LOS ANGELES (AP) - This is one time the PGA Tour needs to avoid the perception of slow play.
It has been two weeks since the Sports Illustrated story that Vijay Singh spent $9,000 on products that included deer antler spray, telling the magazine he used the spray “every couple of hours … every day” and that he was “looking forward to some change in my body.” Singh issued a statement the next day that he used the spray and was shocked to learn it might contain a substance that is banned under the tour’s anti-doping policy.
Singh is still playing.
The tour is not talking, except to say it is looking into the matter.
In what is shaping up as a bright year in golf, this is becoming a dark cloud. Tiger Woods won at Torrey Pines. Phil Mickelson missed a 59 by a fraction of an inch when he won the Phoenix Open. The next week, every conversation among players at Pebble Beach seemed to start with the same question.
“What’s going to happen with Vijay?”
He is playing again this week at Riviera.
The big Fijian, a week away from turning 50, is one of the more remarkable success stories on the PGA Tour. He has three major championships, a record 22 wins in his 40s and a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
But he is looked upon differently now, and not just because he is the source of jokes.
One photo circulating last week showed Singh’s face photo-shopped on a deer. A magazine reported seeing Singh in the fairway at Spyglass Hill during a practice round with his caddie, trainer, manager _ and five deer that had wandered out of the woods.
Also at stake is his integrity.
It doesn’t help that Singh had to overcome allegations early in his career that he doctored his scorecard to avoid missing the cut in Indonesia. Singh, who has denied the charges, was banned by the Asian tour. It dogged him for much of his career, even as he worked his way from giving $10 lessons in Borneo to becoming No. 1 in the world.
He hasn’t won since 2008, when he was the FedEx Cup champion with back-to-back wins in the playoffs. He has been slowed by injuries the last four years. Clearly, he was trying to gain an edge with the deer antler spray and other products from Sports with Alternative to Steroids.
Singh either forgot or ignored the tour’s warning a year earlier that deer antler spray might contain an insulin-like growth hormone known as IGF-1, which has been on the list of banned substances since the program began in 2008.