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Opinion & Analysis

Was this the Yip Heard ‘Round the World? Or not a yip at all…

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The other day while doing research on an article about “the yips,” I happened to watch the replay of the 1970 Open Championship at St. Andrews with Henry Longhurst calling the play-by-play.

This was the tournament in which Doug Sanders missed a short putt on the final hole to win the championship. In his defense, the putt was a downhill left-to-right slider, the most challenging putt for a right-handed player.

David Pelz, NASA scientist turned putting guru, refers to these sidewinders as “facing putts,” meaning that when the player sets up to the ball, they can see the hole in their periapical vision. This is opposed to right-to-left putts, in which the hole is essentially blocked from view by the player’s body.

The tendency with a “facing putt” is for the player to direct the ball at the hole, rather than on a line above the cup, causing the ball to finish on the low side. What happened as Doug Sanders stood over the ball? We’ll come back to that moment shortly. In the meantime, let’s see what events led up to that point.

The Road Hole

The tendency when examining a win or a loss is to focus only on what happened at the end of the contest, ignoring what led up to the penultimate moment. In this case, to put that final putt into its proper context, we need to go back to the 17th tee, which is where Sanders began to unwind.

Sanders and Trevino were playing together in the final group. Trevino had started the day at 8-under par, but he had slipped down the leaderboard to 2-under by the time they’d reached the 17th hole. Sanders was first to play off the 17th tee, but only after a bizarre series of events occurred. As Sanders stood over the ball with the hotel looming to his right, he turned his head back and forth, looking down his target line more than 20 times. Then, when it appeared that he was ready to pull his club away from the ball, he stepped away to wipe the grip of his driver with a towel.

Sanders then returned to the ball and the ritual began again, but this time the number of looks exceeded the first. And finally, when it appeared that he would never hit the ball, he began his swing, hitting the ball weakly down the right side of the fairway. Trevino played his tee shot down the left side, and with that, the two players started walking down the fairway.

Sander’s ball finished a good 20 yards behind Trevino, leaving him a considerable distance away from the green. After talking with his caddie, Sanders chose to play a fairway wood toward the right side of green. Sanders pulled it slightly to the left, and he and his caddie watched as his ball bounded into the left front bunker.

In 1970, the face of the Road Hole Bunker was not as steep as it is today, but it still represented a significant challenge to those who found themselves in it. The pin was tucked just behind the bunker, leaving Sanders only a few feet of green to work with. He dug his feet into the sand and then proceeded to play a brilliant shot, leaving the ball just a few inches away from the hole. He tapped in for a par, preserving his one-shot lead over Nicklaus.

Valley of Sin

On the 18th hole, the two men drove down the left side of the fairway. The pin was located just a few feet behind the “Valley of Sin.” Sanders walked from his ball all the way to the green, and then, taking a long look at the position of the pin, he walked back to his ball. Sanders was the first to play. His wedge shot landed well past the pin, stopping some 25 feet away. Trevino, who at this point nothing to gain or lose, played his wedge shot to roughly 15 feet behind the pin.

After Trevino had played, the two men walked up through the “Valley of Sin” together and made their way toward the back of the green. They each marked their ball and walked forward toward the hole to survey the area around it. The obvious challenge facing Sanders was that he needed to roll the ball to the hole, but at the same time, not run it too far by the cup.

For The Win

Sanders, looking first at the hole and then back again at the ball, proceed to take several glances back and forth before hitting his first putt. It stopped about 2.5 feet from the hole. The championship belonged to Sanders if he could negotiate the next putt. If he were to miss it, he would fall into a tie with Jack Nicklaus, who was already in the clubhouse waiting for him to finish. In the event that the two should tie, it would be broken by an 18-hole playoff the following day.

In preparation to hit what he hoped was his final putt of the tournament, Sanders placed his putter behind the ball. And then, as he had done before, he began to swivel eyes back and forth… to the ball, to the hole, to the ball, to the hole, to the ball, to the hole. And then, perhaps sensing that he had already spent more time than he should over the ball, he appeared to rush the putt once he’d settled over it.

