Golf Buzz

January 31, 2013 - 2:04pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Wally Uihlein
Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein believes that adopting different equipment rules for professionals and amateurs wouldn't help grow the game.

Here in the Golf Buzz the other day, I posted an item in which TaylorMade CEO Mark King was quoted as predicting that bifurcation – separate equipment rules for tour pros and amateur players – is not only inevitable, but that it's also coming fast.

A few days before King made that statement, along with several other strong ones, another of golf's most powerful voices spoke out on the other side of the bifurcation issue. In a post on the Titleist tour blog, Acushnet CEO Wally Uihlein, who runs both Titleist and FootJoy, doesn't argue for or against the proposed anchor ban, but very thoughtfully presents his case for why golf's equipment rules (and all rules, really) should remain unified.

''There are two fundamental forces driving this progression to unification,'' Uihlein wrote. ''The first is the essence of the game; the emotional allure that compels golfers to play and experience the same course or shot as one of the game's greats, even if just to aspire.

''The second impetus is the dysfunction and instability caused by multiple sets of rules. Prior history of multiple sets of rules created widespread confusion and prompted the need for clarification and unification,'' he added. ''The fact remains that the game's growth, and its globalisation, are inextricably linked to the idea that golfers – of all skill levels – play the same game.''

Further down in his post, Uihlein delineates the three primary arguments that some give in support of bifurcation, then presents his opposing view to each point.

The first argument for bifurcation, Uihlein says, is that today's pro game doesn't mirror today's amateur game. That, he argues, is ''more a commentary on the skill of the professional golfer than amateurs' desire to play a different game.'' The relationship between the game's elite and the rest of us has always been part of golf's fabric, he says, and notes that ''today's amateur golfers maintain the same appetite to emulate the swings of of the world's greatest players.''

The second pro-bifurcation argument he cites is that adopting different rules would help to grow the game. That's a false assumption, Uihlein believes, because ''1990 to 2000 was the most innovative decade in the game's history, yet during this period, golf participation in the U.S. and Europe flatlined.'' The game's growth, he says, is more of a demographic issue – golf is a game of the middle class, he believes, and in the Western world, today's middle class is the same size as in the early 1990s.

The final argument in favor of bifurcation is that most golfers just play for fun, and that formalizing different sets of rules is just sanctioning what is already reality. Again, Uihlein, offers a counter-argument.

''If golfers don't play by the one set of rules that exist today, why are two sets of rules required?,” he asks. “If the argument is that golfers don't play by the rules and bifurcation will help grow the game, then how will two sets of rules contribute to additional participation? The logic is flawed.''

Uihlein also offers up a lot of historical perspective that is as enlightening as it is suportive of his core belief, which is that the globalization of golf – 55 million people play golf in more than 150 different countries these days – requires that the rules and requirements remain unified. And he closes with a 1927 quote from C.B. Macdonald, an early British Open champion and leading Rules official, who said:

“Golf is a world encircling game. One of its charms is that no matter where you go, whether America, Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe or Scotland, the game is the same, with only such rules as are necessary to govern the local situation.”

Bifurcation is one of the most difficult questions facing golf today. You're obviously interested if you've read this far, so I encourage you to click on over and read Uihlein's piece from start to finish. I guarantee you'll learn something.

January 31, 2013 - 10:30am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Tim Finchem
Getty Images
Will PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem take action against Vijay Singh for his use of a banned substance?

In light of what's happened this week with World Golf Hall of Famer Vijay Singh admitting to the use of a banned substance in a Sports Illustrated article, GolfChannel.com has put together a helpful, informative timeline of the PGA Tour's drug-testing policy.

Late adopters of an anti-doping/drug-testing policy, the PGA Tour on July 1, 2008, officially began its testing at the AT&T National. The European Tour followed suit that same week at the European Open (Click here for a look at the PGA Tour's anti-doping policy).

When the testing began -- two weeks after the epic U.S. Open playoff between Rocco Mediate and Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines -- Mediate did an interview with ESPN.com and called the new process, "the biggest joke in the history of the world."

Well, it's clearly a joke no longer.

It's not known what action -- if any -- the PGA Tour will take against Singh. At the time of this blog post, Singh was still scheduled to tee off in the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. If he does in fact play, it will be interesting to see the reception he gets on the par-3 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale -- the rowdiest in golf.

(UPDATE: SINGH HAS WITHDRAWN FROM THE WASTE MANAGEMENT PHOENIX OPEN CITING A BACK INJURY)

Doug Barron, a journeyman in the professional golf ranks, was the first player suspended under the PGA Tour's anti-doping policy. He was suspended for one year after a random test at the St. Jude Classic in 2009, where he tested positive for high levels of testosterone.

Shortly after, Golf.com's Cameron Morfit wrote:

Barron was diagnosed in 1987 with mitral-valve prolapse, a heart murmur that led to tightness in his chest and made him feel like he was having a heart attack. Only 18, he was put on the beta-blocker Propranolol to treat the murmur and alleviate anxiety attacks brought on by the condition. He was diagnosed with low testosterone in 2005 and began taking testosterone injections.

While players can take banned substances if they are medically necessary, the Tour never granted Barron a therapeutic-use exemption (TUE) for either drug.

Barron has since been granted the therapeutic-use exemption.

Time will tell what the fate of three-time major champion and former world No. 1 Singh will be.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tj_auclair.

January 31, 2013 - 9:59am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Kyle Stanley
Getty Images
Kyle Stanley is the defending champion of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Rob Goldberg, a featured columnsist for BleacherReport.com, put together a nice primer to get you prepared for the start of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which starts today at TPC Scottsdale.

Goldberg offers up some players to watch, highlights some notable tee times and predicts the winner.

