Out of Bounds

A snapshot of professional golfer Doug Barron's 2009 PGA season looks something like this: no wins, no top-10 finishes, failure to make even one cut and zero dollars earned.

Needless to say, it wasn't very "Tiger-esque."

Despite his subpar, or in this case "over-par" performance, no one could have predicted the bombshell that would define the rest of Barron's 2009 season and his career.

Last week, Barron became the first professional golfer ever to be suspended for violating the PGA's Anti-Doping Policy. The veteran, who was ranked 919th in the world last year, was suspended for one year after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

The PGA Tour did not disclose what Barron took to cause the positive test nor did they comment on when the positive test occurred. Barron, however, remains the only golfer to be suspended since the tour implemented anti-doping measures on July 1, 2008.

Over the past few decades, performance-enhancing drugs have been a major issue for a number of professional sports. Until Barron's positive test, however, they have remained more than a long drive by Tiger Woods away from any golf course. Indeed, the biggest scandal in golf in recent years is the fact that someone keeps allowing John Daly to play.

"I would like to apologize for any negative perception of the tour or its players resulting from my suspension," Barron said in a statement released by the PGA Tour. "I want my fellow tour members and fans to know that I did not intend to gain an unfair competitive advantage or enhance my performance while on tour."

The 40-year-old has played on the PGA Tour for eight full seasons with his best finish coming in 2006 when he tied for third at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Last season he played a full nationwide Tour schedule, but made only five cuts in 17 starts.

In his only PGA Tour start of this season, he missed the cut at the St. Jude Classic before failing to make the cut again at the Mexico Open on the nationwide Tour in early September; his last official event of the season.

Adding to the oddity surrounding this incident is the irony that Barron is known for being somewhat overweight. The 5-foot-9-inch, 170-pound Barron doesn't exactly fit the mold of an athlete who is on steroids, let alone an athlete who goes to the gym.

In 2006 Barron decided to put his figure on display while playing a tough shot on the 16th hole of the Chrysler Championship. While preparing to play the ball, which had landed at the edge of a water hazard, Barron proceeded to remove his white golf shirt in hopes of not getting it dirty.

Flaunting a rather rotund midsection, Barron went on to double-bogey the hole, leaving him with some teasing from his colleagues, a rather embarrassing photo and absolutely no speculation of performance-enhancing drug use.

Regardless of the strange circumstances and somewhat comical irony surrounding Barron's suspension, it raises an interesting question: What effect will this suspension have on professional golf?

Realistically, it was only a matter of time before performance-enhancing drugs hit the golf course. In today's world, athletes will do just about anything to gain a competitive advantage on their opponents. If that means taking a banned substance to drive the ball farther down the course, then so be it.

Barron, however, is by no means golf's version of Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens. He isn't a top-20 player or a threat to break any hallowed records; he is just the guy who got caught first - a statistic.

In the end, this positive test won't hurt the image or credibility of professional golf; in fact, in a twisted way it can be seen as a good thing. The suspension proves that the anti-doping measures taken by the PGA Tour are working and are not a waste of both time and money.

Only time will tell the true impact of steroids on the sport of golf. Was Barron just a unique case, an outlier in a pool of clean players? Or is he just the tip of the iceberg? We'll have to wait and see.

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