The unthinkable happened.

Sanders missed the putt, letting it slide to the right below the hole. The following day, Nicklaus won the 18-hole playoff, ending Sander’s bid for his first and only major.

Did He Yip It?

And now to the point. Do you think Sanders yipped that final putt? The answer to that question would depend on how you define the yips, so let me help you. There are any number of people who say they have yipped a putt or that they have “the yips.” In fact, they are more likely suffering from poor mechanics that are exacerbated by performance anxiety.

“The True Yips,” as I define the condition, are only present when there is a visible muscular spasm in anticipation of striking the ball. And to the question as to whether Doug Sanders yipped the putt, I’d invite you to watch the replay on the internet. What you will observe as you watch him putt is that there is no visible spasm present at any point in his stroke.

Sanders just made the same mistake as any other golfer might who was playing with his friends on a Saturday morning; he didn’t start the ball on a line high enough above the cup when playing a left-to-right putt.

And so, for the record, Doug Sanders’ miss at the final hole of the 1970 British Open was not a “true yip,” but just a miscalculation of line and speed.

Rod Lidenberg is the author of a new book based on this experience treating students with The Yips. The book is entitled “The Yips: Dancing with the Devil, Rewiring Your System for Success.” The book will be released for publication sometime before the end of the year.

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As a teacher, Rod Lidenberg reached the pinnacle of his career when he was named to GOLF Magazine's "Top 100" Teachers in America. The PGA Master Professional and three-time Minnesota PGA "Teacher of the Year" has over his forty-five year career, worked with a variety of players from beginners to tour professionals. He especially enjoys training elite junior players, many who have gone on to earn scholarships at top colleges around the country, in addition to winning several national amateur championships. Lidenberg maintains an active schedule teaching at Bluff Creek Golf Course Chanhassen, Minnesota, in the summer and The Golf Zone, Chaska, Minnesota, in the winter months. As a player, he competed in two USGA Public Links Championships; the first in Dallas, Texas, and the second in Phoenix, Arizona, where he finished among the top 40. He also entertained thousands of fans playing in a series of three exhibition matches beginning in 1972, at his home course, Edgewood G.C. in Fargo, North Dakota, where he played consecutive years with Doug Sanders, Lee Trevino and Laura Baugh. As an author, he has a number of books in various stages of development, the first of which will be published this fall entitled "I Knew Patty Berg." In Fall 2017, he will be launching a new Phoenix-based instruction business that will feature first-time-ever TREATMENT OF THE YIPS.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. David

    Dec 27, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    That is not a yip

  2. Stan

    Dec 27, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    Not the yips, a misread

    “But was it really a choke? Before Sanders took the putter back, the man who set the pin, Gerald Micklem, told those in the Members Room in the clubhouse that Sanders would miss it because he “won’t see the break because you can’t see the break”.
    Source
    http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/sports/old-st-andrews-article-1.878308

  3. peter

    Dec 27, 2017 at 1:17 am

    Yep, rushed the stroke and pushed it.

  4. Drbopperthp

    Dec 26, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    He choked, plain and simple.

  5. John K

    Dec 26, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    The instant the ball left his putter it appears he tried to guide it. Been there done that! I would call it uncertainty in his decision more then a yip!

  6. Michael

    Dec 26, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    See the guy quite often hitting balls at the range. He is the nicest dude in the world and talks to everyone about the game. I personally find it stupid to call this putt a choke when the hole before he hit one of the greatest bunker shots ever. Sure he might of screwed up moving whatever he saw in his line but it was one hell of an effort to get to that point. The fact is he should of played safer on his approach and played for par.

  7. Hugh

    Dec 26, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Pretty sure you meant “peripheral vision,” not “periapical” unless he was lining up the putt with his teeth.

