Glen Abbey, drug cheats and the PGA Championship
Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
Near drought conditions in Southern Ontario turned Glen Abbey into a links style course with firm, fast fairways, almost no rough and hard greens. Bombers such as winner Jhonattan Vegas, Dustin Johnson and Luke List had a field day on the baked out course. The field turned in a record number of 350+ yard drives. Do you like the way the course played and would you like to see more courses set up that way on the PGA tour?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): It’s not pretty seeing lots of brown on television, but it does make for more demanding golf (a slew of 63s at Glen Abbey notwithstanding.) The amount of water required to keep rough and fairways green really can’t be justified with our changing climate, so yes, I’d be happy to see more courses use less water, and play with more brown.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I found it interesting when I spoke with a few fellow golfers on the weekend, and they all commented on how terrible the course looked on TV, and how it was embarrassing to see. Meanwhile, I got excited talking about how it looked and played. I thought it was great! OK, the bunkers may have needed either some sand or water – I still didn’t like Wheatcroft’s cry baby tweets after the event – but the course showed its teeth simply because it was so dry and firm and fast. I watched DJ hit a 392 yard drive on #8 on Friday, leaving 92 yards from the middle of the fairway, and he made bogey because he couldn’t control the bounce and spin on the green. It added another dimension to the game, and although it did help the bombers a bit, it still made the guys have to think their way around the course. Who would have thought that Jason Day should have hit 3 wood off the tee on #18 on Friday so that he didn’t drive it over 400 yards into the pond?
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Jack’s first attempt at design at the Abbey favoured a high fade with long irons, a shot only he hit at the time on Tour. Of course, that was with Balata and circa 70’s club faces. He replicated that design around the globe, cookie-cutter like, creating central-Florida-style layouts in places like Malaysia, China, and other spots where developers thought they needed the Bear brand to sell houses. Glen Abbey is not a good course – holes 11-15 are the only ones vaguely interesting; it’s supposed to be wet and slow and boring (but with great mounding for galleries and terrific parking for TV crews and space for corporate schmoozing). Hard and fast nobody has to hit a long iron (fade or draw) into anything. The Tour doesn’t need any more courses like this one.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I love watching it and playing it. Soft golf courses become so one-dimensional – they’re like target practice followed by a putting contest. The only unfortunate aspect of fast and firm is that most courses aren’t designed for it. With a few simple changes many PGA Tour courses could be a lot more interesting. And with water becoming a critical resource in many parts of the world, it may be necessary sooner than we think.
Frank Mastroianni, Freelance Writer: Some courses are meant to play fast and firm, some are not. Glen Abbey isn’t necessarily made to play that way, at least not the greens because they are so small. But I loved everything about how Glen Abbey looked and played this week, even the greens, as it seemed players could still get their balls to hold as long as they were approaching from the fairway. I’d love to see all the courses on tour or not on tour play that way if they are conducive to that kind of game and I couldn’t care less about 350+ yard drives. Even with the record number of long drives the winning score was only -12, which isn’t low by PGA TOUR standards.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): Yeah, those guys were just crushing it all week long out there. I like the hard greens because it really tests the players on their approach shots. That usually translates to a more competitive tournament with a more dramatic finish like we had this past weekend.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craighoughry): I’m not overly fond of how Glen Abbey was setup, seemed a bit tricked up to me, If you’re asking in terms of water conservation and sending a message to the industry that this just might be the future (conditions) for courses, so the irrigation systems were used sparingly, then that would be a pretty progressive move. My preference is to keep this kind of setup to links style courses which the Abbey is anything but.
The PGA Tour drug policy took another hit this week as Scott Stallings talked about his suspension for taking DHEA, a drug recommended by his doctor. Stallings self reported his violation but was suspended anyway. In his interview he said the most frustrating aspect of the suspension was that he got labelled a “bad guy” for taking a banned substance and his suspension was made public while the recreational drug users aren’t named and their penalties aren’t published. The PGA Tour goes to great lengths to protect its image and the images of its players but apparently is OK releasing the names of players taking so-called performance enhancing drugs. Are you OK with this double standard?
Mumford: To some degree I can appreciate the double standard because there is a difference between performance enhancing drugs and recreational drugs. One is about cheating while the other is about lifestyle. The Tour has to be vigilant about cheating to protect the integrity of its competitions. Shielding recreational drug users is a choice that protects their brand. The PGA Tour drug police have done a remarkable job of catching major bad ass drug cheats like Doug Barron and Scott Stallings – HAH! – but that’s like catching jaywalkers while murderers go free. It’s inconceivable that some players aren’t using serious performance enhancing drugs – the money’s too good, the science is even better. Perhaps some of the Rio dropouts knew they’d have trouble with drug testing for either PED’s or recreational stuff. At some point this is going to blow up in the Commissioner’s face. Maybe Vijay Singh’s lawsuit will force the Tour to adopt a more transparent policy and end any double standards but don’t hold your breath.
