The PGA Tour announced in January it was entering the world of drug testing its competitors, an increasingly populated place in the sporting landscape.
It arrived Tuesday with the implementation of an anti-doping policy - just in time for this week's AT&T National at Congressional Country Club.
“I feel more comfortable than I did six months ago because we were just getting into it,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. “We do it, and we hope it becomes part of what we do, but it's not highlighted.”
Finchem said two concerns were the concept of testing in a sport based on abiding by rules and self-penalization, in addition to educating players on all aspects of the process.
Finchem said he was unsure what information would be made public as part of the process following a positive test. Meanwhile, Stuart Appleby said he would be surprised to hear of any violations connected with a performance-enhancing substance - though not necessarily of positive tests of what he called “societal use.”
“The law of averages say there has to be somebody taking something that is taboo,” Appleby said. “There's no way that you've got 250 pros totally clean. You would be naive to think that. But performance-enhancing, I think a very extremely small amount, and I know of nobody ... that is taking anything that enhances their performance from a steroid taboo.”
One of the initial concerns from players was the issue of privacy - a factor Finchem concedes is necessary for the program to be done correctly.
“Now that we are going down the road, we have to have a credible program, and the only way to have a credible program and meet the basic tenets of the anti-doping world is to have observed testing,” Finchem said. “It may be uncomfortable for some, but that's the price we're paying to have a credible system and deal with the issue.”
AT&T to briefly leave?
The Washington area has played host to a PGA Tour event every year since 1980, though it did appear there would not be a stop in 2007 after the demise of the Booz Allen Classic.
However, the AT&T National was added just months before last summer's tournament and could have a long-term home at Congressional Country Club.
There is, though, the matter of 2010 and 2011, when the course will be prepared to hold the 2011 U.S. Open. Congressional's board has recommended to play host to the AT&T National for another six years after that, but the two-year interregnum remains undecided.
It could turn out to be outside the area.
“More importantly, 2010 and 2011 is right in the sweet spot of the U.S. Open cycle in this market,” Finchem said. “From a foundation standpoint, they may very well conclude that a venue outside this market makes sense for one of or both of those years. We wouldn't argue with that and would say that that probably makes the most sense at this point.”
A serious possibility of serving as a temporary host is Aronimink Golf Club, located in the Philadelphia suburb in Newtown Square, Pa.
It appears there will be another foray into prime-time golf next year.
Just weeks after NBC televised the final two rounds of the U.S. Open in the evening, Finchem said next year's Presidents Cup will conclude in the evening on the East Coast. That event will be played at Harding Park in San Francisco.
“We haven't quite figured out the details on the schedule, but we won't be a 10 o'clock finish in the East, I would think,” Finchem said.
Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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