  8. Dan Retief

    Dec 26, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    I had always believed that Doug Sanders addressed that short putt then leant forward to sweep a pebble, or something, off his line and then went back into his stance and missed. I might even have read it in Sanders’ entertaining autobiography “Come Swing With Me.” The story went that when Ben Hogan, watching on TV in Texas, saw Sanders move to sweep the line he cried out, “step away!” Sanders didn’t and might have slightly altered his stance and alignment. However this is not shown in the clip you have attached. Did it happen? That little putt on the 18th at St Andrews to this day breaks to the right… wonder if poor old Doug at the last second thought he was lining up too far outside the left of the cup and, like the rest of us, self-corrected his stroke by slightly opening the putter face and pushing it to straight, thus it took the break and missed right. Agree that it was not a yip.

  9. John Grossi

    Dec 26, 2017 at 11:58 am

    Sorry, I cannot watch again that stroke.
    I truly believe he yipped that putt.

  10. Todd

    Dec 26, 2017 at 11:18 am

    Agreed, ball never started left of the hole like it needed.

  11. Pete O'Tube

    Dec 26, 2017 at 10:59 am

    Not quite a yip, but a shove with the right shoulder!

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Opinion & Analysis

“I Love You, Tiger!” At Big Cedar lodge, an outpouring of affection for Tiger Woods

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What a difference a year makes.

About one year ago, Tiger Woods was in Branson, Missouri at Big Cedar Lodge to announce that he was designing a golf course there; Payne’s Valley, his first public course. That day was attended by hundreds of national and local media, the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri and Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops owner and the visionary behind the amazing golf complex that has been established at Big Cedar Lodge.

That day, Woods had not played competitive golf for awhile, and he was recovering from multiple surgeries. Woods took a couple of ceremonial swings, the last of which clearly left him in physical distress. Days later, he was in surgery again and his playing career looked to be all but over. The situation became worse when Woods was arrested for driving under the influence, found with multiple substances in his system. It seemed as though the sad mug shots from that arrest might be as prominent in his legacy as the smiles and fist-pumps that accompanied his 79 wins and 14 major championships.

Fast forward to yesterday, where Woods was back in Missouri to do a Junior Clinic at Big Cedar. An estimated crowd of over 7,000 kids and parents showed up on a school day to catch a glimpse of Woods. The atmosphere was carnival-like, with sky divers, stunt planes making flyovers and rock music blaring from giant speakers. When Woods finally arrived, the reaction was electric. Mothers and their kids were chanting. “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” at the top of their lungs. Photographers battled soccer moms for position to get a picture of his swing. Some of the kids were as young as 6-years-old, which means that they had probably not seen Woods hit a meaningful shot in their life. At one point, when Woods was hitting shots and explaining how to execute them, a woman shouted, “I love you, Tiger!” Not to be out done, a woman on the other side of the crowd, who was their with her husband and kids, shouted “I love you more, Tiger!” Maybe the only people with more affection for Woods would be the people in the golf business. A senior marketing official in the golf industry leaned over at one point in the event and said, “God, we could use just one more from him.”

Woods swing looks completely rehabilitated. He was hitting shots of every shape and trajectory on-demand, and the driver was sending balls well past the end of the makeshift driving range set up for the event. But even more remarkable was the evidence of the recovery of his reputation. Surely there are still women out there that revile Woods for the revelations of infidelity, and no doubt there are those that still reject Woods for his legal and personal struggles. But none of them were in Missouri yesterday. Mothers and children shrieking his name confirmed what we already knew: Tiger Woods is the single most compelling person in American sports, and he belongs to golf.

Unlike a year ago, Woods is swinging well, and seems as healthy and happy as he as ever been as a pro. Add to that the unprecedented outpouring of love from crowds that once produced a combination of awe and respect, but never love. Fowler, McIlroy, Spieth and the rest may get their share of wins and Tweets, but if the game is to really grow it will be on the broad, fragile back of Tiger Woods. It’s amazing to think what can happen in one short year.

