‘Golf’s in­jury list is grow­ing – and it’s only go­ing to get worse’

Next year prom­ises a bumper set of big-money tour­na­ments, but at what cost to the play­ers?

Today's Golfer (UK) - - FIRST TEE - NICK DOUGHERTY

While most of you have prob­a­bly been lap­ping up the sun on hol­i­day or on the golf course, I’ve been busy shift­ing heavy boxes. In the­ory, de­cid­ing to move house at the height of the sum­mer prob­a­bly wasn’t the wis­est move, es­pe­cially when the golf sea­son is start­ing to heat up as well. Play­ing the part of a re­moval man and painter and dec­o­ra­tor has left me with plenty of aches and pains, which prob­a­bly puts me in good com­pany with many of the tour pro­fes­sion­als.

What al­most got lost among the ex­cite­ment at The Open and US PGA was how many play­ers were car­ry­ing a nig­gling in­jury. Tiger Woods com­plained of a stiff neck at Carnoustie, while

Justin Rose was nurs­ing a bad back and Rory Mcilroy an in­flamed fore­arm at Bel­lerive. All three sported some kind of tape, which has al­most be­come the next must-have ac­ces­sory for ev­ery golfer. It used to be a run­ning joke on tour that we never saw John Daly get in­jured, de­spite his less than ath­letic ap­pear­ance. The dif­fer­ence was that he and many other play­ers put their bod­ies, if not their liv­ers, through a lot less back in the day. There was never any train­ing in­volved, which is prob­a­bly why golfers were com­pared to darts play­ers and never ac­cepted as be­ing ‘proper’ sports­men.

The same ac­cu­sa­tion can’t be lev­elled at peo­ple like Dustin John­son or Brooks Koepka, who are part of a new breed of mod­ern-day golf pro­fes­sion­als. Even some­one like An­drew “Beef” John­ston falls into that cat­e­gory. He might not be stick-thin, but I can guar­an­tee he lifts more than you and I in the gym. He ex­em­pli­fies how the game has evolved and while tech­nol­ogy has played a big part, suc­cess is more com­monly de­fined by power and ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity than fi­nesse like it once was. The play­ers have adapted by be­com­ing more ath­letic, and now spend as much time work­ing out as they do on the golf course.

I spoke to Nick Faldo about this be­cause he was seen as a trail­blazer for in­tro­duc­ing work­outs into his prac­tice ses­sions. But he told me that all he ever did was run. There was never any science be­hind it, be­cause he didn’t re­ally know what he was do­ing. Now there’s a grow­ing num­ber of train­ers and sport sci­en­tists who spe­cialise in ap­ply­ing the chain of move­ment re­quired to swing the golf club to full-body work­outs. Play­ers are train­ing smarter and sup­ple­ment­ing this by sur­round­ing them­selves with peo­ple who make sure they are eat­ing well and train­ing prop­erly.

One of the hard­est parts for any ath­lete is try­ing to stave off in­juries, which is why they all plan their sched­ules so far in ad­vance so they know when and where they’re play­ing, when their rest pe­ri­ods are and when they have time to do some tech­ni­cal work. Ev­ery­thing is geared to­wards stay­ing phys­i­cally and men­tally fresh.

That’s why Rory plays only 18 to 20 times a sea­son, split across the PGA Tour and Euro­pean Tour. It may not seem like a lot – and it isn’t com­pared to the ma­jor­ity of play­ers – but in his mind he’s giv­ing him­self more chances to win by try­ing to peak for ev­ery tour­na­ment he plays. Justin Rose got crit­i­cised for pulling out of the Wgc-bridge­stone In­vi­ta­tional, but he was merely tak­ing pre­cau­tions to pre­vent a short-term in­jury turn­ing into a long-term one.

There’s no doubt­ing that play­ers are push­ing their bod­ies to the limit, and a lot of that is be­cause of how re­lent­less the sched­ule is. It’s go­ing to get even worse next year when the PGA Tour sea­son fin­ishes early, just be­fore the Amer­i­can foot­ball sea­son starts. At the mo­ment, they lose some of their au­di­ence dur­ing the Fedex Cup play­offs, so I can un­der­stand the rea­son be­hind mov­ing ev­ery­thing for­ward. Nev­er­the­less, it does mean that the WGCS, Rolex Se­ries events and Ma­jors will be grouped even closer to­gether, which al­lows Rory & Co lit­tle time to re­set and take stock.

It’s al­ready be­come a big talk­ing point on tour this sea­son about how many pros are pick­ing up in­juries, and the dan­ger is that it’s only go­ing to get worse. Both tours have a duty of care to their mem­bers, but they also have spon­sors to sat­isfy so it’s not as easy as re­mov­ing tour­na­ments from the cal­en­dar or spac­ing the big­ger ones out across the year. Plus, most play­ers like to use the win­ter as their off-sea­son, and then the desert swing as their warm-up for the sea­son ahead. Lo­gis­ti­cally, it’s a bit of a mess and does mean that be­tween April and Au­gust next year, there will be a ‘big tour­na­ment’ al­most ev­ery week across the Euro­pean Tour and PGA Tours.

Play­ers are now start­ing to re­alise that they need to be­come even more dis­ci­plined to pro­long their ca­reers and max­imise their earn­ings po­ten­tial. This may mean miss­ing some of golf’s flag­ship events, sim­ply be­cause they need a rest, or want to peak for a Ma­jor. No one will want that, least of all the spon­sors who rely on big-name play­ers to bring in the big bucks. The fans are also likely to be left short-changed, and that doesn’t sit right with me or many play­ers on Tour. A re­think is needed, and prefer­ably be­fore the sched­ule takes its toll on a big name and puts them on

the side­lines in­def­i­nitely.


Tiger and many other play­ers have re­cently been seen sport­ing KT tape.

Nick Dougherty is a three-time Euro­pean Tour win­ner and now a pre­sen­ter on Sky Sports’ golf cov­er­age. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @Nick­dougherty5 and In­sta­gram @nick­dougherty5

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