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Tour Needs Closure On Singh Controversy

PALM HARBOR, FLORIDA | Vijay Singh admitted, early last month, that he used a banned substance.
Vijay Singh, under a cloud, continues to be allowed to play on the PGA Tour. Really? He played last week at the Tampa Bay Championship. He will play again this week at Bay Hill. And probably again next month at The Masters. Meanwhile, the Tour’s handling of this situation continues to be a stain on its good name. It never should have come to this. On Feb. 25 PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said of its investigation of Singh, “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.” Which is fine except for that fact that the commissioner ought to be concerned. And there ought to be more urgency. When one of the Tour’s members publicly confesses to breaking a rule punishable by suspension, the commonest of senses screams for a transparent and expedient response. Instead, we got double-talk from its most powerful voice that was insulting to the intelligence of anyone who can parse a sentence. The longer this goes on without resolution the more it looks like the Tour is dragging its feet; the more it looks suspicious when it isn’t; and the more Singh becomes a kind of sympathetic figure. It would have been different if Singh had merely been accused of using deer antler spray, the substance in question. Then he rightly would have been allowed an appeal. But in this instance, he outed himself to a respected national magazine. Give him credit for never saying he was misquoted or taken out of context. Just don’t give him a pass for being ignorant of the rules. After Singh shot a 2-under 69 Thursday at the Tampa Bay Championship, a Tour media official approached him looking for a few comments on his round and got this in return: “No comment to you. No comment to anybody.” Have a nice day. That fact that charm has never been Singh’s strong suit is irrelevant here. But the fact that this latest PR sore has been allowed to fester is the Tour’s fault, not Singh’s. And it’s not going away. Overheard on the 10th hole of Singh’s Saturday round at the Copperhead Course was this quiet conversation between three male spectators in Singh’s gallery: First guy: “Deer Antler.” Second guy: “Deer Antler?” Third guy: “Right.” After his round, Singh’s playing competitor, Luke Donald, was asked how much longer he thought Singh, who recently turned 50, could play on the PGA Tour before moving to the Champions Tour. “Five or 10 more years,” Donald said, pausing, “as long as he doesn’t break any rules.” To be clear, the context of Donald’s comment was that of a light jab. He was smiling when he said it. But there is still clearly an awareness among the players that this controversy is needlessly hanging around with no word from the Tour. The PGA Tour has sold itself for years to its title sponsors and its public as an entity comprised of upstanding men who respect their elders and the laws of the lands in which they play golf. And, for the most part, the players have lived up to their reputations while prosecutors have feasted on murderers, wife beaters and deadbeats in the so-called major sports of baseball, football and basketball. There is a technicality in play here. The Tour’s “investigation” reportedly centers, in part, around whether or not the deer antler spray Singh used contained IGF-1, a banned substance which is said to mediate the level of HGH in the body. Good luck with that probe now that the genie is out of the bottle in more ways than one. There are inside observers who think it’s possible the Tour already has settled the matter and is simply and stubbornly refusing to share its findings. You would like to think the Tour would never let one of its own twist in the wind like that. ESPN.com’s Bob Harig, a hard-knocking reporter, wrote last week: “This is awkward. Really awkward. And has the potential to get extremely awkward.” Like if Singh wins his second Masters next month at Augusta National. Fore, please! Another green jacket for Singh isn’t likely. He hasn’t won on Tour since 2008. The larger point is this: The PGA Tour, in its failure to get publicly proactive, has left itself wide open to the kind of criticism that makes people forget all the good things that have happened under its umbrella. You don’t sweep something like this under the rug. Or unnecessarily delay it. This isn’t the ’80s or ’90s anymore. Lack of transparency, never a good thing, is less tolerable than ever in today’s society. Would NFL commissioner Roger Goodell be trafficking in spin control if this had happened on his watch? The NBA’s David Stern? Of course not. Meanwhile, as long as Singh continues to show up at Tour events, this won’t go away no matter how much attention is diverted by the anchored putter debate or the return to form of Tiger Woods.


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