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The Masters: Far from slim pickings for new generation of golf

By Peter Bills

As the sunlight dappled across the fairways and greens of this beauteous place as if it were the colours on Renoir's canvas, a thought occurred.

Those concerned with other sports, like rugby union for instance, who proudly claim their activity as a true recreation for ‘all shapes and sizes' were being a bit disingenuous.

If ever a sport offered men and women of every size a fair prospect, it surely has to be the game of golf. Indeed, a greater diversity of illustrations of the human frame, it would be hard to discern.

There are the almost spindly frames of Rory McIlroy — the precocious young Ulsterman and clear leader as they began the final day of this 75th Masters — Adam Scott and Jason Day.

Then there is the South Korean KJ Choi, a man with a pugilist's solid, punchy frame if ever there was one with its almost podgy, street-fighting look.

Whatever the differences, the weirdly and widely varying physiques bring their own visual fascination to the scene.

The Argentine, Angel Cabrera, champion here in 2009, offers a roly-poly appearance that masks bullish strength.

Cabrera might look as though he ought to sign up to weight watchers but his shambling gait, not to mention flapping expanses around the waist, contain a huge power. He can massacre a ball with a single blow.

By glorious contrast, the slim almost svelte 26-year-old South African Charl Schwartzel looks like a man in need of a decent feed. It is not my experience of white South Africans that they go short of a lot, especially food, but such is the lean, almost scrawny look to Schwartzel that you feel inclined to revise your preconceptions.

There is a sense that you could probably fit two or three Charl Schwartzels into a single pair of Angel Cabrera's ample trousers. Yet herein surely lies the whole essence of this game.

Whether the person striking the ball is an 18 stone John Daly, a Cabrera or a super-fit, thin Schwartzel, the delicious irony of this sport is that raw power, brute strength alone is not enough.

How else to explain that a man like Tiger Woods, whose torso gives the appearance of not containing a single ounce of fat, has won an extraordinary 14 Majors?

For sure, McIlroy is from the same fitness drawer as Woods — lean, slim and hardly exceptional in any physical sense.

But this is where golf diverges from other sports. Timing is the essence of this sport, the ability to manoeuvre the ball into places where lesser mortals could not envisage it going. This is the hallmark of the great champions. Put your ball one metre or less from the precise top of a slope at a place like Augusta and it can be the difference between lining up a 20-foot putt and a simple tap-in.

Turn over a drive, even to the tiniest degree, and you are confronted by a nightmare second, perhaps around or over the lofty pines that stand sentinel throughout this lovely course.

In a bizarre sense, it did not seem to matter greatly to those who take a wider look at life, whether McIlroy put his name on the Champions board for the first time in 2011. If it wasn't this year, it will surely be next, or the next or the one after that.

At 21, the Northern Ireland player has probably 20 years to earn a legend's ranking at Augusta. The way he has played for most of this week, you'd have to say he is already halfway there.

And best of all, he gives hope to every slim young man that vast bulk is not necessarily the key to this particular game.

Belfast Telegraph


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