World golf superstar Gary Player last night handed out a potentially career-saving piece of advice to young Northern Ireland golfer Rory McIlroy.
Player, reacting to reports that McIlroy, a precocious talent, had been suffering from back trouble, said “Rory has to do one thing and one thing alone. Get fitter. It will solve his problems.”
Player dismissed suggestions that the massive physical impact golfers suffer when they hit the modern ball lies behind an increasing number of players complaining of injuries like back trouble. Earlier this week, Tiger Woods spoke of the four operations he has had on his left knee, besides suffering a broken leg in 2008 and a torn Achilles last year.
“There is no difference in the actual action of hitting the ball to when we played” he said. “No, there is one thing Rory has got to do and it is as simple as ABC. He has got to start doing more exercises.”
The South African legend, who will be 75 this year but looks barely half that age, flew direct from South Africa to America on Monday, a gruelling 16-hour flight. First thing Tuesday morning, he was in the gym doing 1,000 sit-ups.
His stomach is as flat as your dining table, an extraordinary comment on the man’s utter dedication to a strict fitness regime all his life.
“Rory has to start going into a gym and doing something like me, 1,000 sit-ups a day” said Player.
“If he does that he and does them intelligently, does the right stretch movements he will have no more back problems again.
“I had chronic back trouble as a young boy when I first started playing golf, even though I was very strong. In those days, I was 22lbs more than I am now and I squatted with 325lbs. But then I started to have backache because I beat so many balls; I was
an animal at beating golf balls. But then I started to do these crunches and sit-ups and I never had back trouble again.”
Player took a sideswipe at some of the modern remedies for common ailments like back trouble. “All these doctors and pills can’t compete with one truth: exercise is the answer, as Rory will find out if he does more of it.
“Exercising and eating properly. They are two key factors.
“I was called a nut when I started doing weight training. They used to say Gary Player will never last until he is 35 because he is lifting all these heavy weights. But last year I won a tournament at 74. So I have no doubt exercise was my salvation and it will be Rory’s too if he does it and sticks to it.
“What is essential is that players do the right kind of training. But some of them these days are not even doing any training. Some just do a few stretches and that’s all. But they are not going about it and preparing properly. That is the key.”