The trouble is, while other sports have clearer guidelines about how to maximize training, golf hasn't made up its mind about what constitutes the optimum physique. A fitness regimen designed to prevent injuries and build endurance produces a leaner body consistent with the traditional profile of a fit pro. If the goal is enhanced power, resistance training with weights, tempered by stretching to preserve flexibility, produces bulk.
Duval and Woods have chosen the latter route, lifting heavy weights and building mass. Woods's program, which includes squats and other free-weight exercises, was put together by trainers at Stanford. Duval started lifting in 1995 to trim a figure that had ballooned to 230 pounds. He has dropped more than 40 pounds and increased his strength more than 75%. Duval and Woods often do several sets of bench presses with more than 225 pounds.
The risks of heavy weight work include injury from poor form, overdevelopment of the chest and biceps, which can restrict the ability to turn, and body changes that can alter ingrained swing patterns. Putting on muscle fast can also alter a golfer's sense of touch and distance control. "In golf it's not wise to push the envelope," says Kleven. "When a machine is finely tuned, it doesn't take much to upset the system. Golf is a sport in which a little injury is a big injury, and it's particularly tricky because there's such a mental element. If a player makes big changes and suddenly starts feeling like he doesn't know his own muscles, that can affect his confidence. Once confidence is affected, problems start."
That's what happened to Johnny Miller when he chose the summer of 1977 to do heavy work around his house. Miller became bigger and stronger, but when he returned to the Tour, he had lost the groove that had made him one of the most accurate iron players ever, and he never fully recovered it. In 1992 Nick Faldo was at the height of his domination of the major championships when he decided to embark on a heavy weightlifting program to gain distance. Whether his new musculature is to blame or not, Faldo hasn't been the same player since, and these days his fitness program consists of stretching and aerobics.
Conventional wisdom among trainers is that golfers should only do heavy work when concentrating on their legs, abdominals and lower back. Pectoral and arm muscles will fire more easily if they are worked into a "smooth" state with lighter weights rather than being molded into the "cut" look that comes from heavy work. "What looks good at the swimming pool doesn't get you to the trophy presentation," says Pat Etcheverry, who trains Els, Faldo and Frank Nobilo.
Offering a dissenting view is Keith Clearwater, who has more sculpted muscles than any Tour pro since Stranahan. Clearwater, 38, was considered one of the Tour's bright lights in the late '80s, when he won two tournaments. Then in '92 he began to lift and was soon maxing out. It wasn't long before he gained 22 pounds of muscle, putting 215 pounds on his 6-foot frame.
As Clearwater's strength increased, his earnings and effectiveness as a golfer decreased. He developed a short, quick swing, and many observers believed he was constricted by his musculature. By 1995 Clearwater had lost his exemption. Most people thought he had lifted his way out of golf.
Not so, insists Clearwater, who owns three health clubs in his home state of Utah and plans to try to regain his Tour card. "It was a lot of things, but none of them related to training," he says. "Basically I quit wanting to play. I had the worst attitude on Tour. I needed to get away from the game. I'm disappointed that people think weights are no good because of me. I'm looked at as a guy who lifted too much, but I have a great desire to be the forerunner who proves that golfers can really benefit by muscle development."
Clearwater points to Woods to make his case. "Tiger is the model," he says. "By enhancing his genetic gifts with hard training, he's put together a package that's lean, flexible and very strong. When he's on, he's the most devastating, most dominating ball striker the game has ever seen."
Glasson, 38, is an adherent of Clearwater's philosophy. After six years of intense weight training, Glasson has chiseled his 180-pound body into a form distinct from his peers'. Employing a swing that is one of the simplest and most efficient on Tour, he's a player of immense power. Glasson's biggest problem has been staying healthy. He has had 13 surgeries, the most recent last November to reattach a tendon in his left forearm. None of the injuries have been caused by lifting, he says. In fact, Glasson claims that without weightlifting he would have had to retire.