Johnny Miller had them. So did Tom Watson, Lee Trevino and Nick Faldo.
They almost brought an end to Bernhard Langer. They prompted Ben Hogan to give up the game.
For those who've never dealt with them, they're hard to describe.
But as Justice William Brennan said about pornography, you'll know them when you see them.
Or when you feel them: Twitches. Spasms. Involuntary twinges in the forearms or wrists that make even simple putts stray wildly off line.We're talking, of course, about the yips, the grim specter shadowing the sunniest of layouts, a curse that many golfers dare not speak aloud. Most research on the yips (and there's been lots of it, right up through the rarified ranks of the Mayo Clinic) has painted them as a psychological problem, a glitch in the matrix of our state of mind. How else to explain an ailment that only afflicts experienced golfers, that shows up without warning but often appears when something important is on the line? (Those beginners you see with putting problems? They don't have the yips; they're just bad.) Surely, all signs point to the psyche. But not so, says Bob Prichard, who looks at the yips the other way around.
It's All in the SwingA self-taught and self-described "sports engineer" from Tiburon, Calif., Prichard, 63, is not a golfer but has spent his adult life studying the swing. He runs
Other AidsNot everyone, of course, takes the same approach. Sandy Tatum, a former Stanford golfer and NCAA individual golf champion, came down with the yips while serving as president of the United States Golf Association. He was playing in a pro-am at Pebble Beach with his pal, Tom Watson, when he missed a two-foot putt on the 18th hole. "All I recall," Tatum says, "is that I blacked out, and when I looked up, the ball was 10 feet past the hole." Tatum, who's now in his mid-80s, never tried massage. He still encounters the yips from time to time, but he's battled through them, he says, by simply refusing to be a victim. "When it happens, I tell myself not to let it bother me," Tatum says. "And it doesn't." Other top players have dealt with the yips by changing putting grips or putters. Consider Chris DiMarco, who popularized the "claw" grip. Or Bernhard Langer, a longtime yipper who went to the belly-putter, then went on to win the Masters. My own bout with the yips took an upward turn when I switched to the
Enjoy the Good Life? Email us with what you'd like to see in future articles.