Has Tiger Woods been sent from on High to lead us chipping sinners to a better place? Has the great short-game exponent been deliberately inflicted with the yips in order to help us cleanse our game?
Tiger hasn’t quite reached the wretched depths occupied by millions of hackers. But his shaming 82 in the second round of the Waste Management Open in Arizona last weekend plus his withdrawal from Torrey Pines on Thursday, has brought him far enough down the road to hackerdom
From here, he can be an example to us all, a beacon, a shining light to show us the way out of the wilderness.
Chipping is not his only problem at the moment but we know it is at the root of his troubles and we’re going to be intently watching the way he cures himself because this is the most insidious manifestation of our inability to get the golf ball to do our bidding.
Chipping should be one of the more straight-forward of golf shots. Hitting the ball a short distance to the green with a lofted club is not one of the game’s most difficult processes.
Obviously, it requires great skill and a deft touch to get the ball consistently close but, in itself, it isn’t a complicated operation. But when a yip suddenly causes you miss it altogether, clunk it couple of feet or blade it across the green it is a horrible experience.
We can cope with cocking-up our tee shots, murdering our mid-irons, shanking our approaches and sometimes failing to connect altogether but the chipping yips is the curse most capable of destroying our souls.
Not to be confused with the putting yips, the chipping yips are far more spectacularly humiliating, as Tiger has been proving in embarrassing fashion. And whereas we fiddle about uselessly in search of a remedy, he has to find a solution very rapidly. — and we’ll be watching like hawks.
We will also be relying on those wonderful gatherers of wisdom, the golf writers, to tell us exactly what steps he will be taking to fight this evil. Then we can follow him to the promised land.
I’ve had so much advice from pros about losing the yipsand so many lessons I’ve lost count. One pro even gave me my money back when I kept yiping away after all his efforts. That’s not something they normally do.
The problem is that only a fellow sufferer can really understand what you are going through. And when a player who was the best golfer in the world becomes a fellow sufferer he has the makings of a messiah.
It won’t be easy. No one can even agree on the cause. Some think it is physical, others call it the result of a ‘mysterious mental disorder’.
Over many years I have managed to cut down the number of yips I suffer and can sometimes go a whole round without an attack. But when you can sense the yips just waiting to strike without warning, you are never comfortable and it affects your entire game.
The yips quite literally ruined my game. I didn’t take up golf until my mid-forties but managed to get down to a handicap of 19 with every expectation of a gradual improvement.
Then I was appointed golf correspondent of The Observer. A great job but, paradoxically, it meant my playing opportunities were severely limited. I spent most of my life on the best courses in the world but rarely was there a chance to play –especially in weekend medals.
On the odd occasion I did play, the yips began to creep in and became a major problem. I spent hours practising, had some very highly-qualified advice, but often during a competition I brought the clubface towards the ball for a simple chip there would an involuntary jerk of my hands and I would lucky to make any form of contact.
It was a nightmare, ruining nearly every game I played. Unless there was bunker in the way, I would putt from miles away from the green.
I became quite good at 30 yard putts from the fairway. It doesn’t always work. Once, at the Old Course at St Andrews, I once three-putted before I reached the16th green.
My handicap wandered out to the maximum 28 where it still rigidly resides. I’m determined to break 100 and get my handicap down but it won’t budge until I rid my short game of this curse.
Because of the weather, I haven’t been able to practice on the course much lately but I’m constantly chipping plastic balls onto the armchair in the lounge. This works mostly but transferring it to live action is always a problem.
What I and countless others want is a miracle only someone of Tiger’s stature can perform. Save us, Tiger, we beseech you.