Will bulking up become a trend on the PGA Tour?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

A crowded leaderboard at Colonial Country Club, led to an exciting Sunday finish, including a playoff. Did the PGA Tour’s return to play live up to all the anticipation? 

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Rather than watch, I decided to play instead.  But in random conversations over the weekend, most of the golf fans I know said they were pretty indifferent about the resumption of live, televised golf.  It might’ve been wiser for the Tour and USGA to have started back with a bang, to get everyone really excited — i.e., should’ve made the US Open the inaugural comeback event.  But the Schwab Challenge at least provided some dynamics, so hopefully it’s harbinger of a good season ahead.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame member, PGA of Canada: I did watch the tournament, and in all honesty, I didn’t miss the fans. Lots of times when I watch an event, I do something else and turn the sound either off or down. What I think is a tragic over-sight is the missed opportunity to showcase the actions the public is required to perform when we play golf because of the virus. Caddies should have worn masks, in the right circumstances, players should have worn masks, the pin should have remained ‘in’, examples of social distancing should have been a priority, there should have been visual examples of no rakes. It’s bad enough when the most powerful person in the world is ignorant but why do the rest of us who can read and do know what responsible people can contribute fails to capitalize on any opportunity to educate the illiterate? Professional athletes are role models and TV is a perfect place to promote and support beneficial standards.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I think it did! I was hoping for a dramatic finish and Colonial delivered with a playoff, TWO lip outs during crunch time and Daniel Berger winning his first event in three years! What a week!

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Absolutely.  I for one was excited to tune into the action Thursday morning, and there aren’t many tournaments that get me that excited!  And the quality of play impressed me.  Of course, it helped that the greens were soft and rolled perfectly, and there wasn’t any wind, but still the scoring was impressive.  It’s great to have live golf back, let’s hope it’s here to stay!

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: That star-studded field exceeded my expectations, at least. After that long layoff, they pulled off an astounding array of brilliant shots and putts. But I didn’t anticipate that the bombers would come out blasting they way they did. Hogan said that the only shot that gets you in trouble at Colonial is a straight one. But led by Mr. 5 Protein Shakes a Day, they were hitting it over the corners that Hogan et al had to shape the ball around in the olden days.  Say wot? 350-yard averages? It’s now well and truly golf on steroids, even if DeChambeau didn’t get the Barry Bonds query about his hat size.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Initially, it was exciting to see a live tournament again, but as the rounds progressed and the novelty wore off, it became apparent that it was just the first in a long line of similar events. Even a star-studded leaderboard and a playoff couldn’t turn this one into anything more meaningful. In other sports we tolerate the regular season to get to the playoffs. In golf, we tolerate the regular events, anxiously awaiting the majors. The Schwab was good but more like a hearty meal for a starving person.

Among the headlines on Sunday night and Monday morning, Berger’s win, Morikawa’s missed short putts, DeChambeau’s bulked up physique, social distancing, COVID-19 testing, McIlroy’s Sunday collapse, Spieth’s re-emergence and the absence of fans dominated most reporting. In your mind what was the highlight of the Charles Schwab Challenge?

Deeks: Can’t really comment, sorry.  But given the option of playing golf on a beautiful Sunday afternoon vs. watching a non-major on TV, I’ll take the exercise every time.  I can always read about the tournament in Monday’s newspaper.

Schurman: The tournament was a basic, regular average tournament. Nothing spectacular happened and nothing unusual happened. I was surprised at Rory’s lack of skill but not at Spieth’s. I have predicted his swing is not nearly equal to his winning record. Brilliant wedge play, fantastic short game and out of this world putting has been his forte. Trevino once said, “Two things don’t last, pros who putt for pars and dogs who chase cars” or “Live by the sword, die by the sword”. Spieth has been fantastic but he’s not the complete deal.

Kaplan: I’m a big Spieth fan, so the highlight for me was seeing the Texan remain in contention throughout the week. Let’s hope that he can keep his improved ball striking together because golf becomes must-see TV when Spieth is mowing down the field with his putter.

