Vijay Singh, in the middle of a brewing doping scandal, has withdrawn from this week’s Phoenix Open.
Singh, who has admitted taking a substance banned by the PGA Tour, could be sidelined for an extended period if tour officials decide to suspend the 49-year-old for violating the organization’s drug policy. Tom Pernice Jr., a close confidant of the 34-time tour winner, said Thursday that his friend quit the tourney because he threw his back out.
Pernice, appearing on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive,” also opined that Singh should keep playing until tour officials determine that he should not.
“Nothing has been decided,” Pernice said during a contentious interview with the morning show hosts. “He’s an independent contractor, a member of the PGA Tour until the commissioner says he’s not able to play....There’s an appeal process...that he’s probably able to go through....Until the tour says that he can’t play, it should be...between the tour and between him.”
Pernice referred several times to Mark Calcavecchia, who in August 2011 received an order from the tour to stop using the same substance, then called “Ultimate Spray." While the tour did not publicly impose any disciplinary action on Calcavecchia, he did not start another event for the remainder of that season.
“Based on that analysis, not knowing that he was taking something that was illegal, Calc wasn’t suspended, quit using the product, was fine and nothing happened,” Pernice said. “I don’t know why this same instance isn’t true for Vijay.”
Pernice also suggested that Singh was not up to speed on what substances players may or may not use.
“I know for a fact that Vijay probably never does [read the tour’s regular updates on rules and regulations],” Pernice said. “Vijay’s a guy that goes and hits balls and practices and he’s not concerned about things like that.”
Pernice noted that Singh was not a “big pill-taker,” but that he was “pretty open to doing and trying something....Obviously he was trying this product for whatever reason, whether it was for rehabbing an injury or more strength or more energy, I don’t know."
Given Pernice’s stated reason for Singh’s WD -- that he hurt his back on the practice range on Tuesday -- we’re guessing his choice of remedies was pretty much useless.
In the meantime, Pernice suggested that Singh may be huddling with his “representatives,” which, in light of his acknowledged ingestion of a prohibited substance, was probably a good idea.