Tiger Woods changed golf forever during his domination of the game and forced his contemporaries to rethink their approach to preparation.
Today, two decades on from his breakthrough US Masters victory, a generation of professional golfers are following his lead by hitting a lot of golf balls in practice and spending an equal amount of time pumping iron in the gym.
According to Geoff Ogilvy, it is a recipe for disaster and its probably no coincidence that the “guys who push a lot of mass seem to be the ones who get hurt a lot.”
“I have absolutely no expertise in physical conditioning and biomechanics, any of that, beyond what I’ve learnt through playing elite golf, from all the coaches and the trainers and that, you kind of pick up on a few things,” Ogilvy said.
“But as a general overview of the sport, the guys who lift a lot (of weights) seem to be the ones who are hurt a lot.”
Ogilvy says the nature of the game these days is all about length and the constant pursuit for distance through working in the gym is leading to more of the game’s best players – like Woods, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy – getting injured or coping with niggling injuries more often.
Day, one of the favourites for this week’s Emirates Australian Open, admitted on Monday that he has suffered a host of injuries in his 11 years on Tour.
"It’s a non-contact sport but there are a lot of injuries," said Day, who has had to pull out of two previous Australian Open appearances due to back injuries.
"But there’s a little bit of beach work out that goes on with a lot of these guys, there’s a bit of vanity after you get to a certain point and you really like what’s happening to your body and you do hit the ball better and you do hit the ball further. It becomes a thing for these guys..." – Geoff Ogilvy
"I look back and I have had an ankle injury, two knee injuries, a hip injury, a sports hernia, degenerative disc that's doing my back in. I’ve had a thumb injury, disc problems in the neck and two wrist injuries, plus vertigo.”
The Queenslander turned 30 just two weeks ago and he admitted there are times when his dodgy back is so bad that he can hardly walk.
Ogilvy, 40, has never been one to head for the gym to find more distance on the golf course. And he’s never had to endure any serious injuries.
“You talk to Jason and he says he doesn’t really lift that heavy,” Ogilvy said. “But there’s a little bit of beach work out that goes on with a lot of these guys, there’s a bit of vanity after you get to a certain point and you really like what’s happening to your body and you do hit the ball better and you do hit the ball further. It becomes a thing for these guys, and I think too much of it seems to be bad.
“I think Jason works out really well, I think his exercise program is pretty good. I think he just hits too many balls too hard, too many drivers and hits them too hard.
“I don't think there’s a hard and fast rule. I think some guys seem to be broken all the time and some guys never get hurt. It’s partly, the luck of the draw, I think, a little bit, but you could probably manage it by hitting less balls and lifting less.
"Nobody is playing injured, because they’d stop, but there’s a lot of guys with niggles in necks and shoulders and hips and backs, obviously. A lot of guys with dodgy hips in their late 30s … hips take a big beating … lower back. Something gives up at some point."
“But, he knows his own body. When the stars line up for Jason he’s the best player in the world and he knows how to get that done, and to get that done he’s kind of having to risk having to hurt himself a little bit. That’s where his head is at … to get to perfect I need to maybe be on the edge of getting hurt, but that’s what he likes to do.
“He likes to push it and get it to the edge and really have every aspect of his body and his game working perfectly, and when he gets it, it’s a pretty beautiful thing, but when he just misses, it sucks, he doesn’t get to play.
“But that’s how he feels, that’s how he likes to work on golf. He likes the no stone unturned, work really hard, beat everyone through effort, and it’s a great thing when it works, but when it doesn’t it backfires. You can’t have one without the other; the good Jason comes with the Jason that gets hurt a little bit, that’s just part of it.”
Ogilvy says a lot of players on Tour are playing with niggling injuries on a regular basis, all because of the need to hit the ball further.
“Nobody is playing injured, because they’d stop, but there’s a lot of guys with niggles in necks and shoulders and hips and backs, obviously. A lot of guys with dodgy hips in their late 30s … hips take a big beating … lower back. Something gives up at some point.
“Tiger was playing hurt 10 years before he was admitting that he was hurt; he was very hurt. Norman, I think, was always hurt towards the end. McIlroy is always hurt. It’s common isn’t it? We all just try and hit it too far, we’re just obsessed with trying to hit it too far.”
There are no such problems for Ogilvy this week though as he puts the final touches on his game ahead of his campaign to win a second Australian Open title.
“It (swing) feels really good,” the 2006 US Open Champion said. “I’ve been dabbling way too much probably, but I’ve really come to terms with my golf swing properly, I understand probably at a level where I probably should have understood the whole time.
“I get my swing a bit better, not the swing, my swing. My putting is coming around, my short game has always been decent, so I feel ready to play well more often.”
Ogilvy will be partnered alongside Day and Rod Pampling for the opening two rounds of the Championship, which starts at The Australian Golf Club on Thursday.