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Opinion & Analysis

12 reasons serious golfers don’t realize their potential

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What stops serious golfers from realizing their potential? If you are an amateur who wants to get better, a young player trying to achieve more, or a young professional with big dreams, this article is for you.

I’ve made a career out of helping athletes maximize their abilities, golfers in particular. And the things I see young playing professionals doing prior to our work together is often what is holding them back. The reality is that most young players, no matter what their level, have three key problems:

  1. They’re distracted by what’s not important
  2. They have no detailed structure and plan to reach the targets they determine are important to them
  3. They have no formal process to develop mindset and attitude

In the list below, I share what I see working with these young players and some common blind spots.

1. No real plan and steps to achieve targets

Most players do not know how to create a long-term and short-term plan that outlines all steps needed to reach targets. Players should have yearly plans with targets, steps and actions and weekly plans to organize/schedule their time and prioritize key needs.

2. Not focused enough on the object of the game

This goes hand in hand with No. 1. Surprisingly, players seem to forget that the object of the game is get the ball in the hole in the least amount of strokes. Trophies and checks are not issued for the best swing, the best putting stroke or most balls hit.

3. Not enough pressure in practice

Most young players have loose practice. The intensity of feelings between the practice tee and the course are too different. Focus and intensity must be a part of all practice. Add competition and outcomes to sessions so some urgency is created.

4. Too much practice time on full swing

The data is clear — most shots in golf happen from 100 yards and in from the green. If the majority of practice time is not spent on these shorter shots, practice time is wasted.

5. An obsession with the look of the swing

Players are not generally prepared to own their own swings and embrace the differences that make them unique. Obsessing over swing mechanics is a major distraction for many players. Many players convince themselves that if it doesn’t look “good” on their iPhone, their swing won’t get results.

6. No structure with the driver

Since scoring is the main goal, a consistent, reliable shape to each shot is important. My experience has been that if players are trying to go both ways with the driver, that is a sure-fire way to elevate numbers on the card. Pick a shape and eliminate one side of the course. Predictability from the tee increases a player’s confidence to put the ball in the fairway more often, creating more opportunities to score.

7. Expectation that they will hit the ball well everyday

Many players have the unreasonable expectation that they will hit lots of fairways and greens every time they play. This expectation leads to constant disappointment in their game. Knowing that the leading professionals in the game average about 60.6 percent driving accuracy and 11.8 greens in regulation per round should be a good benchmark for the expectations of all players.

8. Trying to be too robotic and precise in putting

Some players get so caught up in the mechanics of putting that their approach becomes too robotic. They become obsessed with precision and being perfect. Feel, flow and instinct have to be a central part of putting. This can get lost in an overly robotic mindset trying to be too precise and perfect.

9. No process for assessment and reflection

Players do not have a formal process for assessing practice or rounds and reflecting on the experience. The right lessons are not consistently taken away to ensure step-by-step improvement. Knowing how to assess practice, play and ask the right questions is key to development.

10. Getting in their own way

The voice inside of most young players’ heads is not helpful for their performance. It’s often a negative, demanding voice that insists on perfection. This voice leads to hesitation, frustration and anger. The voice must be shaped (with practice) into the right “emotional caddie” to support efforts and promote excellence over perfection.

11. A focus on the negative before the positive

A default to the mistakes/flaws in the round before looking at the highlights and what worked. When asked about their round, most players highlight three-putts, penalty shots and any errors before anything else. Emphasis should always be on what went well first. Refection on what needs improvement is second.

12. The blame game

Young players love excuses. Course conditions, weather, coaching and equipment are a few of the areas that are often targets, deflecting responsibility away from the player. Many players do not take full responsibility for their own game and/or careers.

