I’ve always believed that you’re only as old as you feel, and I have been a proponent of keeping my body feeling as healthy as I possibly can. Staying in good physical condition is very important to me. It helps me relax, unwind and purge negative emotions.
The golf swing is a complex, explosive and physically stressful action, and you must prepare your body to both produce and withstand the forces required. I have five or six different routines that include gym work, lifting weights and various cardiovascular exercises. One favorite activity of mine is taking long bike rides in which I cover as much as forty miles in a session. It’s a great stress reliever as well as terrific exercise.
I know I am fitter now, at fifty-one, than when I was in my twenties, and I speak to a lot of people my age who say the exact same thing. If you have the right mental approach, there is no reason why you can’t perform at the highest level well into your fifties. Personally I’m confident that if I maintain my current regimen, I will be in competitive shape until I’m sixty.
Unfortunately, having hit more than four million golf balls over the last thirty years, my body has shown signs of wear and tear. The golf swing is just such an unnatural movement, particularly the one in vogue early in my career: the "reverse C."
There have been a number of physical issues that I’ve had to contend with. In the late 1980s, they were more manageable, and back then I still had a feeling of invincibility.
The first major setback involved my shoulder. Like most injuries, I was able to play through the pain early on, but after a while my performance really started to suffer and I knew I needed help. I performed my due diligence to find the right doctor and the right procedure. After numerous consultations, I underwent shoulder surgery by Dr. Richard Hawkins in April 1998 at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic in Vail, Colorado. It was a groundbreaking operation because the procedure used a heat probe for the first time on a professional athlete to tighten a joint that is vital to the golf swing.
Soon after that procedure, I accepted a seat on the Board of Directors of the Steadman Hawkins Research Foundation. That got me involved with fund-raising and helping to develop the Steadman Hawkins Biomechanics Programs specifically for the golf swing.
When I was given the green light to begin rehabilitating, I committed myself to it as much as I would to prepare for a major championship, because I knew that’s what it would take for me to be competitive again.
Depending on the procedure, rehab can truly test a person’s conviction for a full recovery, and I am thankful for my trainer and friend, Pete Draovitch, who worked with me through the entire process. Because of my work with the Steadman Hawkins Research Foundation, and my relationship with Dr. Hawkins, in 2000 I was recruited to play an advisory role for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and its new $40 million sports medicine facility.
At about the same time, I began having difficulties with my right hip, and I came across Dr. Marc Philippon and his patented arthroscope. In 2001, I underwent a revolutionary hip surgery that saves people from total hip replacements. The procedure uses flexible instruments that afford access to areas of the joint previously thought unreachable.