Now that the vitriolic comments lobbed Gary Player's way have quieted down following his comments on the possibility of performance enhancing drug use, Michael Bamberger makes an interesting point:
But if he wants to talk about possible steroid use in golf, who are we to shut him down? For decades, Nicklaus used almost every press conference to say the golf ball was going too far. He did it out of respect for the game and its courses. He was trying to bring about change. Gary Player has won all four of golf's major titles and a whole lot more. He didn't get there by working off a script, and he has no reason to work off one now, whether he's talking about drugs or his captain's picks or anything else.
The fact is, he did golf a huge favor by saying what he said. ("I know some are doing it. We're dreaming if we think it's not going to come into golf.") The denials were fast and furious, from Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and Nick Faldo, and even from golfers who will be on Player's international team come September, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen. Some time ago, Woods said he didn't think drugs were a problem because he didn't see "240 or 250 [pounders], in shape, all cut up, all ripped up. We don't have guys out there like that."
For a man of Woods's intelligence, that's a surprisingly naive comment. "You can have any body type you want on steroids," says Charles Yesalis, a Penn State professor who studies the role of steroids in sports. Do any Tour de France cyclists weigh 240 pounds? An athlete takes steroids so that he may recover more quickly from a workout, so that he may workout again. Size has nothing to do with it. Strength, speed and agility do.
Gary Player, the wee little man, proved that 40 years ago, when he managed to use his mushy ball and dead driver to play with Big Jack and Arnold and Billy Casper. He did it with diet and sit-ups and a few hundred balls a day. At 71, not much has changed. His score at the Masters this year was 16 over par for two rounds. On greens that fast, on a course that long, from a man of that age? One-sixty for two rounds is amazing.