Rule: I think the highlight was the number of people with a chance to win on Sunday.  It’s always exciting seeing a group bunched at the top, and anyone can make an eagle or double that moves them 15 spots on the leaderboard! And the quality of names was great to see.  I’m disappointed that McIlroy faltered on Sunday, and Rose didn’t make a run until late, but all in all it was exciting to watch, and the two guys in the playoff likely weren’t anyone’s number one bet even with an hour to go in the tourney!

Quinn: The highlight was that there were so many highlights from the opening round right to the playoff. Seemed like there was something amazing happening every hour. It certainly underlined the fact that the best way to watch a tourney is on TV. Had there been spectators, they would have missed most of the highlights trudging along outside the ropes.

Mumford: The resurrection of Jordan Spieth had most of my attention. The kid’s too good and too good for the game to have him out of contention any longer. On the negative side, the beefy BDC provided another reason for us “feel” players to root against the Mad Scientist.

Bryson DeChambeau finished one shot out of the playoff but was perhaps more noticeable for his physique and distance off the tee. His workout regimen is off the charts (3-4 times a day) and he says he’s not done yet. Brooks Koepka has also had great success by adding muscle. Do you see this becoming a trend among a lot of players?  

Deeks: If bulking up clearly proves to make a difference in their standing and their income, then yes, I do see it becoming a trend.  Whereas in previous generations, the golfers relied on practice and skills (and avoided exercise in favour of good food, good women, and good times), today’s golf professionals realize that it’s a 24/7 commitment, and if they don’t do everything they can to keep up — physically and mentally — they won’t stand out.  Mind you, NOT standing out will still give you a pretty darn good living if you’re tournament player.

Schurman: This ‘trend’ began in the 1940s with Frank Stranahan who was a power weightlifter. In the 1960s Gary Player worked hard at conditioning and of course, Tiger invented it. Since then many have seen it as Tiger’s ‘secret’. When asked about conditioning Sam Snead said, “when I feel the need to do some work, I go home and visit my brother.” His brother lived 3 miles away over the mountain or 10 miles away around it. Sam ran both ways. When asked about conditioning Hogan said “Why would I do that? I hit 450 balls, practise my short game for a couple of hours and walk while playing 18 holes every day. I think I’m strong enough”. Moe Norman hit 500 balls a day and walked while playing 18 holes every day. In casual rounds, Moe carried 150 to 200 balls in his bag. Greg Norman’s daily routine consisted of 10 hours of exercise, practice, walking to play followed by more exercise. Will the ‘trend’ continue? Only for those who have the will to win by doing what others won’t do.

Kaplan: Oh, yes. The Beef Brothers are going to inspire a lot of imitators. You think professional golf has a distance problem now? Just wait five years. The entire field will be a bunch of beefy bombers. No golf course will be safe.

Rule: I’ve never been a fan of DeChambeau, mostly because he’s glacier slow when he plays.  It is impressive to see how well he drives the ball with all of the upper body bulk he developed.  His swing isn’t a thing of beauty, but he’s never been about beauty, just about the numbers, and clearly it works for him.  Other guys like Gary Woodland are succeeding by shedding muscle and bulk, so it’s really dependant on each player, and what works best for them. John Daly and David Duval always played better when they were overweight, and you could say the same for Jason Dufner, so although DeChambeau is having success so far, I don’t see it being a trend for all.  Golf is still about flexibility and core strength rather than bodybuilder bulk!

Quinn: All bodies ain’t the same, and not all bodies react to massive stress the way DeChambeau’s has. It will be interesting to see how his joints withstand the new levels of torque and strain, and how long he can maintain the regimen. All golfers, from juniors to Tour players are hitting the gym. He may inspire a few to work harder but his system won’t become a trend, just as he is still alone with his one-length irons. What is amazing at this point is how he is still flexible with all that extra bulk and muscle.

Mumford: Whenever I hear stories like this, I’m reminded of Darren Clarke’s comment after Tiger started the last fitness craze more than twenty years ago. Asked at the 2000 WGC Anderson Match Play if he planned to work out, a quite portly Clarke, with cigar in hand, replied, “I went to the fitness trailer once but there was a long line up, so I went to the pub instead.” Clarke went on to beat Tiger 4&3 in the final of that Match Play and had a pretty solid career with 21 professional wins, a major, and six Ryder Cup teams. To each his own.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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