Okay, so this wasn’t one of professional golf’s most inspiring years.
Alas, it was the November from hell.
Do I look like I'm on Steroids?
November, 2009: It all started with a little tainted urine from a journeyman PGA touring pro who became the PGA Tour’s first official offender of the tour’s drug testing policy. Doug Barron claims that the drugs that caused him to test positive were prescribed by a personal physician for a health condition, medication that was essentially needed for quality of life reasons. Nevertheless, his appeal was denied and the 1-year suspension stood. Barron was last seen in his backyard trying to impress his neighbors by bench pressing his Volvo.
November 27, 2009: All hell broke loose at the luxurious gated community of Isleworth, courtesy of an intercepted text message and a fire hydrant that just so happened to violently dart in front of the luxury SUV driven by Tiger Woods. Meanwhile Bill Clinton sits at home eating leftover turkey and chuckles while watching ESPN news.
February, 2010: The taxman cometh and a Champions Tour veteran couldn’t runneth. Jim Thorpe was found guilty of tax evasion charges, more than $2 million worth matter of fact, was then suspended by the PGA Tour, and is currently serving a year in prison. Word has it that Thorpe has successfully chipped over 10,000 golf balls into his corner toilet over the past 6 months. His putting is reportedly a little yippish, however.
April 23, 2010: The golf world was shocked to learn that the LPGA’s top star is retiring from golf. 28-yr-old Lorena Ochoa officially announced her retirement, with plans of starting a family and continuing her charity foundation in her free time. With 27 LPGA Tour wins, including 2 major championships, the LPGA said goodbye to a great competitor and a wonderful ambassador for women’s golf.
May, 2010: The taxman cometh, again. This time from the Danish tax authorities, who were wondering how European Tour player Soren Hansen could live in two different countries at the same time. Hansen avoided jail time, but had to pay a hefty sum of 750,000 Euro. How do you say “f**k me” in German?
May 2010: Futures Tour player Erica Blasberg was found dead in her Henderson, Nevada home after she texted her caddie the evening prior to tell her that she wasn’t going to be at the qualifying round in Mobile, Alabama two days later. Her caddie (Missy Pederson) felt that something wasn’t right when she received the text the next morning. She texted Erica back, hoping to hear that nothing was wrong, but got no response. Several hours later the local authorities found her dead, and the investigation went on for months. In late August, the investigating authorities concluded through the autopsy that Blasberg had toxic levels of prescription drugs in her system and had taken her own life. But another angle of the story involving a personal acquaintance – Dr. Thomas Hess – would emerge, making the suicide ruling look very suspicious. You can read more on this story HERE and come to your own conclusion.
August 2010: The PGA Tour suspended rookie Matt Every for 3 months, for conduct unbecoming a professional. Every was arrested at an Iowa hotel back in July and charged with possession of a controlled substance (marijuana). He has reportedly taken a maintenance position at Bushwood Country Club, under the tutelage of Carl Spackler.
August 2010: Professional golf would once again take a nut-knocker with the alleged cheating scandal on the LPGA tour, courtesy of Shi Hyun Ahn and Il Mi Chung. The evidence that something improper occurred was overwhelming, but a brief Barney Fife investigation by the LPGA Tour concluded that nothing improper happened and it was just a “confusing” miscommunication problem. Uh, Yeah. Okay. So two players played the wrong balls on the final hole. One player allegedly knew about it, then informed the other player about it, then both players signed for their scores anyway without taking the penalty… then one of the players allegedly told her caddie that he didn’t see anything. Uh, sure. Move along folks, nothing to see here. Or at least that was the tour’s response. And you can read more about that HERE.
But there were a couple of silver linings, nevertheless.
The PGA Tour learned that it could survive a Tiger-less season of golf. While Tiger Woods was figuring out a way to reenter a public life inside the ropes, the tour kept on keeping on. New faces emerged. Old faces reemerged. And the drama and excitement of professional golf at the highest level didn’t blink an eye, at least to the real golf fanatics of the universe.
Old grooves, new grooves, blah blah blah… So much for the USGA thinking that the shallower grooves on golf clubs would impede the bomb-and-gouge era in golf. Paul Goydos? Stuart Appleby? Both carded historic rounds of 59 within a month of each other this season. A couple of near-misses with rounds of 60 were posted as well by a few other players. Nah, the bomb-and-gouge era is still alive and doing well, grooves be damned.
And for all of the criticism that Tim Finchem deals with on a weekly basis, it is worth noting that he’s done a pretty damned good job keeping PGA Tour sponsors on board despite a stagnant economic recession. The tour has lost a few sponsors in the process, but has picked a few up in return, and is in the process of securing a few more in the near future. Given the enormous challenges that the tour has faced regarding maintaining steady title sponsorship, Finchem has managed things very well. I think the tour will make it for a few more years, at least.
With the PGA Tour Playoff finale at East Lake only a week away, and the 2010 Ryder Cup only a few more after that, the last chapter for this season in golf awaits to be written. But overall it has been a great year in golf, and next season should be even better. Maybe with a few less police blotters involved, but better.