By Brian Keogh
Man, was it hot in Tulsa. Toasty, the Okies like to call it.
"Boy, you're going to be a little toasty in that sweater today," grinned a member of Oklahoma's Chamber of Commerce as we were swept along in an air-conditioned coach from parking lot M to the air-conditioned indoor tennis complex that served as the Media Centre at Southern Hills.
Though it was only 6.30 am, it was already 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29.4C) outside and would rise to around 110 (43C) by mid-afternoon when the famous heat index kicked into top gear. Not being used to the fridge-like air-conditioning that kept the world's media in perfect comfort all week, I had taken a light sweater with me to combat the indoor chill factor.
Out on the course it was a different story and more than 200 fans were treated for heat exhaustion during what turned out to be the hottest major championship in the history of the game.
One media colleague was taken to hospital after an ill-judged trek around the course. But he was the exception rather than the rule and some of the better upholstered writers and broadcasters did not set foot outside the door all week for fear of dropping dead on the spot.
The trip from the media centre to the ‘flash quotes’ compound outside the clubhouse was around 300 yards but felt like 3,000. You almost needed crampons to avoid skittering down the steep incline that leads to the 18th and ninth greens and by the time you stood under a shady tree in the middle of the first fairway, the ice cold bottle of water you had taken with you was already lukewarm.
How John Daly managed to card a three-under par 67 on the opening day must go down as one of the great sporting mysteries of all time. Not only did the Wild Thing smoke with impunity throughout his round, he claimed not to have drunk anything more than Diet Cokes and Diet Pepsis.
"I didn't drink one bit of water," he said proudly. "There was odds with all the caddies and players this week who would fall first, me or my caddie."
Unsurprisingly, he couldn't remember anything about his round, so frazzled was his brain. And it was no surprise either that he followed up with three rounds of 73 to tie for 32nd - 14 shots behind fitness fanatic Tiger Woods.
The world No 1 did not miss the opportunity to take the golf world to task for its general lack of fitness during his post-victory press call in the cool sanctuary of the Media Centre where the number of words written was only matched by the quantity of Eskimo Pies consumed and water drunk.
"I think you guys are lazy," Tiger admonished his inquisitors, when quizzed about the lack of controlled mayhem that usually follows him around on Sunday afternoons. "I didn't see a whole lot of you guys walking with us like you normally do. "It's a little hot. And I think maybe the buffets are good in here and air conditioning is nice."
Paul McGinley was one of the few golfers I spoke to who looked fresh as a daisy after his rounds. "I could go another 18, no problem," he claimed on Sunday.
Woods' superior physical fitness wasn't just a factor in his 13th major triumph, it was arguably the key. "I feel when I walked up 18 I felt the same way as I did going off the first tee. I felt great," he said. "At home all the miles I log on the road and run in that heat, granted it's not as hot as this but it's certainly more humid. And that's what you do. You pay the price. You go outwork everybody and days like today or weeks like this week, it shows. I felt fresh all week. And I felt great.
"Other guys may have gotten tired and you see their shoulders slumping and dragging a little bit; I feel fine. I think that's how you should always be. You should always train hard and bust your butt. That's what a sport is, is to do that. And not everyone considers golf a sport and they don't treat it as such."
As far as I know, Padraig Harrington has not logged many miles on the backroads of Rathmichael in south Co Dublin. His fitness coach, Dr Liam Hennessy, took him off the treadmill years ago as it "only made him good at running on a treadmill."
Harrington's 'failure' in the US PGA had more to do with mental tiredness than anything physical. Indeed, the Dubliner is not far behind Woods in the scientific approach he has taken to his physical preparation. The previous week in Akron, he was spotted in the gym with a 60kg weight on his back. But his conditioning still pales beside that of Woods, who decided long ago to "treat golf as a sport."
"I let other people treat it like a hobby," he says. "It would be asinine for someone not to work out and go play football. It doesn't make sense for golf, either."
Woods has gained nearly 30 pounds since turning pro 10 years ago. Through a mixture of weight-training and distance running he's as physically different today from his early pro years as Harrington is from the slightly chubby 24-year-old who hit the tour in 1996.
When he joined the PGA Tour that same year, six foot two inch Woods weighed just 158 pounds. Today, he weighs between 182 and 185.
He has also gained a few pounds of silverware along the way. A co-incidence? I think not.