SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Bubba Watson wants no part of deer-antler spray. The name alone makes the Masters champion a bit squeamish.
“It sounds like something I would never want near me. ... I don’t even know how you take deer-antler spray,” Watson said Wednesday at the Phoenix Open. “Who’s the guy that thought of that? He might have been on something, too.”
A day after a Sports Illustrated article on Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis put deer-antler spray in the news at the Super Bowl, Vijay Singh admitted he used the substance.
The 49-year-old Fijian first revealed he used the spray in an interview for the Sports Illustrated story. The magazine said Singh paid one of Sports With Alternatives To Steroids’ owners $9,000 last November for the spray, hologram chips and other products. The deer-antler substance contains a performance-enhancer connected to human growth hormone.
“While I have used deer-antler spray, at no time was I aware that it may contain a substance that is banned under the PGA Tour Anti-Doping Policy,” Singh said in a statement.
“In fact, when I first received the product, I reviewed the list of ingredients and did not see any prohibited substances. I am absolutely shocked that deer-antler spray may contain a banned substance and am angry that I have put myself in this position. I have been in contact with the PGA Tour and am cooperating fully with their review of this matter. I will not be commenting further at this time.”
PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said the tour is “looking into the matter.”
“It’s sad that people live and die by their sport and they have to, I guess, cheat and go around it and try to better themselves with deer-antler spray,” Watson said. “I’m not just going to take something and ask questions later. I’m not going to take deer antler-spray and find out what it is later. ... I think we should check them for mental problems if they’re taking deer-antler spray. That’s kind of weird.”
Watson has taken a lot of approved medications lately. After fighting through illness to tie for fourth in the season-opening Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, the Masters champion withdrew before the start of the Farmers Insurance Open last week in San Diego.
“I had strep throat in Maui and then I had the flu last week,” Watson said. “My energy level isn’t where I want it to be, about 80 percent right now. ... Yesterday was the first time I played golf, and so about seven days off. I’m still kind of under the weather trying to get the medicine out of me. Kind of groggy, just don’t have the energy. I lost about 10 pounds since Maui, but I want to be out there competing.”
The long-hitting left-hander was paired with Olympic swimming star Michael Phelps in the pro-am Wednesday a day before the start of play at TPC Scottsdale.
“Being able to play with Bubba, it’s something else,” Phelps said. “We were throwing jokes back and forth the whole entire time and keeping it very light.”
Dodging another round of questions about his tax comments, Phil Mickelson didn’t hold a media session, but answered a few questions for a PGA Tour media official.
“I always enjoy coming back to Phoenix,” Mickelson said. “I lived here for 12 years. It’s where I met (wife) Amy. It’s where I’ve won a couple times, and the crowd and the people here create an environment that we don’t see in any other golf tournament.”
He caused a sensation by saying new federal and state tax rates kept him from being part of the San Diego Padres’ ownership group and might cause him to move away from California. The former Arizona State star has struggled on the course, tying for 51st last week at Torrey Pines after opening his season with a tie for 37th in the Humana Challenge.
Defending champion Kyle Stanley is making his fifth straight start of the season, joining Tommy Gainey and Scott Stallings as the only players yet to take a week off.
“I think after this event, I’m probably going to take an offseason,” Stanley said. “I didn’t really have much of one. I’m definitely looking forward to having some time off.”
Last year, Stanley rebounded from a devastating loss at Torrey Pines with his first PGA Tour victory. He beat Ben Crane by a stroke, overcoming an eight-stroke deficit with a final-round 65. The previous week in San Diego, Stanley made a triple-bogey 8 on the final hole and lost a playoff to Brandt Snedeker.
“It doesn’t seem like a year since I was last here, but today was the first time I’ve seen the course since Sunday last year,” Stanley said. “It’s good to be back. I feel really comfortable on this golf course.”
Padraid Harrington is playing the tournament for the first time.
“It’s a tournament that you have to go and play it sometime in your career,” the Irishman said. “I’ve looked at it over the years and it’s never quite fit the schedule, but I’ve always wanted to come and see what it’s like in person.”
Mickelson will play alongside Rickie Fowler and Jason Dufner the first two rounds. In other featured groups, Watson will play with Nick Watney and Sony Open winner Russell Henley; Stanley is with Keegan Bradley and Martin Kaymer; and Harrington and Snedeker with Hunter Mahan. Singh was scheduled to play with Ryan Moore and Carl Pettersson. ... Dufner has made 22 straight cuts, the longest active streak on the tour.