Shrink Rap

By Brian HewittNovember 2, 2005, 5:00 pm
Since waxing prosaic on the subject of confidence in golf in my Monday column on this website, I stumbled across a fascinating article in the October issue of Clinics in Sports Medicine.
One of the subjects tackled in the article was the dreaded yips, which, in the parlance of the golf shrinks, is called focal dystonia.
And I quote: When an athlete experiences the yips, or a focal dystonia, the pathways that govern the inhibition of competing motor programs break down. This results in the overriding of the original motor program. Therefore, instead of the individual making one smooth stroke engaging the appropriate motor program, the smooth stroke is interrupted with a twitch. Two motor programs are operating simultaneously, leading to miss-hit shots.
Sure, by now, youre scratching your head and thinking somewhere Harvey Penick is spinning wildly in his grave.
But theres more..
.The neuroanatomy of the basal ganglia and concomitant neurophysiology are currently of great research interest in the neuroscience community. It appears clear that stress causes release of the activating neurotransmitter glutamate, which in turn causes release of dopamine in basal ganglia pathways that may result in the disinhibition of competing motor programs. This is the reason why yips become more stressful under stressful circumstances.
Hoo boy!.....And here I thought all these years Basil Ganglia was the coach of the Hungarian national soccer team and competing motor programs were NASCAR and Indy.
In defense of the articles authors'Terrence P. Clark, Ian Tofler and Michael Lardon'they make a lot of terrific points. Lord knows theyve done their homework.
A round of golf, they point out, usually takes four to five hours to play yet the golf swing usually takes less than three seconds. Which means the swings that count over the course of a round for a touring pro last about three and a half minutes.
The excessive down time, the authors say, can lead to obsessive thinking and distraction, as well as amplification of pre-existing negative self-perceptions, performance anxiety, panic and affective overarousal.
I know exactly what theyre talking about. Its just that I never would have chosen those exact words. Obsessive thinking and distraction, I would have guessed, is what a lot of the guys I know engage in when the cart girl approaches.
But the authors are bang on when they get around to talking about confidence in golf. They define it as a state of mind marked by freedom from uncertainty coupled with a sense that a desired task will be accomplished.
The much coveted zone in golf is, they say, a kind of flow. Flow is a state experienced in a task-oriented activity. The individual may experience a sense of absorption, loss of self-consciousness, an almost dissociative detachment, power, pleasure altered perception of time (usually slowing) and a sense of control and unity.
Think, for a second, how much an entrepreneur could make if he ever found a way to bottle this flow.
The authors also get around to the subject of choking. They posit the notion that Jean Van de Velde turned in one of the greatest chokes of all-time at the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie.
They do not discuss the number of people who wanted to choke Van de Velde more recently when he said he would shave his legs and wear a kilt if thats what it took to get the Frenchman into the field at the Womens British Open.
There are a lot of those people at the moment.
Of that I am confident.
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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.