2006: love the burn

By Rex Hoggard

There is no shortage of Davis Love III images lodged into our collective conscience – the emotional stroll under that rainbow at the 1997 PGA Championship, the out-of-character fist pump at the 1993 Ryder Cup, and winning at Hilton Head over and over and over.

But late last month, on a cool morning at Sea Island Resort, a few guests and interlopers were treated to a new look for the 18-time PGA Tour winner. Introducing Davis Love III, gym rat. Few players on the PGA Tour – at least few who aren’t from Fiji – have embraced fitness like Love.

“It used to be my dad made us quit (high school) basketball because the coach wanted us to lift weights and he was worried what that would do to our swing,” Love said. “Now, I don’t feel right if I don’t work out.”

Assembled in Randy Myers’ gym at Sea Island was about as eclectic a group as you’ll find at any Bally’s. Along with Love were Tour young gun Jonathan Byrd and Futures Tour player May Wood.

From a fitness point of view, each is as varied as they come. When Love started working with Myers in February 2005, the 41-year-old had struggled through a series of injuries and began with what he called “remedial weights.” Byrd, on the other hand, is built like an Olympic wrestler, with broad shoulders and

460cc biceps. And Wood is tall, lean and appears to be plucked straight from the cover of a fitness magazine.

Fitness, however, knows no body types. At least not as far as Myers is concerned.

Although the reasons they showed up at Myers’ door are varied – Love needed to strengthen an oft-injured back and neck, while Byrd was still rehabbing a surgically repaired hip – Myers’ mandate reached well beyond the ailment du jour.

“What they are doing this for is to be able to maximize their technique,” said Myers, one of the architects of the Titleist Performance Institute who began his program at Sea Island last June after years at PGA National in south Florida.

“To get the most out of their equipment, they need to get into shape.”

All workouts start in the “cage,” an aptly named structure that allows for dynamic stretching in three dimensions. Love was so enamored with the device, he bought two – one for his Sea Island home and the other for his hunting home in rural Georgia.

Of the program’s three primary goals, strengthening is the least important. Instead, Love, Byrd and Wood focus on maintaining their heart rates through a series of exercises that are designed to increase balance and core stability first and build muscle almost as an afterthought.

“It’s not your strength level that’s important. What’s important is maintaining your balance,” Byrd said. “If you can get stronger but lose flexibility, your muscles aren’t as fast as they were. You can actually lose distance doing that.”

The highlight of the workout, at least for Byrd, is what Myers calls the “Big 60.” The program features six exercises with 10 reps per position performed while standing on a BOSU ball, which essentially is a beach ball cut in half that the player must balance on.

After 20 admittedly lethargic years on Tour, as far as fitness was concerned, and countless nagging injuries, Love has become a workout zealot. Since he and Myers began collaborating, Love said, he hasn’t gone more than three consecutive days without going to the gym. That’s in stark contrast to Love’s early years, when your average Tour player spent more time in the bar than lifting barbells.

“Back then, nobody did the fitness thing like they do now,” said Todd Anderson, Sea Island’s director of instruction. “Fitness has become kind of cool.”

Love’s primary reason for going to Myers was his inability – because of stiffness and weakness – to do what swing coach Jack Lumpkin wanted. They studied pictures of Love’s swing taken in the mid-1990s, before the injuries robbed him of much of his flexibility and forced him to compensate to maintain his clubhead speed.

“Todd (Anderson) brought out these pictures and said, ‘Look, you used to do it (swing correctly),’ ” Love said. “As I’ve gotten older it’s become harder to do the things that I know I can do.”

A back-loaded PGA Tour schedule starting in 2007 that will demand top players compete more often late in the season added to Love’s motivation.

“I looked at the 2007 schedule and thought that I may have to play seven weeks in a row,” said Love, referring to the new, season-ending FedEx Cup Championship Series. “Now, I can go practice after a round instead of feeling like I have to go to the fitness truck and get put back together.”

Anyone who works with Myers must have plenty of dedication and a dictionary. In about two years, Myers and the rest of the Sea Island team will move into a new, multimillion dollar facility hard on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean that will be filled with 50-cent words.

Students are taught the finer points of periodization, proprioception and puritization. For Love, puritization is a key concern. Myers equates it to a pitcher who needs two or three days of rest after a start to perform at his best.

At the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, for example, Love went through his normal routine on Monday and Tuesday and slowly scaled back his regimen, skipping the gym altogether on Friday. Love is quick to note, however, that he shot his worst round of the week (a third-round 75) after skipping a day

with the weights.

Like Dennis Miller, who claims he writes most of his jokes from the punch line out, Myers creates a workout for his players from the swing out.

“The new age of training is to position yourself in balanced patterns and work that into the golf swing,” Myers said.

For Love, that means reclaiming the flexibility he had in his youth. Along the way, he discovered his inner gym rat.

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