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Fat Chance Before you try to lose that spare tire, think what it does for your golf game

The New World Golf Village, which is set to open next month,
will include a Mayo Clinic facility, to which we say bravo. We,
too, have seen the future of golf, and mayonnaise is certainly a
part of it. So are gravy fries, roasts with tangy glaze, thick
wedges of apple pie with whipped cream, and whole milk.

Not long ago such indulgences were deemed detrimental. Tiger
Woods and David Duval were mimicking not so much Jack Nicklaus
as Jack LaLanne, lifting, stretching, eating right and mauling
the competition. Golf, we believed then, was a game of perfect
abs and peach-pit tea. Lately, however, Tiger hasn't won a ton
and Duval has proved to be human. It's the guys who look as if
they know how to handle a knife and fork, those at the top of
the food chain--Mark Calcavecchia, John Daly, Tim (Lumpy)
Herron, Billy Mayfair, Lee Westwood--who have roundly taken
over. Which is why we now realize the error of our ways, that
golf fitness is, as has been whispered for years, an oxymoron.

Golf's conditioning craze couldn't last, rooted as it was in the
idea that the game is a sport like any other and as such demands
vigorous diet and exercise. That notion has inspired a long
history of schemers, doubters and devotees. Nicklaus subjected
himself to a cabbage-soup diet (one of many we've tried with the
Golden Bear), a piece of news that caused Tom Watson, when he
got wind of it, to quip, "I wouldn't want to be playing behind
him." Gary Player hurt himself stretching in the bathtub and had
to pull out of the British Open. Keith Clearwater, one of the
first Tour pros to lift weights (a practice long believed to
pollute the swing) won twice in '87 but has tapered off since.
Nevertheless, the Tour provides a fitness trailer for everyone,
so presumably today's players could lift their own bags if needed.

Of course, they don't. They hit it and they find it while
somebody else carries the luggage, all of which makes golf less
a sport than a game. You might argue otherwise. The old game or
sport debate usually heats up right around the Summer Olympics,
but it made an unscheduled cameo in February thanks to the trial
of Casey Martin. There, in Eugene, Ore., a physiologist took the
stand and said definitively that golf does not in and of itself
produce fatigue. What he said, in layman's terms, paraphrased
the great philosopher John McEnroe, who once opined, "I thought
in order for something to be a sport you had to sweat at some
point." Exactly.

Speaking of layman's terms, it's instructive to note what has
happened to 1996 player of the year Tom Lehman. Here was a
winning figure who was so much like us--getting a little thin on
top and thick around the waist--that he landed an endorsement
gig with Dockers. But after going winless in '97 (he still
earned close to $1 million), Lehman let himself go to the gym,
where he ditched his spare tire and lost 25 pounds. The results
so far: Lehman has no wins and a whole bunch of Dockers that
don't fit. He wonders whether he has lost strength and feels as
if he's having to swing harder. Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson, who
won the Mercedes Championships in January, leaves the bathing
suits for others. When asked why he didn't don trunks alongside
his wife, Amy, in the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED swimsuit issue,
Mickelson replied, "Are you serious?"

In this game you par what you eat, so it's best to eat lots. Be
warned, though, lest you overdo it. Consider Chris Patton, whose
win in the 1989 U.S. Amateur got him an invite to the '90
Masters. Patton finished 39th and was the Tour's next big comer.
Alas, at 340 pounds he was too big of a comer, and his pro
career has never taken off.

John Daly, it appears, is pushing the envelope. He has airmailed
his listed weight of 195, but his new approach seems to be
working. "I just eat and play golf," he says. Who can argue with

Lower your body fat, lower your scores? Ha! How foolish we were.
Shrimp New Orleans, barbecued butterflied lamb, corn on the cob,
chocolate almond velvet cake--go ahead, take seconds and thirds
for extra birds. Take it from the omnivorous Tiger, or
lager-lover Ernie Els, or Mayfair, whose hands proved as soft as
his belly during his playoff victory in L.A.: If you want to
make some dough on Tour, you better carry some on the course.

COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN HEAVY HITTER Calcavecchia's having a huge year. [Mark Calcavecchia]

Since he lost 25 pounds, Lehman has no wins and a whole bunch of
Dockers that don't fit.