Tiger and the Yips


Experts Split on When and If Tiger Will Come Back


For a golfer, being told that one has a case of the “yips” may be a little like the rest of us receiving a cancer diagnosis, professionally, at least. A million questions ensue – is it a serious case? Is it “putting” yips, “chipping” yips,” or “driving yips?”

tiger 1 The name seems flip, and it sounded that way when Tommy Armour coined it. He didn’t recover from the condition. Others, like Snead and Hogan, have gone through it and emerged successful again. Needless to say, whatever is going on with Tiger Woods has drawn plenty of commentary from both sides of the question, and although he is seeking out and actually listening to offers of assistance, rare for Woods, he recently remarked that his phone has been turned off. Apparently, everyone has something to say to him.

In the immediate, Wood’s situation is serious. He’s shooting 82s, a score he hasn’t seen since the age of six. His rating has sunk to #50 in the world, and he’s sending short game and bunker shots all over the place, in every direction. He’s stubbing, shanking, chunking, and everything else that most of us do every weekend. There was a time when Woods wrote the book on the short game. He was dependably masterful. Now, he has the yips – or does he?
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On one side of the fence, some experts are absolutely sure of it. They way it appears to them, it couldn’t be anything else than the yips. Of course, one of those is Brandel Chamblee, Wood’s (and much of the world’s) least favorite golf analyst. Of the naysayers, Chamblee’s commeentary is the most damning. No one would want to get the diagnosis of a serious disease from this guy – he says that no one in his experience has ever recovered from the place that Tiger currently occupies.

On the other side, some pretty good golfing minds are in Tiger’s corner. Greg Norman and Paul Azinger believe it’s all going to come back, or at least, most of it. Azinger makes the flat statement, “Sticking the leading edge into the ground is not the yips.” He adds that Woods has developed “trust” issues, but it is not clear what the Zinger means by that. If he means the way Tiger’s game is going, that makes sense. He’s never played like this before. Phil Mickelson reminds us that Tiger hasn’t played in a while, and that that the short game omes back last. Unfortunately, that sounds suspicious. Layoff or not, Tiger shouldn’t be chipping like I do, unless something else is wrong.
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Critics have begun to trumpet that Tiger is too technical. Sorry, but there have been a lot of “technical” types in the history of the tour. Knowledge and technical discipline have never given anyone the yips. The condition, it was once thought, came out of performance anxiety. Now, we place some of the cases in the area of focal dystonia, a dysfunction attached to a specific group of muscles. Repetitive action professionals do get it in many professions, including ones that can’t have “involuntary wrist spasms” going on in the middle of the action.

So, is it a mental condition, a physical one, or is it both? A medical person will have to answer that. It does seem to be more than coincidence, however, that the breakdown of Tiger’s game occurred around the same time as the breakdown of Tiger’s life. But then, some psychology person will have to answer that.
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Tiger says he’s in between swing ideologies, not experiencing the yips, and not ready to quit, so put me in the same group, the ones who don’t know anything about it, but will keep watching to see what happens. I hope that whatever it is will turn the corner soon. Yips or not, this is hard to watch.

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