I hope this provides some insights on roadblocks that could get in your way on the path to reaching your targets in the game. Whether it’s lowering your handicap, winning a junior tournament, working toward the PGA Tour — or just general improvement — considering these observations might help you shorten the road to get there.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Valero Texas Open

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With one of the weakest fields of the year, TPC San Antonio hosts the Valero Texas Open this week. Only one player from the top-20 in the Official World Golf Rankings will tee it up here. That man is Sergio Garcia, who co-designed this course with Greg Norman.

Just like last week at the RBC Heritage, the wind can wreak havoc at TPC San Antonio. The course features an exposed layout, making the level of wind is often unpredictable. Expect it to be a factor yet again this year. Unlike last week, the longer hitters do have an advantage on this course, which measuring more than 7,400 yards with little rough off the tee.

Last year, Kevin Chappell held off a charging Brooks Koepka to post 12-under par and win his first title on the PGA Tour.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Sergio Garcia 14/1
  • Matt Kuchar 18/1
  • Charley Hoffman 18/1
  • Luke List 25/1
  • Ryan Moore 28/1
  • Kevin Chappell 28/1
  • Adam Scott 30/1

From the top of the market, it’s hard not to love Luke List (25/1, DK Price $10,000) this week. The big-hitting American is still looking for his first win on the PGA Tour, but he is knocking on the door relentlessly. In his last eight events, List has finished no worse than T-26.

He was so close once again last week, and he should take plenty of confidence from that performance onto a course that theoretically should suit him much better. On this long track, List will have a significant advantage as one of the longest hitters on Tour. Over his last 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 1st in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green. List is also flushing his irons. He was second in the field last week for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, and over his previous 24 rounds he sits 3rd in the same category.

It’s not only his long game that is highly proficient right now, either. List’s short game has been stellar over this impressive stretch, too. He ranks 8th for Strokes Gained-Around the Green and 28th for Strokes Gained-Short Game over his last 24 rounds.

The one department holding the big man back is his putting, where he ranks 145th for the season. The rest of his game is so sharp at the moment that he’s in the enviable position of not needing that hot a week with the flat-stick to win. He only needs an average week on the greens to finally break through and claim his first PGA Tour event. There’s nothing to suggest List isn’t going to play well once more this week, and at 25/1 he seems undervalued.

Returning to a track that he adores, Brendan Steele (33/1, DK Price $8,900) is always a danger at this event. As well as winning the title here in 2011, Steele has finished in the top-20 three times since then. Whatever it is about TPC San Antonio, it’s a course that brings out the best in Steele’s game.

It’s been an excellent season for the West Coast native, too. He won his opening event of the season at the Safeway Open and has since finished in the top-30 six times. One of the main reasons for his strong run of form has been his work with the driver. Steele is ranked 1st in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee over his last 24 rounds, and he has only failed to post a positive Strokes Gained statistic in this category once since this event last year.

Recently, Steele’s game is showing trends that he may once more be close to hitting the form that saw him win at the back end of last year. In his previous 24 rounds, the Californian is ranked 10th in Ball Striking and 7th in Strokes Gained-Total. Always a threat at this event, Steele is coming into this week with all parts of his game in sync. He should be a live threat once more in San Antonio.

Another man who has played well all year is Xander Schauffele (35/1, DK Price $8,800). The Californian has made seven of eight cuts this year, and he has finished in the top-25 in four of those occasions. Excellent off the tee, TPC San Antonio should suit the 24-year-old this week, too. Schaufelle ranks 7th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 17th in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green over his last 24 rounds.

With wind likely to play a factor this week, pure ball striking will be necessary. That shouldn’t be an issue for Xander, who sits 7th in Strokes Gained-Ball Striking over his last 24 rounds. There is nothing off about Schauffele’s game right now. He ranks 21st in Strokes Gained-Putting over his previous 12 rounds and 5th in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green over the same period. It’s only a matter of time before the two-time PGA Tour winner puts himself in the thick of contention again, and there’s no reason why it can’t be this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Luke List 25/1, DK Price $10,000
  • Brendan Steele 33/1, DK Price $8,900
  • Xander Schauffele 35/1, DK Price $8,800
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