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The Loop

Tom Watson’s guns aren’t just for show

April 05, 2017

From time to time, thanks to talking heads such as Brandel Chamblee, the question arises whether big muscles help you play better golf. The obvious answer is yes, but skeptics still question their importance. It’s especially true whenever some millennial shows up for a tournament looking more jacked than an Olympic wrestler.

Then along comes Tom Watson. Yep, the 67-year-old, eight-time major champion Watson. At Augusta National on Tuesday, he just so happened to show off one of his Popeye-like arms on the driving range, which was captured on Golf Channel. And now you’ve got a viral situation that has raised two interesting questions: 1. What’s Tom Watson eating? 2. Do biceps matter in golf?

I emailed Tom the first question. No response, yet. He’s a little busy. But on to No. 2. The answer is “duh.” The muscles of your upper arm play a huge role in effectively and safely swinging a golf club. The first is that they help protect your tendons and other soft tissue from the abuse caused by repetitively crashing a club into the ground at 80 to 110 miles per hour. The second is that they allow you to swing at those speeds. And that allows you to hit the ball farther, so you can use shorter, easier-to-control golf clubs from longer distances. Thirdly, biceps help you get the ball out of heavy sand and thick rough. They aren’t the only muscles working to achieve these benefits, but they are more than just a bit player.

So you might think it vain for Tom to give a gun show on the range at Augusta. But maybe he’s just reminding everyone an important reason why he nearly won a major at age 59, and why he’s still playing in the Masters long after many weaker-armed players are watching it on TV.