Tiger’s Yips? Myth, Mystery or Reality. . .

This week Scottsdale has witnessed Phil and Tiger miss the cut, rain, the 16th hole at TPC and today the Super Bowl.  The biggest rumor flying, besides deflated footballs, is that Tiger has the chipping “yips”.  Could this be true?

Myth? The yips are very real.  Most of the time they occur with short putts, but can show up anywhere in golf.  Some struggle with starting their golf swings (think Kevin Na and Sergio Garcia’s re-gripping era).  Others find the simplest chip shot death defying. A lot of my lower handicap students, along with tour pros, struggle with this.

What are the yips? Science supports the “Amygdala On Fire” theory.  There is a small, almond size part of the brain that stores memories.  The more emotionally charged an event, the more strongly it is stored in the amygdala.  In cave people times, this served us well and kept us alive: “Sabertooth tiger lives around the corner. Run!” In golf, the extremely negative experiences we have, like missing a simple putt or chip, the more intensely that event is remembered by the amygdala.  Guess what memory shows up the next time we have another simple putt or chip? The life threatening missed three footer from the past!

So how can a mere golf mortal overcome the yips? First, identify your “yip trigger” (i.e. 3 foot left to right down hill putts). Then, work with your coach to correct the technical issue(s). MORE IMPORTANTLY: POST-SHOT SELF TALK MUST BE CORRECTED! What you say to yourself after your shot will directly affect how well you improve.  If you do not manage the negative self talk, you will get the yips again, no matter how much your technique has improved.

So challenge yourself, along with Tiger, to tame your inner amygdala. . .and always keep your footballs full.

Dodie Mazzuca is the Director of Instruction at Troon Country Club in Scottsdale, AZ.  She also teaches golf in Santa Cruz, CA (May-Oct).  www.DodieMazzuca.com

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