Science Looks at Taming the Yips
But it also fits Jensen when he stands over a 1-foot putt under pressure.
Jensen suffers from what golfers call the yips, a tendency to flinch, jerk and twitch during a stroke that turns those routine tap-ins into torture. An otherwise talented golfer with the yips can send a ball several feet off the mark on even the simplest putts -- and pile strokes onto his or her scorecard.
On Monday, Jensen was one of 16 golfers taking part in a 'tournament' as part of a Mayo Clinic study of the phenomenon. Researchers hope to determine whether yips are psychological or neurological, and are testing the effects of drugs called beta blockers on golfers with the yips.
Researchers speculate that the yips can be either psychological or neurological, and that beta blockers -- which slow the heart rate -- won't help when the yips have neurological roots.
Jay Smith, the study's medical director, said many golfers are afraid to admit they have the yips. Some are so superstitious they won't golf in the same party as a yipper. Others believe they can get the yips just by talking about it.
The yips typically affect older golfers with least 10 or 20 years of experience. But Jensen first caught them in a practice round for his high school golf squad at age 17.
'I couldn't even make a 1-foot putt,' said Jensen, a computer consultant from Louisville, Ky. 'I three-putted every single hole after that.'
His putting game became a source of embarrassment on the links -- and fodder for his needling golf partners. The yips bothered Jensen so much he quit playing for 25 years until he picked up his clubs again about a year ago.
Like many yippers, Jensen has tried with some success to alter his game. Researchers believe the yips are sometimes caused by the golfer 'wearing out' their motor system for a particular activity. If that's the case, small tinkering can put them almost back to where they were to start.
Other potential remedies include using a long putter, putting from the opposite side, or using a cross-handed grip so the tics in one's dominant hand have less control over the shot.
During Mayo's two-day 'tournament' this week, the golfers were fitted with electrodes to monitor and record heart rate and given special putters that measured their grip strength. Two video cameras recorded each golfer's swing. Two 'rounds' were played on a nine-hole putting green; nine golfers who don't suffer from the yips played to serve as a control group.
Beta blockers and placebos were to be given alternately to the experimental and control groups during the two days of play. To increase the pressure, researchers said the winner would get $400, and reminded the players that their performances would be watched closely during the data analysis part of the research.
'This is the first time I've gone to a tournament where they expect you to do bad,' Jensen joked.
Most of the golfers, who came from as far away as Scotland and as nearby as the Twin Cities, said they found out about the research project on the Internet. All paid their own hotel fare and travel expenses.
The yips aren't confined to golfers. They can also affect other athletes, musicians, artists and physicians. And researchers say understanding the yips could help in treating disorders like facial tics, writer's cramp and repetitive stress injuries.
Many of the golfers at this week's tournament said they were participating for just that reason.
'I want to help out in finding a cure. It's a lot more important for a surgeon or dentist than it is to find a cure for me,' Jensen said.
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Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son
ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.
Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.
''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''
They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.
''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''
Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.
''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''
Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.
Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.
Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.
Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.
Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.