It's fitness vs. fatness on PGA Tour

Updated: May 3, 2007, 12:30 PM ET
By Bob Verdi | Golf World

Zach Johnson's mastery of the Masters was terrific stuff for a wonderful fellow, Nick Watney's first victory won't be his last, and if the sculpted Tiger Woods ever decides to give up golf, he would go high in the next NFL draft.

But as Clara Peller asked in the legendary hamburger commercial, "Where's the beef?" You could distill the body fat from all those 2007 winners -- throw in Adam Scott for a foursome -- and it wouldn't fill a thimble, let alone the post-game cup of liquid refreshment frequently brandished by my hero, Mark Calcavecchia, who's having a very nice year, too, thank you. He's 46 and weighs 240 pounds, but his bank account is also growing.

I can't vouch for Boo Weekley's exercise routine, although I suspect he considers the PGA Tour fitness trailer to be a man-made impediment. And Tim Herron remains competitive, while keeping his chins up despite the wave of young flatbellies out there.

Tim Herron
Tim Heitman/US PRESSWIRELike Herron says, you can't pull fat.
"Oh, I go in that van," Herron says. "It's a nice van. But I go in just to get stretched. I call it the 'fat man's workout' because it really isn't a workout if someone else is doing the work, right?"

So it was in the good old days. Exactly when pumping iron reared its ugly head is unclear. Gary Player did 500 pushups in his sleep. Then Greg Norman arrived, and he pleads guilty to perspiring in a mobile facility intended to rehabilitate existing injuries, not runaway appetites. Brad Faxon remembers 1983, his rookie season, when he was all ears about the difference between a barbell and a bar bill.

"I got on a flight from the Buick Open in Michigan for Hartford," he recalls. "Chi Chi Rodriguez and John Mahaffey were in first class having a couple beers. I started to walk by when Chi Chi asked where I was going. I told him, 'coach.' He asked the stewardess what it would cost to upgrade me. She wasn't sure. So Chi Chi peeled out six $20 bills. I'm in the front cabin. Then he turns to me, and says, 'Now, Brad, I saw you going in that trailer today. If you want a nice long career, stay out of there.' That's how guys thought back then."

Most of us sedentary types regard this great game as one that can be enjoyed while eating, drinking, smoking and driving to one's ball in a cart. Regrettably, these acts are the very peccadilloes that purists cite as reasons why golf is not a sport. I debate the point, usually by countering that figure skating doesn't qualify either, because any endeavor conducted with contestants wearing sequins and requiring background music to perform can't be a sport. This results in hate mail, often written with crayons, from Olympic devotees hailing those slim and trim figures who dance for medals. No argument there, although that might be why so many figure skaters cry: They're all starving. There's a crying room for figure skaters, but is there a cafeteria?

But I digress. Marty Boehm, one of several therapists who travel with the tour, estimates that during any given week, a third of the field will enter the massive van that usually occupies a prominent place in or around the players' parking lot. You can't miss it, unless you want to, or unless you make like Craig Stadler, bless him, who was known to extract a measure of joy from dropping in and sipping a cold one while peers tortured themselves on those confounded machines.

Once upon a more well-rounded time, you would walk into a locker room and there were so many doughnuts available, it looked like a police station. However, athletes everywhere have changed, and that includes golfers. Now, it's all about nutritional supplements and energy bars and if a player indulges in the evils of a milkshake, he adjourns to the treadmill, as if out of guilt. But not all players. "I subscribe to the John Daly theory," preaches Herron. "You can pull a muscle, but you can't pull fat."

A week after earning his green jacket, Johnson was zapped, but not so much so that he abandoned discipline. At the Verizon Heritage, he toned his 160 pounds. Which is fine. That's why he is who he is. But Calc had another solid showing too, and if you don't think he'd fit into an XXL Presidents Cup uniform this September, you haven't dined in Montreal. "I get all the way down to 237 pounds when I'm playing, because I'm at least walking around, but probably 240 when I'm home not playing and not moving much," says Calc. "That's probably 40 too many. It is what it is, though. They want random drug testing out here? How about random testing for working out?

"Take a kid like Camilo Villegas. He's ripped. When I started out here, there wasn't anybody who looked like him. Tom Watson was in shape, but not like this kid. Anyway, let's make it fair. What's 40 pounds? Two bowling balls at least, right? Maybe two bowling balls and a few pins, too. Let's strap two bowling balls to Camilo Villegas on the first tee. Then he can feel the way I feel when I swing the club. Have him play golf with my body. Let's see how he does."

Bob Verdi is a senior writer for Golf World magazine.