I just watched an impressive round during the 2012 Players Championship. Kevin Na shot 68 to take a one-shot lead going into the final round. But what’s impressive is that he did it with the full swing yips.
After the round in the media center, he said the problem with his full swing started when he changed his swing and set up in 2011. Today, he still feels uncomfortable over the ball with his balance and can’t hit the shot until it feels right.
“I’m having this trouble pulling the trigger. I changed my setup starting at the Masters last year. I was trying to get more forward, trying to get the back swing more up. And because my balance at the setup is totally different, I don’t feel comfortable,” Na said.
His coach said that his body is having a hard time adjusting to a new feeling over the ball. He can’t pull the trigger because he does not feel fully comfortable with the new set up, which is common when you make a big change in your mechanics. This is one form of the yips—when you can’t take the club back. I’ve worked with players on this very issue—they are “stuck” over the ball. They can’t progress into the shot, because their mind is too caught up into feeling perfect over the ball.
“I’m trying to get comfortable with my waggles. It’s usually a little waggle, half waggle, little waggle, half waggle, and boom, supposed to pull the trigger. But if it doesn’t work, I’ve got to go in pairs. So it’ll go four; and if it doesn’t work, it’ll go six; and after that, just? There’s a lot going on in my head,” Na said.
And to make matters worse, Na seems to be overly ritualistic with his routine. He has to take his waggles in pairs. This is not uncommon for players to have a specific routine with a certain number of waggles. But I think this only makes it harder to get over the yips with pulling the trigger.
And then you add the fact that he’s in the last group of the Player’s Championship and everyone is watching what’s he’s going through. The stress of trying to win added to the fact that millions are watching him fight himself over the ball makes it even harder. It’s forcing him to back off when it does not feel right.
“I’m not being nice to myself, trust me. I’m ripping myself. But you know, there’s so much on the line that I just have to sometimes back off. Or I’ll force myself to take it back, and on the way down I’ll come up and pull up and go over the top. As ugly as it is and as painful as it is, believe me, it’s really tough for me, and I’m trying.”
But he still managed to shoot 68 and 12 under par for three rounds at the Players. Here’s the good news: He knows once he pulls the trigger, the shot is going where he’s looking. So his yips are confined to his set up, waggles, and take away. So technically he does not have the full-swing yips. He has the set up or take away yips.
“It’s tough, especially when you’re on the clock and you have to hit within a certain 40 seconds first it’s a minute. So there’s more added pressure. And only the whole world is watching, so there’s a lot more pressure there, too. It’s hard, but you know, I’m swinging it well, so if I trust it and pull the trigger, my ball is kind of going where I’m looking, which is great, and also I’m rolling the ball great,” Na said.
It’s going to be interesting what happens in the final round. Will Na overcome the yips with his routine? Can he fight himself one more round and win?