Have a look for yourself at Goldberg's piece here.

January 30, 2013 - 2:29pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture

Earlier this afternoon, former Masters and PGA Champion Vijay Singh released the following statement regarding a Sports Illustrated article where he admitted taking a banned substance:

In light of the recent article on sportsillustrated.com, I want to issue the following statement:

"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.  In fact, when I first received 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."

It was reported on Tuesday that Singh admitted taking a banned substance. Early Wednesday, David Epstein -- one of the writers of that Sports Illustrated article -- appeared on Golf Channel's "Morning Drive" and said Singh may not have been aware that the product he was using was banned.

To read Tuesday's blog post on Singh, click here.

For Wednesday's post with Epstein's explanation, click here.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tj_auclair.

January 30, 2013 - 12:43pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Vijay Singh
Getty Images
In an interview on Golf Channel's "Morning Drive," Sports Illustrated writer David Epstein said that Vijay Singh may not have realized the substance he was taking was banned.

Following up on yesterday's blog post where we brought you the news about Vijay Singh admitting to the use of a banned substance in the latest edition of Sports Illustrated, one of the authors of the story was on Golf Channel's "Morning Drive" this morning and explained that Singh may not have been aware that the product was banned.

GolfChannel.com's Ryan Lavner posted a blog this morning explaining what was revealed in the Morning Drive interview with SI's David Epstein:

One of the authors of the explosive Sports Illustrated article that links several athletes to banned substances, including Vijay Singh, said Wednesday on "Morning Drive" that Singh was "pretty open" about his use of deer-antler spray and that the 49-year-old Hall of Famer may not have known that the product is on the PGA Tour’s banned-substances list.

David Epstein, a senior writer and investigative reporter for Sports Illustrated, said that he talked to Singh last week during an "extensive and specific" phone interview.

In the SI story, Singh reportedly paid one of S.W.A.T.S.' owners $9,000 last November for the spray, chips, beam ray and powder additive. He uses the spray "every couple of hours... every day," and "sleeps with the beam ray on and has put chips on his ankles, waist and shoulders."

To read Lavner's complete post, click here.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tj_auclair.

January 30, 2013 - 11:59am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
birth.golf.death.
birth.golf.death.
birth.golf.death. has plenty of fun, unique golf gear (including polos, hats and jackets), but they also have a special Valentine's Day golf-inspired line of products including these pillows and eye/sleep masks.

OK, lovers, Valentine's Day is sneaking up on you. What are you going to get that loved one? The old, reliable, cliche flowers and a box of chocolates?

Why not think outside of the (tee) box this year?

A company called, "birth.golf.death." has some truly unique gifts -- some for on the course, some for off the course and some for pure relaxation.

Joseph Coonick, the owner and creator of birth.golf.death., has put a serious spin on the "country club" look -- he's actually turned it upside down.

"I started birth.golf.death. after a futile attempt to find a golf inspired t-shirt that I would wear," Coonick told PGA.com. "Everything I found was over-the-top cartoonish designs that I wouldn't be caught dead in and they made me wonder if they were even created by a golfer. So I took it upon myself to come up with a few designs. After high praise from golfers of all skill levels for these original designs, I started birth.golf.death. Originally, starting out with t-shirt designs only, demand for my 'victor' skull logo became so high that I was forced to expand my line to polos, outerwear, towels and hats. I will always strive to provide golfers with designs that come from 'outside the tee-box.'  I've been an avid golfer since age 5 and have had my handicap in the single digits. Combine that love of golf with my unique and subversive punk rock/industrial/goth inspiration, and you've got something in the golf apparel world that's never been scene before."

That's the truth. Coonick's designs might not be for everyone, but that's the thing -- they're not meant to be.

As for his Valentine's Day-inspired items, well, anyone would like those.

"I came up with my golf-inspired Valentine's Day designs because I wanted to create items that screamed golf, but not because they were of use on the golf course," he explained. "I also wanted an item that would pamper the customer as well as provide a therapeutic benefit. My Valentine's Day designs are hand made from the finest fabrics and filled with all natural organic fills including flax seeds, buckwheat hulls and lavender blossoms (also available unscented). The calming attributes of these designs make for a healthy mind and body yet are fully functional pieces of soft sculpture. Flowers eventually die, chocolates find their way to the hips and fancy dinners are soon forgotten; yet birth.golf.death. Valentine's Day gifts keep on giving for years and years."

birth.golf.death. offers polos, t-shirts and jackets for men and women, as well as hilarious designs just for kids.

Hats, towels, pillows, eye/sleep masks and keyboard wrist relax cushions are also available.

If you like one-of-a-kind gear, birth.golf.death. is for you. The t-shirts, in particular, are both edgy and clever. Here's an example of the wording you can find on some of the t-shirts: "Make birdies, not war"; "Birth.Golf.Death. -- Get busy golfing or get busy dying"; "WARNING: My golf swing is graphic in nature and may be considered disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised."

The bottom line: Along with comfort, birth.golf.death. is downright fun.

"I try to provide the ultimate selection of modern golf apparel for the course and street," Coonick said. "My t-shirt designs allow golfers to show their love of the great game of a golf off the course in an intellectual, hip and unique way. My on-course apparel provides golfers with an unconventional look while maintaining the most technologically advanced fabrics and designs to benefit their game. For example, my 'wicked rain jacket,' will not hinder your swing yet will keep you dry under the most formidable wet conditions on the course or your next whaling expedition, while my new 'maxx jacket' will have you looking slick and unconventional on the first tee or in a mosh pit."

To see all that birth.golf.death. has to offer, visit their website here.

You can also check out birth.golf.death. on Twitter and on Facebook.

As Coonick so eloquently says, "Golf now -- die later."

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tj_auclair.