Vijay's lawsuit against the PGA Tour could have huge implications for his fellow pros

Vijay’s lawsuit against the PGA Tour could have huge implications for his fellow pros

Vijay Singh shot a bogey-free 68 to move into contention.
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — What a year this has been in the old shepherd's game. The fight over anchored putting! The real meaning of Rule 26-1(a)! Vijay's spraying habits!

At every turn, words have been parsed and attorneys have been hovering. Lawyers reviewed the language of the USGA's proposed anchored putting ban. Fred Ridley, chairman of the competition committee at the Masters, is, like many rules experts, a lawyer. Vijay Singh has been lawyered-up from the day the PGA Tour told him (but not the public) in February he was being suspended for 90 days.

As it played out, he never served a day of the suspension, as his lawyers successfully appealed it. When Ty Votaw, the Tour's top spokesman, tells you the Tour is not discussing the case, you're getting a no-comment with a legal degree attached to it.

The stack of paperwork generated by these episodes has at times threatened to overwhelm this year's action on the main stage: Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines, Phil Mickelson at Phoenix, Adam Scott at Augusta.

Singh missed the cut at the Players, and didn't want to talk.

"I'm perfectly fine," he said.

His lawyers, though, are talking. In the annals of golfing jurisprudence, Singh vs. the PGA Tour could be the most significant case ever brought. It could dwarf the old Ping grooves suit.

Since the PGA Tour began testing for performance-enhancing drugs five years ago, there have been only two known incidents involving violations of the program: the Singh case and case of the former Tour player Doug Barron.

Barron failed a drug test for using testosterone and was suspended for a year. He subsequently sued the Tour. That suit was either dismissed, settled or resolved, depending on which lawyer you talk to and when you talk to him.

Barron and one of his lawyers, Jeff Rosenblum of Memphis, followed Singh for nine holes at the Masters last month. It was Barron who introduced Singh to Rosenblum. Singh is also represented by Peter Ginsberg of New York.

More about the Rosenblum-Singh partnership in a moment. First, a brief update on Barron. He is no longer playing professional golf, and last month he started a job selling medical devices to orthopedic surgeons. He says his golf is better than ever and described a recent round in which he made seven consecutive birdies.

Asked about the outcome of his suit against the Tour, Barron said, "I could talk about it and break the confidentiality agreement, and [the Tour] would take legal action. I'd rather do it in a book."

He said his book would be "faith-based."

Back to Singh. In a phone interview on Thursday, Rosenblum acknowledged that suing the PGA Tour would be a distraction for Singh and not likely help his golf game in the short term.

But he also said there were bigger issues involved in the suit, which is rooted in Singh's belief — and the belief of his lawyers — that the deer-antler spray he used to treat knee and back ailments should never have been on the banned list in the first place. Rosenblum thinks Singh can do something good here for himself and his fellow tour pros.

He said, "A player who stands up for his rights and the rights of other players should be applauded."

Singh, who is widely admired and liked by his peers (caddies and reporters tend to see his cranky side), has put himself in a peculiar position. Not every player will possibly like the fact he is challenging the Tour legally even after he admitted publicly to using a substance on the Tour's banned list.

Singh is 50, and last month at the Champions tour event in Savannah, the veteran golfer Mike Reid was wondering why Singh, who has struggled this year on Tour (with nothing better than a 20th place finish in nine starts), doesn't play on the senior circuit.

"There wouldn't be a par-5 out here for him," Reid said.

He said he would most likely challenge Bernhard Langer as the best player on the tour. He could make a fortune there.

In his more than two decades on the PGA Tour, Singh has led an almost monastic golfing life, with range sessions that have lasted for hours at a time. He has doted on his only child, Qass, who was on hand at the Players. Between his worldwide earnings and his endorsements, he has most likely made more than $100 million in his career.

His life to date begs the questions: Why is he pursuing this lawsuit, and why is he pursuing it with Rosenblum?

Barron has another lawyer in Memphis, Arthur Horne, who is not representing Singh. Earlier this year, Horne offered an interesting insight into Barron's case. Horne said the Tour and Barron settled because, during the suit's discovery phrase, Barron was asking for every failed drug test the Tour had ever received, and the Tour "really didn't want to give that up."

Of course, there may or may not be failed tests. The lawyer representing the Tour in the Singh case, Rich Young of Colorado Springs, did not respond to an e-mail or a phone message. Young represented the Tour in Barron's suit as well.

Singh said in his suit he has been "humiliated, ashamed, ridiculed, scorned and [rendered] emotionally distraught" by the Tour. How he can be made whole by way of a lawsuit is not easy to imagine. It would seem unlikely that payment is his goal here.

If Singh's true goal is to force the Tour to release embarrassing information (that it may or may not even have), then the era of lawyers showing up on Golf Channel is only just beginning. Barron's case, of course, never got that far. Singh will have less cause to settle or resolve. If a court dismisses it, that's a whole different matter.

In any event, it has been a long time since Singh has played a round in which he has made seven birdies, let alone seven straight.