Certain sports favor specific physical characteristics. Jockeys, for example, must be small and light while basketball centers must be tall and muscular. The 7-foot-1 Shaquille O’Neal couldn’t have been a jockey, nor could the 5-1 Laffit Pincay have played center in the NBA. The best golfers must have excellent hand-eye coordination, but beyond that there is no one ideal golfing physique.
The 6-foot-2 Tiger Woods weighed 155 pounds when he turned pro in 1996. He says a lack of strength was a major disadvantage at that time because, for example, he had to swing too hard on some wedge shots, at the expense of controlling the ball’s spin. With a workout routine that included weightlifting he added 30 pounds and became one of the tour’s most athletic players. He says he wouldn’t have been able to play his well-known 2-iron “stinger” shot if he hadn’t strengthened his wrists and forearms.
As of 2012, John Daly’s PGA Tour profile lists him at 5-feet-11 and 185 pounds. For much of his career, however, his weight was at or close to 300 pounds. Despite a less than athletic-looking physique, Daly earned five tour victories between 1991 and 2004, including the 1991 PGA Championship and the 1995 British Open. Daly’s main asset was power off the tee, and he often led the PGA Tour in driving distance. His 2009 surgery, which helped him lose 115 pounds, didn’t affect his driving ability. In 2011, at age 45, he still ranked eighth among tour golfers in driving distance, averaging 305 yards off the tee.
As of 2012, the PGA Tour is trending toward taller, more athletic players, according to Augusta.com. For example, the site notes that about 25 percent of the 2011 Masters field stood at least 6-foot-2, topped by the 6-5 Robert Karlsson. “The sport has changed,” Woods said in 2011. “Guys are bigger and faster.” The 6-1, 200-pound Gary Woodland was voted the most athletic golfer on the tour in 2011, according to a “Golf Digest” poll.
Rory McIlroy was a good PGA Tour golfer in 2010, but he rose to No. 1 in the world by 2012, in part by reshaping his body. McIlroy ate healthier and began a weightlifting regimen that featured plenty of lower body work. The 5-foot-10 Irishman remained at 160 pounds, but he added muscle while reducing his body fat to 16 percent. The physical upgrade allowed McIlroy to swing easier, even as -- from 2009 to 2011 -- his average driving distance improved from 305.2 yards to 307.2 while his driving accuracy improved from 56.2 percent to 60.29 percent.