The new World Golf Village, which is set to open next month, will include a Mayo Clinic facility, to which we say bravo. We, too, have seen the future of golf, and mayonnaise is certainly a part of it. So are gravy fries, roasts with tangy glaze, thick wedges of apple pie with whipped cream, and whole milk.
Not long ago such indulgences were deemed detrimental. Tiger Woods and David Duval were mimicking not so much Jack Nicklaus as Jack LaLanne, lifting, stretching, eating right and mauling the competition. Golf, we believed then, was a game of perfect abs and peach-pit tea. Lately, however, Tiger hasn't won a ton and Duval has proved to be human. It's the guys who look as if they know how to handle a knife and fork, those at the top of the food chain—Mark Calcavecchia, John Daly, Tim (Lumpy) Herron, Billy Mayfair, Lee Westwood—who have roundly taken over. Which is why we now realize the error of our ways, that golf fitness is, as has been whispered for years, an oxymoron.
Golf's conditioning craze couldn't last, rooted as it was in the idea that the game is a sport like any other and as such demands vigorous diet and exercise. That notion has inspired a long history of schemers, doubters and devotees. Nicklaus subjected himself to a cabbage-soup diet (one of many we've tried with the Golden Bear), a piece of news that caused Tom Watson, when he got wind of it, to quip, "I wouldn't want to be playing behind him." Gary Player hurt himself stretching in the bathtub and had to pull out of the British Open. Keith Clearwater, one of the first Tour pros to lift weights (a practice long believed to pollute the swing) won twice in '87 but has tapered off since. Nevertheless, the Tour provides a fitness trailer for everyone, so presumably today's players could lift their own bags if needed.
Of course, they don't. They hit it and they find it while somebody else carries the luggage, all of which makes golf less a sport than a game. You might argue otherwise. The old game or sport debate usually heats up right around the Summer Olympics, but it made an unscheduled cameo in February thanks to the trial of Casey Martin. There, in Eugene, Ore., a physiologist took the stand and said definitively that golf does not in and itself produce fatigue. What he said, in layman's terms, paraphrased the great philosopher John McEnroe, who once opined, "I thought in order for something to be a sport you had to sweat at some point." Exactly.
Speaking of layman's terms, it's instructive to note what has happened to 1996 player of the year Tom Lehman. Here was a winning figure who was so much like us—getting a little thin on top and thick around the. waist—that he landed an endorsement gig with Dockers. But after going winless in '97 (he still earned close to $1 million), Lehman let himself go to the gym, where he ditched his spare tire and lost 25 pounds. The results so far: Lehman has no wins and a whole bunch of Dockers that don't fit. He wonders whether he has lost strength and feels as if he's having to swing harder. Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson, who won the Mercedes Championships in January, leaves the bathing suits for others. When asked why he didn't don trunks alongside his wife, Amy, in the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED swimsuit issue, Mickelson replied, "Are you serious?"
In this game you par what you eat, so it's best to eat lots. Be warned, though, lest you overdo it. Consider Chris Patton, whose win in the 1989 U.S. Amateur got him an invite to the '90 Masters. Patton finished 39th and was the Tour's next big comer. Alas, at 340 pounds he was too big of a comer, and his pro career has never taken off.
John Daly, it appears, is pushing the envelope. He has airmailed his listed weight of 195, but his new approach seems to be working. "I just eat and play golf," he says. Who can argue with success?
Lower your body fat, lower your scores? Ha! How foolish we were. Shrimp New Orleans, barbecued butterflied lamb, corn on the cob, chocolate almond velvet cake—go ahead, take seconds and thirds for extra birds. Take it from the omnivorous Tiger, or lager-lover Ernie Els, or Mayfair, whose hands proved as soft as his belly during his playoff victory in L.A.: If you want to make some dough on Tour, you better carry some on the course.