Steroids in golf?

mulligan, 13 April 2005, Comments Off on Steroids in golf?
Categories: Uncategorized

Gary Player once said that the day will come when a golfer stands on the first tee at Augusta National and drives the first green (even with the new tournament tees). This golfer will be “6-foot-5, weigh 260 pounds, and he will make Tiger Woods look like a shrimp” (Golf Digest, 2002).

So, what would Gary Player’s nightmare look like? Actually, we have photographic evidence, and even analysis of this golfer’s swing by none other than David Leadbetter. Who is it?

Mark McGwire. 6-foot-5, 250 pounds. Clubhead speed: more than 140 miles per hour (average tour player is in the 115 to 125 mph range), 300+ yards carry (remember, this is from 3 years ago, and does not take the most recent ball and driver technology into account). McGwire won the 2003 skills challenge over pros Greg Norman, Paul Azinger, and Colin Montgomerie, among others.

Now, McGwire is not a professional golfer by any stretch. But it is easy to imagine some college (or high school) kid who has played golf since he (or she) was walking, getting bigger, faster, stronger, and better. More likely than not, there is a substantial group of kids out there with the right mental, genetic, and physical make-up, as well as the resources to be able to play and practice at the level required to succeed at the highest level.

Or, more simply, imagine Tiger Woods the size of Mark McGwire. That is what steroids would do to a good golfer. Long drive champions routinely pound 375-plus drives during competition. Combine that power with Tiger or Phil Mickelson’s ability from 200 yards in….

Technology is quickly hitting a wall, in terms of additional length and control. Further, the fitness craze on the PGA tour arguably has had as much impact on the professional game as technology. It would not be hard to convince me that athletic prowess will be the primary driver behind success in golf at every level in the future. And, as we have seen in every other professional sport, once slim advantages in athletic ability begins to separate players on the margin of the highest levels of performance, the temptation to use performance-enhancing substances becomes undeniable.


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