AF1 Scott McCarron off tee.jpg

Scott McCarron strikes his opening tee shot Friday in the American Family Insurance Championship. McCarron uses CBD products, which he said helped him sleep more soundly.

MADISON – It’s not the fountain of youth, but evidence suggests CBD may be the fountain of feeling a little better. When you’re 50-something and trying to make a living playing golf, anything that helps you sleep a little more soundly, move a little more freely and perhaps lowers your anxiety level is worth its weight in gold.

CBD, short for cannabidiol, a chemical compound from the cannabis plant, is the wellness product that suddenly is seemingly everywhere. And it appears to be the Next Big Thing in golf.

Scott McCarron is convinced CBD is at least indirectly responsible for his monster season on the PGA Tour Champions. McCarron, who shot a 1-under 71 in the first round of the American Family Insurance Championship on Friday, is a three-time winner this year and is far and away the leading money winner with more than $1.7 million.

“I take a pill orally at night and it helps me sleep,” McCarron said. “It helps me recover if I have a little inflammation. I’m not as sore when I wake up in the morning. Maybe I feel a little calmer than I normally do. If I have any aches and pains, I’ll put the (CBD) salve on it. It seems to work pretty good.”

McCarron, 53, has an endorsement deal with Functional Remedies, a hemp-oil company. Earlier this year, PGA Tour player Scott Piercy announced a similar deal with Real Brands, an e-commerce company that offers a variety of CBD products. Lately, you may have seen Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson chewing what is believed to be CBD-laced gum.

McCarron estimated that 50 players on the PGA Tour Champions are using CBD products, along with 10 to 15 on the regular tour.

“I’ve taken the pills for inflammation,” said Ken Tanigawa, who won the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship last month and opened with a 73 at University Ridge. “I’ve used the salve. I think it helped me, just with inflammation. I used to run a lot and I would wake up and I wouldn’t be as stiff. This is even before all the guys out here started using it.”

Unlike its cousin tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that gives marijuana users a high, CBD is not psychoactive. Still, the PGA Tour was concerned enough about the growing use of CBD that it sent a letter to players in April, warning that “CBD products (like all supplements) pose a risk to athletes because they have limited government regulation and may contain THC.”

“There’s just trace amounts of THC. Trace,” McCarron emphasized. “The reason they advise us not to use it is because they don’t know what else is in it. But there’s no reason for them to test for THC levels because it’s minute. Anytime a new product comes out – whether it’s a vitamin you buy at GNC or anything – they want you to make sure you know what’s in it before you take it.”

Players are not drug-tested on the PGA Tour Champions.

“We were tested so much on the regular tour, maybe they’re giving us a break,” said Steve Flesch. “It’s funny. Everybody out here does what they can to survive. If they tested us, they’d find a lot of caffeine and a lot of inflammatories out here.”

McCarron scoffed at the notion that CBD gives its users a competitive advantage.

“No, no,” he said with a laugh. “I think it helps me sleep better. That’s all. Does that give me an advantage? I don’t know. Some nights I sleep better than others. I track my sleep with a device called Whoop. The first week I used the CBD oil, my sleep levels were as good as they’d ever been for a week straight. So, I knew at that point that this is measurable and it made a difference.”

Jerry Kelly, the AmFam’s first-round leader with a 65, said he had tried CBD as an “injury-type medication.” But he said his allergies seemed to flare up when he used it and he didn’t know if it was coincidence or a side effect of the CBD.

“I’ve almost felt like it’s brought me down too low,” Kelly said. “Is that the anxiety thing about it or is that the allergy side of it? You’re using a plant-based material. But I do know it’s better than the NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory drugs) and things like that.”

Flesch said he has not yet tried CBD.

“I’m on so much other medicine I didn’t think I’d throw CBD into the mix,” he said. “A lot of guys are swearing by it but I’m not exactly sure what it’s doing for them, if it’s making them feel better or they feel like they’re focusing more. I just haven’t gone down that road yet.”

Jeff Sluman is another player who said he hadn’t tried CBD and had not yet studied it.

“You’re probably talking to the guy who knows the least about it,” he said. “I’ve never even thought about anything like that. But if they’re saying (it helps), maybe I’ll look into it.”

Tanigawa would advise Sluman, and other players who have resisted, to hop aboard the CBD train.

“I take it religiously so it’s in my system,” he said. “It’s better than taking a lot of Aleve. It’s more natural. I take the Functional Remedies, the same stuff Scott’s on. I don’t know if it’s a competitive advantage. It helps you feel better and that’s the whole key out here.

“If players don’t take it, I would start taking it. Where’s the down side? There’s no down side if you’re getting healthier. I think it’s good to take it. I don’t know why you wouldn’t.”