takes to play a round of golf detract from the overall experience and threaten to drive players away from the game. This problem touches every golfer, from the professional to the elite amateur to the collegiate player to the millions of recreational golfers at both public and private facilities."

Nager said the main components of the program include analysis of key factors known to influence pace of play, development of a pace-of-play model based on quantifiable data, improvements to the USGA Pace Rating System, on-site assistance at golf courses to help managers assess and improve pace of play, and the creation of player education programs.

"It is appropriate for the USGA to examine pace of play issues in part because we experience them at our own championships," USG executive director Mike Davis said. "Six-hour rounds are just not good for the players, our championships or the game.

"Slow play is also incompatible with our modern society, in which our personal time for recreation is compressed. This is an issue that demands our complete attention."

Nager said the initiative would begin this year.

--Most players on the PGA Tour have chosen their words carefully when speaking about the proposed ban of anchored putters by the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.

Not Robert Garrigus.

"They are amateurs who are making rules for a professional game," Garrigus told ESPN.com. "It's unfortunate that they are trying to ban it, because the guys that are using the putter are good dudes.

"They're not cheating. It's within the rules right now. And it's never an advantage. ... It's just unfortunate they've got to try to say that it's overwhelming the game. And I think that's ridiculous."

Garrigus, who has used an anchored putter at times during his career, said he asked Davis how many USGA board members who are contemplating the rule change have ever struck a shot in professional competition.

The answer was zero.

The R&A and the USGA proposed the ban Nov. 28, saying there would be a 90-day period in which they would consider comments and suggestions from the rest of the golf community.

That period ends on Feb. 28. The planned ban wouldn't go into effect until 2016.
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