The British open golf at St. Andrews this week is the major sporting event in town. Lots of column inches devoted to alterations to the course layout, speculation regarding weather and whether we’ll see a British winner (looking good as I write as Rory McIlroy is -8). Oh yeah…and a small amount on Tiger Woods. It’s testament to his profile that given his recent average form he is the dominant talking point wherever he goes, this week a little more due to his choice of putter than his choice of woman (a cynic might suggest that this week has been a huge Nike marketing campaign complete with quotes from his caddy). His personal life aside, Woods has done a lot for golf worldwide, including a change of culture surrounding physical preparation.
There’s a contemporary group of British players including Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Ross Fisher (I’ve probably missed a couple of names that could also be included), who walk onto the course as athletes with a physique to match instead of the more traditional golfing shape (see Colin Montgomery and John Daly for details). I think that this is in no small part due to Tiger’s influence.
When he first came onto the scene, the distance he was driving the ball alone gave him a massive edge, he looked every part the professional athlete and was obviously in much better condition than his peers, he raised the bar. In the years since, other players on the tour have been playing catch up and putting more and more emphasis on the gains that can be made in the gym as well as time spent on the course. As a result we’ve seen schemes like the Titleist Performance Institute spreading strength and conditioning to mainstream golf as well as around the professional circuit.
Hopefully, as a result we’ll see a reduction in injuries in golfers (professional and amateur) and an increase in performance. Unfortunately, that will more than likely result in course layout changes increasing difficulty as we’ve seen at St Andrews, and for those golfers (I’m including myself in this) who are more lacking in the skill rather than conditioning component, this is less than ideal!