Everybody wants to know what's wrong with Tiger Woods. I think I know. The problem is two-fold.
Swedish models and dumbbells.
Though the two may or may not be mutually exclusive, they have combined to knock El Tigre off the top of the mountain as the No. 1 golfer in the world. He's not even No. 2 any more.
While Woods is renting entire resorts and helicopter fleets to ensure the media doesn't horn in on his Barbados honeymoon with his reported new bride, Elin Nordegren, the new kings of the mountain, No. 1 Vijay Singh and No. 2 Ernie Els, are gunning it out in the Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews.
It's hard to blame him. Say you're a 28-year-old with a bank account the size of Egypt and a statuesque blonde on your hands. Would you rather be in sunny Barbados on a private yacht or in the cold bogs of the Old Course chasing Vijay and Ernie?
But, it's obviously costing him professionally. So says Singh, who is 41 years old and doesn't have the burden or delight of making such choices.
"I'm sure he's going to start winning sooner or later, but at the moment I think his focus is elsewhere," Singh told the Western Mail of Wales.
But, there's a deeper problem, one that is a result of these modern times in which the fitness police say any problems you may have can be worked out in the gym.
Woods wasn't exactly having problem in 2000 and 2001, which is roughly when he started his ultra-secret exercise routine. Presumably, he wanted to get even better; either that, or he wanted to bulk up to attract world-class babes.
In any event, the bulked-up Tiger just isn't working.
"I think it's his body change a little bit, and his golf swing changed," Singh said. "As you get older you have to keep adjusting to your golf swing. When he first came on to the scene, he was extremely strong. I'm not saying he isn't now, but you do slow down a little bit. The golf swing has to match your body ability.
"I don't think he has progressed that way. There's been a big change in his body mannerisms and his golf swing. You know, I have adjusted accordingly and for the better, and I don't think he has done that."
Singh's explanation is only partly on the mark. Woods is only 28. He's in the prime of his athletic life, not slowing down. Still, you have to wonder if all that exercise isn't affecting the natural plane of growth of his body.
Woods went from a skinny 150-pound 21-year-old to a mini-Arnold Schwarzenegger, 180-pound 28-year-old. His golf shirts don't fit, and neither does his swing.
You don't have to be Charles Atlas to swing a golf club. Thank God we have the Craig Stadlers and John Dalys of the world to prove that.
If you can believe Golf Digest, who claims to have uncovered Woods' workout routine in its "Secrets" issue, Woods goes at it hammer and tong in the gym, when he's not playing.
He spends three or four hours a day, five days a week in the gym, according to the magazine, in high-intensity workouts. He varies it, from strength training to flexibility to cardiovascular work.
He starts with 30 minutes of full-body stretching, focusing on the muscles of the legs and trunk. He has a physical therapist helping him focus on the joints used to swing a club as ferocious as he does, from kneecaps to vertebrae.
Then, it's on to cardiovascular work, using the treadmill, stair-stepper and climbing machine. He also loves to jog three or four miles, always on grass.
On the days he lifts weights, he pumps 80 percent of his maximum weight, doing things like bench press, shoulder press and squats; he can reportedly bench press 300 pounds, which is roughly what a college linebacker can do. He does sets of six to eight reps, with heavy weights.
He tries to make this regimen "golf-specific," focusing on such things as posture and grip strength. He also tries to build "core strength," according to the magazine, which involves strengthening the muscles that stabilize your body.
That means keeping the torso in place while moving your limbs in different ways. Then he cools down with more stretching.
I'm tired just writing all that.
Heavy workout like this are a fragile area in world-class athletes. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Ernie Els lost 15 pounds with a regimen that sounds similar, a routine he claims helped rejuvenate his game.
Nick Faldo, on the other hand, bulked up in the mid-90s and lost his touch around the green.
You see this kind of thing all the time in athletes who are either seeking an edge or trying to recapture it. Aging boxers sometimes try to add muscle; usually it doesn't help them in the ring. Remember when John McEnroe tried stretching when he was making an unsuccessful comeback? It didn't work.
The world's best athletes seem to reach a peak when they evolve naturally into a sort of Olympian convergence of mind and body. Obviously, there's nothing wrong with keeping in shape, but tampering too much with this mysterious process can cause harm, especially by employing artificial means.
Woods was a naturally perfect, golf-swing lever as a 21-year-old. Now, he's a souped-up Ferrari with problems under the hood.
October 8, 2004
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