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An important way Tiger Woods changed professional golf

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Tiger Woods is, without a doubt, one of the most influential players in the history of golf. 80 tour wins, 14 majors (10 of them before he was 30) are all incredible numbers.

But this article is not about his amazing stats.

Today, I want to talk about one thing he has done for the game off the course. Most of us remember the Nike commercial with all the little kids saying “I am Tiger Woods.” What we didn’t realize at the time was that an entire generation of young players were growing up idolizing Tiger.

While other kids may have had posters of Michael Jordan or Troy Aikman on their walls, these kids had posters of Tiger. They watched his every move. They all had black shorts or pants with a red shirt to wear on Sunday. They all wanted to be him. Some of those kids were Jason Day, Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, Rory Mcllroy, and Lexi Thompson. They watched him and were amazed at how dominate he was and wanted to be like him.

As these kids grew up, they understood that the physical shape that Tiger always seemed to be in played a key role in how many tournaments he won and how, even on bad days when his skills seemed to take a day or two off, his physical conditioning got him through it. The young people watched him and started to include physical conditioning in their game. They were spending time in the gym and working with personal trainers. They still worked with swing coaches and in most cases played NCAA golf but the difference in their game was the work they did without a club in their hand.

So what is it that gives these players an edge? Is it because they are stronger? Maybe. Is it because they hit the ball further? No, because John Daly could bomb the driver but was in no way the most dominate player of his day. The key here is endurance. Because of the incredible shape these players keep themselves in, they can walk 72 holes of golf in brutally hot conditions and still have their A games on Sunday.

This is exactly what helped Tiger to be so good his competition couldn’t keep up with him and just faded down the leaderboard. Playing Tiger in his prime meant you had to have your entire game at its best and hope he missed a few shots or got sick. If he didn’t he was going to sneak up on you and pounce or he was already so far ahead that you were in a race for second place.

Today’s players have swing coaches and athletic trainers they work closely with nutrition experts and monitor everything they put into their bodies. These are the type of things we historically have expected to see from top NFL, NHL and NBA players, not golfers. This is the difference that Tiger has made and this may be the thing that impacts golf for decades to come. He has made golf into a sport that requires you to be in the best shape of your life if you want to play at the highest levels. It is also exactly what the game needed.

I can’t imagine the players of 25 years ago wearing golf shirts that were designed to be skin tight. I never would have believed seeing players with biceps bigger than some peoples legs (Brooks Koepka) but today it’s a reality. Most of the top players on both the PGA and LPGA are in great shape and reap the benefits of it on the 18th green on Sunday. Tiger will be remembered as an amazing player with amazing numbers. He is one of just a few players whose galleries could rival that of small cities. He is also a player that changed the way a generation of greats now play the game.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Chris

    Feb 22, 2019 at 8:08 am

    Dominant not Dominate

  2. Shallowface

    Feb 21, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    If it’s all so great today, why are there more injuries than there have ever been. Kopeka had a great year last year, but he was out for months at one stretch. Tiger is lucky he’s even playing, and I suspect he’s going at it with the mindset that he’s going to go as hard as he can for as long as he can because he’s going to break down again. We never had the injuries in the past that we have today. There’s nothing positive about that which is going on today.
    Billy Casper had it right when he said, “no one ever went on the disabled list because of pulled fat.”

    • K

      Feb 22, 2019 at 1:34 am

      Yeah. The whole world of sports has turned into quick-cash-now schemes, all across the board.

  3. Tom

    Feb 21, 2019 at 5:07 pm

    Uhhhhh….Gary Player worked out hard and was very fit and strong. Have you ever seen a picture of a young Arnold Palmer? Huge hands, arms, skinny waist….so there have been fit players before Tiger….
    The golf ball changes are responsible for the game becoming so much about power. Wound balata balls had much higher spin rates so they flew very differently if not struck solidly (wide range of sideways misses). So you had to swing at 80% to stay under control. Today its all bash and chase…skill is less important relative to power. Too bad!

    • Mr. Morden

      Feb 22, 2019 at 7:21 am

      Your’e right Gary player was probably the first but he didn’t have the massive crowds of fans following him nor did he have the benefit of having the spotlight of not only the entire golfing world but much of the sports world on him like Tiger did. As far as the comment about it all being smash and chase I think that is a very poor argument. If that were true we would see long drive champions playing on tour. Instead the guys that win have to have finesse and a great short game. A good example would be Phil. He cant hit it like Dustin Johnson or Cameron Champ but because he is creative and a shot maker he can still compete at the highest levels against guys that are half his age.

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