Does Tiger Woods Have The Yips?

Much has been made of Tiger Woods’ struggles in his attempt to reclaim his old form as the world’s #1 player. Critics have pondered over life changes, swing changes and even losing his competitive edge. Never during that time did anyone question the scrambling ability of the greatest short game player to ever live. As the PGA Tour pushes through the west coast swing, Tiger’s inability to hit even the simplest chips and pitches have just about everyone believing he has the “yips!”

The yips are golf’s ultimate four letter word. The one thing that can kill confidence and ruin a career. Even the best players are going to be off their game now and again, and I’m not quite ready to say he definitely has the yips, but his recent play is certainly cause for concern. This is Tiger Woods we’re talking about and he has hit more terrible looking little shots in the past month than he’s probably ever hit in competition. So the big question is whether or not it’s an easily fixable issue in technique or the more debilitating condition known as the yips?

Tiger’s inability to hit even the simplest chips and pitches have just about everyone believing he has the yips!

As it relates to lousy chipping and pitching, I find most often the player has an unreasonable or variable bottom to the golf swing, along with too much leading edge or “dig” being produced at contact. Hit the ground too early with a digging club face and you’ll be sure to lay the sod over a few. After a series of fat shots, the player may err on the side of swinging down too little leaded to a thin or bladed shot across the green. The lack of predictability in contact and result creates fear, leading to a lack of trust. Although frustrating, this isn’t the yips. With a little quality coaching, the player will quickly begin hitting better shots facilitating an increase in confidence and subsequent decrease in anxiety. This is Tiger’s best case scenario which will make all this “yip” talk history.

So what if it’s not purely technique? I spent some time with “yip” expert and Co-Founder of THINQ Golf Dr. Debbie Crews to learn a little more about the subject. According to Dr. Crews, “Some people yip to due psychological issues, while others suffer as a result of neurological problems. There are also those who fall somewhere in between.”

Most people don’t realize it, but the yips are not only seen in golf. Activities where you see a high rate of small repetitive movements are prime candidates counting surgeons and musicians among those known for the debilitating nuisance. One of the more interesting facts I learned from Dr. Crews was discovering that the yips are NOT correlated with anxiety. “Anxiety can make the yips worse, but they’re not the cause.”

So if a golfer really does have the yips, what can they do to get back on track? “The key to helping long-term is to use a different motor program” says Crews. “You have to always be one step ahead. In the case of the more commonly known putting yips, this means being willing to change gripping styles, putters and practice routines. Changing frequently breaks the repetitive motor pattern giving yippers a chance to find their way again.”

Does Tiger Woods really have the yips? We hope not. With the year’s first major at Augusta National fast approaching, we’re all about to find out!

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