SAN DIEGO — The more stringent process of Olympic drug testing will start May 6, 2016, for players who might be eligible for the U.S. team.
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said any player who would be eligible on May 6 will have to make themselves available for testing at any time. That process was developed by the International Golf Federation and the World Anti-Doping Agency.
A country can have as many as four players at the 2016 games — the first time golf is in the Olympics since 1904 — provided they are within the top 15 in the world ranking. Otherwise, countries can have no more than two players.
Each week depending on the ranking, the pool of players can change depending on their world ranking. The testing will go on through the competition.
“That list could change, and it could change between the time the pool is set and when the actual field is set,” Finchem said Wednesday.
He also said drug testing would remain on the PGA Tour even if golf is no longer part of the Olympics after 2020. The International Olympic Committee votes in 2017 to determine whether golf becomes a permanent fixture.
“We didn’t go to drug testing simply because of the Olympics,” Finchem said. “And we didn’t go to drug testing because we felt we had a PED problem. We went to drug testing because the perception across the board in sports is that athletes dope. We even had questions raised about our sport. We felt that the image of our sport and our athletes is the No. 1 asset by a big margin. And in our defense we want to be able to demonstrate that our players don’t PED use.”
Two players, Doug Barron and Bhavik Patel on the Web.com Tour, have tested positive in the anti-doping program that began in 2008.
CADDIE LAWSUIT: PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem says players are in charge of the financial arrangement for their caddies, and he hopes that system continues.
A group of caddies has filed a federal lawsuit against the tour in San Francisco, claiming the tour is making money off them by making them wear bibs with the title sponsor’s logo. The lawsuit contends the tour is getting $50 million from exposure for the bibs, and the caddies receive none of that.
Finchem said he hasn’t seen the complaint, and he wouldn’t comment directly on the lawsuit. Instead, he suggested it was up to the player to look after his caddie.
“A player is an individual, an independent contractor. He doesn’t have an HR department, he makes an arrangement with somebody that’s going to carry the bag and work with him,” Finchem said. “The historical process is the player handles that and they are employees of the player. We think that’s been a good system. The extent to which this lawsuit challenges that system, for whatever reasons they have in the lawsuit from a legal standpoint, it is what it is, but we would like to continue that system and let it go on.”
Finchem said tournaments have tried to increase accommodations for the caddies over the last 15 years, such as parking and catering. He also said arrangements are “all over the map” because some caddies have been with the same player for years, and others are only out for a few weeks.
“The extent to which the Tour does better financially for the players, that impacts the ability of the player to do better for the caddie financially,” he said.
RYDER CUP: The Ryder Cup Task Force held another meeting this week, without any details on how it is progressing. Phil Mickelson said the idea is not to find the right captain for 2016 at Hazeltine, but to develop a plan so that the Americans have more continuity for Ryder Cups down the road.
He still had some thoughts on the next captain.
“You’ve got to have somebody that’s strong enough, confident enough in who they are, to withstand the scrutiny that’s going to come their way, thanks to somebody,” he said. He paused briefly before adding, “That was supposed to be a joke.”
Mickelson was the key figure in the losing press conference at Gleneagles for his veiled criticism of U.S. captain Tom Watson. He didn’t directly criticize Watson, rather praised all the qualities of 2008 captain Paul Azinger and noted that Watson didn’t involve the players.
And after all that? He said Fred Couples would be a captain to meet those requirements.
“There’s a couple of other guys that fit that mold, too,” Mickelson said.
ROAD MAP: Brooks Koepka secured his PGA Tour card last year, mainly on the strength two big weeks at the Frys.com Open and U.S. Open. And his victory in Turkey on the European Tour moved him deep into the top 50 in the world. He is No. 19 after his first PGA Tour win last week in Phoenix.
The best part of all that — he can finally set a schedule well in advance.
“It’s been the first time I actually know what I’m doing going forward,” said Koepka, whose career path has taken him from the Challenge Tour to the European Tour to the PGA Tour. “The last two years I really haven’t had much notice more than two, three weeks out on where I’m going. So to have a plan, it’s nice. I can sit back and relax a little bit more and know where I’m going playing, do a little research on the golf courses, things like that.”