Rule: First of all, I commend Stallings for coming forward and admitting his mistake. Although he should know, and his doctor should know, what is legal and what isn’t, he still deserves a suspension. If the Tour wants to clean up its players’ acts, they should publicize it. As for recreational drug users, I think the same holds true. The whole DJ fiasco in 2014 was a joke, everyone knew why he was suspended, but not coming out and publicizing it only led to more rumours. I personally don’t think marijuana should be banned (I mean, it’s legal in some states, many countries around the world, and soon in Canada), but if it’s harder stuff, they should be suspended and it should be made public.
Kaplan: I think the double standard is reasonable. Comparing recreational drug use and performance enhancers is like comparing apples and oranges. The PGA Tour needs to protect the integrity of its game so if a player gets busted with HGH or steroids or greenies or whatever, I can understand why they would want to make that information public. However, if one of their players tested positive for cocaine or weed, I could think of plenty of reasons — mostly financial ones — why they wouldn’t want that information to get out.
Deeks: Not in the slightest. I wasn’t aware of this incident until I read it above, but it seems like a very unfair and arbitrary thing to publish a guy’s name who came forward with the information, but not the names of others who were caught – either with PED’s or a bag of dope.
Loughry: Stallings has a very valid point. This is pretty simple, in time this will have to change, and those caught in either case (performing enhancing and recreational drugs) will have to be treated equally. They need ONE consistent DRUG policy covering both instances, and appropriate penalties.
Mastroianni: I don’t keep up with drugs and drug testing on the PGA TOUR even though I’m sure there are plenty of players who use them both for performance enhancement and recreationally. The way I see it everybody’s taking performance enhancing drugs. If you pop an Advil for back pain I’d call that performance enhancing. Plus, as an outside observer it seems what is and isn’t banned changes constantly. The bottom line is the TOUR can ban whatever it wants. Just be fair, put everything down on a list that is clearly laid out and distribute it to all the players.
Quinn: First off, Stalling’s doctor told him to check with the Tour before taking the grocery store off-the-shelf $10 worth of testosterone enhancer that experts say he’d have to take a truck-load’s worth to be any help. So, like a lot of guys and gals in pro sport (Olympics included as they are professional athletes) who get caught, Stallings was dumb. He was fried by his own goofiness, messing up the letter-of-the-law precision of the Tour’s policy, after a doc’s warning. However, that policy is flawed as players with legitimate medical reasons (not performance enhancing) for taking medications with hormones or steroids are nailed by a blanket ban without subtlety, and outed. The Tour’s outing of guys like Stalling and Barron is indefensible. The Tour’s non-disclosure on recreational drugs is contemptible and simply embosses the image of golf being the domain of club-jacketed, dandruff epauletted, one-percenters not even vaguely in tune with those they hope will ‘grow the game.’
The final major of the season kicks off this week at Baltusrol in New Jersey. None of the so-called Big 3 (Spieth, Day, McIlroy) has won a major in 2016 and only one of them can possibly win the PGA Championship. Which player needs to add a major to his 2016 record to validate his year and keep himself in the conversation when it comes to discussions about the world’s top players?
Rule: Easy one. Rory really needs to step up and do something this week to salvage his disappointing year. Although he has had 2 top 10’s in majors this year, he hasn’t won anything, and he is slowly sliding out of that top 3 conversation. But he can obviously get hot at any time, and I think this tournament suits him well, so I think he’ll be right there on Sunday, and find a way to salvage his year.
Mastroianni: None of the “Big 3” is going to win a major this year, but if anyone needs it I’d say it’s McIlroy. His comments surrounding the Olympics point to the fact that majors are what matter most to him so it’s only logical that if he doesn’t win one this year it would be a disappointment. That said, this season is a bit of a mess with the Olympics changing up the schedule and I really don’t like how the PGA Championship is this week. I would have preferred they schedule it after Rio.
Deeks: I’d say McIlroy needs it most, to keep his name in the conversation. And a little positive news wouldn’t hurt his brand either, after the bad showing at Royal Troon (slamming the Olympics, slamming his role in building the game, and slamming his club on the ground.)
Loughry: No doubt it is McIlroy. He’s gone the longest without a Major and has been very inconsistent in his play. He needs it more than Spieth and Day, who have won 2 and 3 times respectively on the PGA Tour to Rory’s ZERO. No offence to the European Tour, Rory did win the Irish Open but PGA Tour fields are deeper.
Quinn: Rory keeps himself in the conversation with the quality of his press conferences alone. He’s the World #1 in honesty and candour. That aside, it would be great for the game its own self if Rory won this one. As for getting beyond the murmuring out in the hallway, Spieth has to get past petulant and get back to boy wonder. He could be the new Rickie if he doesn’t get it all together.
Kaplan: McIlroy hasn’t won in North America this year so I’ve got to go with him. Day has nothing to prove and Spieth hasn’t had a great year, but he’s won two events on the PGA Tour. If anyone has anything to prove right now, it’s the Northern Irishman.
Mumford: They’re still No 1, 3 and 4 in the World Rankings so it’s not like any of the Big 3 has moseyed off into the sunset. However, McIlroy is farthest removed from his hot streak in 2014 when he won two majors. His comments and antics at Royal Troon are evidence that he perhaps is more frustrated than the other two. A win at Baltusrol would be a statement from McIlroy that says, “I’m back!”