By Robert Bicknell

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July 30, 2006

Streak remains intact still, drugs on Tour?

Well, Tiger did it again…much to my delight as it kept my prediction record of never picking a correct winner, intact. I simply amaze myself sometimes, however, one prediction did come true which was David Duval showing signs of life.

Last week’s Sunday Vietnam News had two interesting golf-related articles which need addressing.

AP’s Paul Newbury claimed that the "world is catching up to American pros".

Obviously, Mr Newbury has been living in cave somewhere because if memory serves, European players have won more than their fair share of Ryder Cups and major titles during the last few years. Its true that European golf suffered in the years following WWII, but they have long since recovered and their victories prove that.

He also claims that very few new American players risen to the level of Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, but conveniently omits Michelle Wie.

Beyond the obvious truth that Tiger is incredibly gifted, but the two other reasons are sponsorship money and the depth of talent in America right now.

Tiger Woods was a multi-millionaire before he ever hit his first shot as a professional. Phil Mickelson too, but just not as much. Michelle Wie is also a member of that club and she has still not won anything.

Money brings freedom and benefits such as the best coaches, the best equipment and a lack of financial pressure. Lee Trevino once claimed that the true definition of pressure was playing a $20 Nassau with the mafia and only having $5 in your pocket.

Tiger has career earnings of over $71 million and that doesn’t include sponsorship money, which is over half a billion dollars by now. In fact, financial experts claim that Tiger could hit billion dollar mark as early as 2013, if not sooner, so you know he’s not losing sleep over the cost of housing.

Instead of grinding out a living and living in mortal fear of losing their Tour cards like many of the other pros out there, the superstars can relax and just play golf.

If you put stress meters on Tiger Woods and some guy facing a return to Q-School if he misses, wanna bet which player’s blood pressure will blow up the meter?

Secondly, the depth of talent out there makes it very difficult for new faces to breakthrough or to keep a streak going. Everybody is hungry, especially on the Nike Tour.

Golf is far from an exact science and players who shoot 65 one day can easily shoot 75 the next. Even the best players suffer from this curse, so while its fun to think that all Tour players are millionaires, the truth is that getting there isn’t half the fun and very few make it to the top, but once there…

The second article revolved around the belief that "golf lags behind other sports in dope testing. Well, isn’t that earth-shattering news.

According to most experts, steroids would hurt, rather than help, professional golfers. Golf is based on timing, technique and mental toughness. While strength plays a part, it’s a minor part which can be partially compensated for through equipment changes.

There is no doubt that professionals today are much more fitness-oriented than in the old days. With the exception of John Daly and Craig Stadler, most players are what Lee Trevino calls "flatbellies." A lot of this is due to better diets and the free fitness trailer which follows them around from venue to venue.

As far as I can see, the only drug which would benefit a professional golfer would be beta-blockers and the danger in using that drug is so high that no self-respecting millionaire would endanger their life by screwing around with them.

In a nutshell, beta-blockers slow down your heart rate so the player wouldn’t be so stressed out over a four-foot putt. The danger, of course, is that you can easily drop dead if you slightly miscalculate the dosage.

Some players, such as Nick Price, admit to trying them once, but found that the beta blocker does more harm than good because it prevents an adrenalin rush when it is needed most.

There is one drug which is widely used by golf professionals…Advil (Ibuprophen).

Its safe, easy to get without a prescription and doesn’t affect your stomach. If you need more powerful painkillers than that, its time to consider taking a break.

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