Tiger Woods could be putting his career at risk by over-training, says Nick Dougherty.
Woods, 38, remains a doubt for next month’s Sky Live Masters as his back injury shows few signs of healing.
Dougherty, a three-time winner on the European Tour, told What’s the Story? that as much as he admires Woods he fears the American is jeopardising his own pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 Majors by training too hard.
“I’m not into Tiger-bashing but over the last few years we’ve seen some strange things develop with Tiger,” said Dougherty. “There have been a huge amount of injuries. He hasn’t spoken out to the press a lot about it – he’s kept it all inside his own team.
“It started in 2008 where he won the US Open with a fractured leg and torn cruciate; since then he’s had four knee ops, neck problems, an Achilles problem and now the back spasms he’s experiencing.
“It concerns me as a fan of the sport with how he looks now. His golf swing has changed dramatically since he first emerged. He was a little whipper-snapper of a kid but now he’s got 108 inch shoulders; he’s obviously worked super hard in the gym to get to this point.
“The question for me is whether he’s done too much and over-trained. Has he put too much bulk on? He’s got a slim-man’s body but he’s got a big man’s muscle mass and golf is not played in a natural position; you’ve got a body that is supposed to carry 12 stone carrying 15 stone. At 38 years of age we’re starting to see that body break down a bit.
“The big thing for me is that Hank Haney, his ex-coach, wrote a very controversial book called ‘The Big Miss’ and in it he talks about Tiger Woods’ love of Navy Seals training. Tiger and his team, including Mark Steinberg, his manager, deny this.
“But if this was to be true, and he was very close to Tiger during this time, Navy Seals training is heavy duty stuff; it’s not for sportsmen. It’s to break men, to find out the best of the best and those capable of going on to become Navy Seals.
“It’s more mental training than it is physical but it’s going to put a tax on the body that a sportsman doesn’t need; it’s an endurance thing as well, whereas golf is a ballistic sport.
“As much as Tiger looks super strong, I don’t think his body is necessarily in the place his body needs to be in a career like golf, which is about longevity and being able to last.
“A few years ago we were talking about how he was going to crush Jack Nicklaus’ record. It’s looking highly unlikely now.”
Former Middlesex cricketer turned journalist Ed Smith agreed, adding that any sportsman or woman has “got to be very, very careful before you substantially alter your natural body”.
He explained: “Every sport is different and there is a danger of generalising but having expressed the danger I’m going to do it anyway. If you had one principle to apply to all sports it would be ‘be as lean as you can without losing performance’.
“Obviously if you are a back row forward in rugby you can’t turn up weighing 10 stone because you are going to get bounced at every collision.
“But if you look at the sportsmen who have managed to sustain incredibly high performance – and Tiger has been very resilient, there’s no question, but he hasn’t gone on with the trajectory he anticipated – whereas someone who has been in many photo-shoots with him, Roger Federer, has.
“One of the reasons that Federer is coming back yet again in 2014 when last year everyone said ‘this can’t happen again’ is because his body has been incredibly consistent; he’s still got the body that is appropriate for him.
“Obviously tennis is a slightly different sport and there are marginal gains to be had from having a lot of muscle mass in tennis but other players have had many more injury problems.
“In cricket loads of bowlers chasing an extra yard of pace put on a lot of muscle but it doesn’t always lead to extra pace and it can often create problems with their action – and even when it does, it can be a very short gain and then injury problems kick in.”
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