Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tiger And The Knee

Before the Well Fargo Championship, Tiger Woods dropped out of the tournament due to re-aggravating his knee injury and also hurting his Achilles tendon. Woods later played the first 9 holes at The Players, shot 42, and withdrew due to injury. Today Woods announced that there was no further damage done to his knee or his Achilles and he will play at the US Open.

If you’re pulling for Tiger to take Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 Major championship victories, I believe there’s a reason for some major concern.

For starters, I do believe that he shot 42 (+6) because of the injury. Whether or not one considers golf to be a ‘sport’, it takes a tremendous amount of concentration to play at a good amateur level, much less a world class level. I played golf once with a sprained ankle suffered from a pickup basketball game and the results were not pretty. I think it’s safe to say that whether or not once considers golf a sport, most will consider it an extremely hard activity and if you’re thinking about your health, you’re likely to struggle.

However, for his knee to have continuing problems is very troubling to me. In my experience of golf, I’ve only met one golfer who hurt their knee from playing golf. And that was when he was hitting a shot on a steep hill by a green and it was wet from the rain the night before. He slipped after he hit his shot, turned on the knee funny and tore his ACL.

But other than that, everybody I’ve come across with knee problems when they golf has been from injuries suffered from other activities. And typically the golf injuries are to the lower back, shoulder and wrist. And even those are not that prevalent or that devastating.

For Tiger to have re-hurt his knee again…something tells me that the knee is very frail and it does not bode well for his future.

Of course, the knee injury is believed to have originally stemmed from the way Woods would ‘lock/snap’ his left knee thru impact. I think it’s safe to say that this has merit. However, I feel that there is more to it than that.

Personally, Tiger Woods reminds me a bit of former NFL Wide Receiver, David Boston. Boston was a high profile Wide Receiver for the Arizona Cardinals who wound up getting heavily into bodybuilding. He was known for his unusual dedication and working with his own personal trainer who had controversial methods and techniques. There was also rampant accusations of steroid and HGH abuse. As you can see, here’s a pic of Boston in his early days before he started getting into the bodybuilding.

That’s a far cry from the first pic in the Chargers uniform. Here’s what an article by ESPN said about Boston.

The consensus in Arizona is that he'll break down, that his ankles are too thin to carry that load, that he's too massive for the ligaments on his sprinter legs. The consensus is that the patella tendon in his right knee -- the one that burst last season -- will burst again. And that will be that. (

And from Wikipedia

Before the 2004 season, he tested positive for steroids and was ordered to serve a four-game suspension. The suspension became academic after he tore ligaments in his knee and was unable to play for the entire season. The Dolphins cut him at the end of the year, then proceeded to re-sign him for the veterans' minimum for 2005. He played in five games that year before tearing knee ligaments again. (

I’m not accusing Tiger of using steroids or HGH. But I do believe he has put on a lot of muscle mass on his frame over the years. And I think he probably could have gotten away with that, but the combination of snapping his knee thru impact in his golf swing and the extra muscle I believe was a recipe for where he is today with his swing.

I know Tiger was (and maybe still is) big into doing squats and other types of lower body weight lifting. I remember there was a rumor about him in college as the type that would go off and take a 30 mile bike ride just for conditioning purposes. I think this heavy muscle workout has led to putting too much weight on the knee and never really got him hitting the ball further. When I think of exercise, I think the results should be either better performance or more longevity or both and Tiger doesn’t seem to have achieved either one with his exercise regimen.

I was thinking about the notable long hitters over the years and their size. Here’s the main long ball hitters I could think of:

Sam Snead
Arnold Palmer
Mike Souchak
Jack Nicklaus
John Daly
Greg Norman
Davis Love III
Phil Mickelson

Outside of Souchak, none of these players came off as overly muscular people. Don’t get me wrong, some of these guys were in good physical condition and some had very strong hands. But as far as having Tiger’s muscle mass, Souchak is the only one of the group that comes close IMO. In fact, Nicklaus was known as ‘Fat Jack’ and Daly…well, was sponsored by Hooters for awhile.

Here’s today’s top driving distance golfers:

Dustin Johnson
Robert Garrigus
Gary Woodland
JB Holmes
Bubba Watson

And none of these golfers have the muscle mass that Tiger has either.

I think the golfing world has probably overdone the physical fitness part for golfers, particularly the top players on Tour.

Villegas is another PGA Tour golfer who is into a pretty heavy duty weight program. He’s currently 144th on the Money List (and we are past the halfway point of the 2011 season). He’s 160th in Advanced Total Driving, 178th in Danger Zone Play and 103rd from 50-175 yards (Adjusted).

I’m not anti-working out. Nor am I against weight lifting. But I think the primary focus should be on total body flexibility and cardiovascular conditioning. I believe that flexibility is a bit overrated when it comes to adding distance. Instead I think flexibility is mostly important for helping with a golfer’s longevity because it helps prevent injuries and nagging pain. Cardio is important in life in general, but hitting a clutch shot is a lot easier to do with a lower heart rate than a high heart rate. Weight lifting helps with cardiovascular training and that’s why I’m not completely against weight training. But, I would recommend that one doesn’t lift weights enough at the risk of losing flexibility. And in the case of Tiger, adding too much muscle to a bones and joints that cannot handle it.



Alexis said...

Agree with you !

Tai chi is great for golf.


x said...

Great article.

You left out Quiros - though he is pretty stringy as well.