PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Vijay Singh enters the weekend in solo fourth just three shots off the lead at the Players Championship, the flagship event of the PGA Tour.
He is also in the midst of a lawsuit against the Tour.
“I don’t want to talk about that,” Singh said Friday when asked about the ongoing and contentious legal bout, now dragging into its fifth year, against the organization.
Though the suit extends back to the Tour’s previous commissioner, Tim Finchem, imagine new head boss Jay Monahan having to hand over the tournament’s crystal trophy to Singh on Sunday, just up the street from its headquarters.
It would be akin to when the NFL’s Roger Goodell gave the Super Bowl and game MVP trophies to Tom Brady this past February in Houston after Goodell had suspended the Patriots quarterback for the first four games of the season over Deflategate.
The suit, which was filed a few days prior to the 2013 Players Championship, claims the Tour was negligent in its handling of Singh’s anti-doping violation and breached its implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, which caused harm to the now 54-year-old Fijian’s reputation.
Last October, Judge Eileen Bransten heard arguments in New York Supreme Court from lawyers on both sides, with attorneys presenting arguments for two motions for summary judgment in the case over Singh’s use of deer-antler spray.
In a January 2013 Sports Illustrated article, the three-time major champion admitted to using the spray and was suspended for three months for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy. The Tour later dropped the suspension, saying the World Anti-Doping Agency changed its stance on IGF-1, which is banned by the Tour and WADA, and deer-antler spray, which contains a form of IGF-1 but not the version that is prohibited.
When contacted by Golf Digest, Singh’s lawyer Peter Ginsberg said they were waiting for a ruling on the motions, something that should come relatively soon given how long ago they were filed.
Should the judge rule in Singh’s favor, the case would go to trial, which would mean other players who have run afoul of the Tour’s anti-doping policy could be exposed, though Bransten had previously ruled the scope of discovery be limited to those who used deer-antler spray.
The Tour, meanwhile, declined comment through its spokesman Ty Votaw.
As for Singh, his play did most of the talking on Friday. He made five birdies through his first 12 holes, tying for the lead at one point at TPC Sawgrass, where he spends his time practicing when not splitting time between the regular Tour and PGA Tour Champions.
His round could have been even better if not for a missed 8-footer for birdie on 17 and three-putt bogey from 38 feet on 18.
Still, Singh had plenty to smile about. Prior to this week, he had missed his last seven cuts on the PGA Tour. On Friday, he made more than 113 feet of putts to jump into contention.
“I haven’t done it for a long time,” said Singh, who is playing in his 24th Players Championship and has never won at TPC Sawgrass, his best finish a runner-up in 2001. “But it’s nice to be playing well again, I’ve been hitting the ball pretty good, so it’s good to do it at home.”