2013 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am preview: Vijay Singh remains top story at Pebble

Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Vijay Singh’s PED controversy vies with Phil Mickelson’s title defense for top billing at this week's Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Vijay Singh, who withdrew from last week’s Phoenix Open while in the midst of a doping controversy, remains on the list of PGA Tour golfers competing in this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. And, despite Phil Mickelson hoping the red hot play that took him to a four-shot win at TPC Scottsdale will continue at Pebble, the Singh story is one that won’t go away any time soon.

So opined Gary Williams, host of Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” show.

“We're talking about a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, and it's also...now a tour issue,” Williams said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters. “Vijay issued his statement last week. He's in the field this week....How it's going to play out, what decisions are going to be made by the tour office and how long he may be suspended....This situation is fascinating because the story is just beginning.”

As far as Brandel Chamblee, Golf Channel’s lead analyst, was concerned, Singh’s actions should not have the same impact on the 34-time tour winner’s legacy as, say, Barry Bonds’ or Roger Clemens’ exclusions from the baseball Hall of Fame for alleged juicing.

“This is not a typical steroid story, this is not a typical PED story,” Chamblee said. “This is a story about a guy who thought he was using something along the lines of negatively charged water or wrist magnet and was freely talking about it and being open with it with a sports writer.”

Singh, who admitted using the extract, which contains a banned substance with properties similar to human growth hormone, has pledged to cooperate with tour officials investigating the issue. His misstep was one of ignorance, not of intent, Chamblee claimed.

“This was not some athlete trying to thwart an investigation and trying to deceive people and who continued to deny using a banned substance when evidence mounted to the contrary,” Chamblee said. “This has nothing in common with any of the other nefarious stories that you've heard about steroids. This is a story about a guy who didn't know, so you can call him ignorant, but in no way, shape or form is this a guy who was trying to gain a covert advantage.

“This was not cheating,” Chamblee averred, “this was an accident.”

Williams and Chamblee agreed that it was up to each player to know the rules and that Singh deserved some type of punishment, possibly suspension.

“A six-month or a year-long suspension for a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame goes on the epitaph,” Chamblee said, “whether we like it or not.”

And now, back to what’s happening inside the ropes this week.

AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am preview:

  • Dates: February 8-February 11
  • Courses: Pebble Beach Golf Links (6,816-yard, par-72), Spyglass Hill Golf Course (6,953/72), and Monterey Peninsula Country Club (6,838/70)
  • Field: Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brandt Snedeker, and Lee Westwood are just some of the names in the talent-laden field of 156 tour pros; celebrities include San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, fresh off his team’s Super Bowl loss to the Ravens; coach Bill Belichick, whose New England Patriots lost to the 49ers during the regular season; and hockey great Wayne Gretzky, whose daughter, Paulina, is dating DJ
  • Defending champion: Mickelson
  • Purse: $6.5 million ($1,152,000 to the winner)
  • FedEx Cup: Winner receives 500 points
  • Format: Foursomes rotate among the three courses Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. On Sunday, the low 60 professionals (plus ties) and low 25 pro-am teams play at Pebble Beach
  • Of note: Mickelson, paired with Tiger Woods in last year’s final round, fired a finishing 64 to get to 17-under and his fourth win at Pebble. Woods closed with a 75 and nine shots off the pace. Lefty rolls into this week on the strength of a four-stroke win at last week’s Phoenix Open that included a near-59 in the opening round
  • Television (all times ET): Thursday-Friday, 3 p.m.-6 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday, 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m. (GC), 3 p.m.-6 p.m. (CBS); Sunday, 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m. (GC), 3 p.m.-6:30 p.m. (CBS)
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