South Africa

Forget about choking, be scared of the yips

David Duval of the United States acknowledges the crowd during the first round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 18, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. Picture: Francois Nel / Getty Images

David Duval of the United States acknowledges the crowd during the first round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 18, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. Picture: Francois Nel / Getty Images

Here’s the scary part: unlike choking, there’s rarely a recovery from the yips.

As South African sport fans, we’ve been scarred by the choking of our teams and athletes.

It’s happened countless times before and it will happen again.

But we’ve been spared a darker, far more distressing phenomenon. It’s called the yips.

The best way to explain it is when a change in an athlete’s fine motor skills leads him or her to lose form and confidence.

Here’s the scary part: unlike choking, there’s rarely a recovery from the yips.

During Thursday’s first round of golf’s Open Championship, David Duval approached the first hole at Royal Portrush with cautious optimism.

As 2001’s champion, the 47-year-old American is invited back annually to participate in the final major of the year.

He felt he was playing decent golf and even, with a bit of luck, harboured hopes of a top-20 finish.

His round started well, two opening birdies further emboldening him.

By the time Duval walked into the clubhouse, he’d carded an astonishing 91 – 20 over par, the worst opening round at the Open since 1997.

He scored 14 at the seventh after losing two balls off the tee and then playing the wrong ball, as well.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there were times when Duval felt like the only man who could tame the equally devastating Tiger Woods.

It took him seven years to win a first title, at the Michelob Championship in 1997, but once he tasted that winning feeling, he was unstoppable.

Duval won 13 titles over a four-year stretch, culminating in a magnificent first major win at the Open.

But after 2001, he missed cuts left, right and centre, including 18 out of 19 in 2005.

The mojo that deserted him manifested in various niggles that prompted him to change his swing.

There was a runner-up finish at the 2009 US Open but in 2014, he retired.

“I never got to hate golf. If I hated it, I would have stopped doing it,” Duval said in 2012.

Yet, as Thursday illustrated, loving the game doesn’t mean much on the course.

Heinz Schenk.

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