Graham DeLaet, you are not alone

What a secret pleasure it was to discover yesterday that Graham DeLaet has the chip yips.  I don’t make that statement in any way as an indication of dislike for Graham, or a hope for continued difficulties with his game.  Indeed, I like Graham DeLaet a lot, as a Canadian I’m proud of his success (if a little disappointed that he hasn’t yet reached the potential that I believe he still has), I admire his charitable and philanthropic efforts, and I root for him every time he tees it up.  Like everyone else I know, I also hate his beard and think it’s ridiculous, but if Graham knew me, he might hate my haircut, so there you go… we’ll call it even.

But back to my opening sentence.  I’ll admit I wrote it that way to grab your attention.  If you’ve gotten this far, I guess I succeeded.  But the reason for my secret pleasure is the fact that I have the chip yips, too.  And as they say, misery loves company.

Graham tweeted about his affliction yesterday, by way of explaining his withdrawal from the Memorial Tournament.  He said he was pulling out of the event to give the matter immediate attention and then get back on Tour ASAP.  I sincerely hope that he can get over it with a tip or two, and with ample hours to work on it at his disposal.   It’s selfishly comforting, but somewhat surprising, to know that an outstanding Tour Pro can have the exact same weakness as I do.  Lord knows, I’m not in Graham’s league of ability or talent, and I don’t have as much time to concentrate on remedies as he does, but I’ve been trying to overcome the chip yips for at least two years.

I try, whenever I can, to take 15 minutes before a round to practice my chipping from the rough, and the short grass, around the putting green.  One of my sons, who’s particularly deft around the greens, has adjusted my stance, moving me closer to the ball and making me stand up straighter.  Another friend, who’s a scratch player, has told me to erase any thoughts of dread from my mind.  I do so.  Around the putting green, after chunking or airmailing the first few shots, as I do on the golf course, I then get into a rhythm of neat little chips, from either surface, that roll softly to the target hole.  I feel good, I feel ready, I go tee off.

At the first available opportunity on the golf course, the yips return.  It’s completely inexplicable.  I seriously try to repeat the stance and address that was working ten minutes ago at the putting green.  I deliberately do not think about the possibility of disaster lying in front of me.  I try to picture Melania Trump in a bikini, or a butterscotch sundae, as I take the wedge back.  I stare at the ball like Laurence Harvey in the Manchurian Candidate.

I’m thinking, good, this is going well.

I then thunk the wedge into the ground on the downswing, my head moving forward in unison with the clubhead, so that I don’t actually see the impact.  The chunk of grass that my clubhead has now created, and not the clubhead itself, propels the ball roughly 20 inches, where it stops.

I quickly move forward to the ball, as if haste will provide a quick remedy.  On this shot, I concentrate on not allowing my head to move, and I succeed.  But now the ball has been struck by the bottom of the clubhead, and it proceeds with alarming speed at an altitude of roughly six inches, to a spot in the very deep rough about sixty feet from the other side of the green.  Off to the next tee I go, marking down a “handicap 7” on my scorecard, instead of the relatively easy par 4 that it should have been.

My playing partners say nothing, and are probably thinking “poor Jimmy”, but of course, I think they’re thinking “God, this guy sucks at golf.”  It’s truly demoralizing, but I soon get over it, say something mildly funny,  I crack a good drive, and forget about it.   Until the opportunity to do the same thing pops up again on the next hole, or the one after that, and I proceed to do it again.  After three or four of these episodes on the front nine, the fleeting thought of wishing I had a gun in my bag occurs to me.

I post my score at the end of the round.  Let’s say it’s 90, with four triples… what really should have been the 79 or 81 that I used to shoot… all because of a mind and a wedge that simply won’t work in situations that are inevitable in their occurrence.

Having had putting yips in the past, I do know that these chip yips will not last.  Like a bad virus picked up in some third world country, they may stay with me for several more months, perhaps years, but with perseverance and practice, eventually I will stumble upon some variation of stance, address, or image of a babe in a bikini, and find the cure.

And I also know that once this problem is eradicated from my repertoire, another virus will immediately succeed it… an incurable slice, a duck hook, an inability to escape from a bunker, whatever.  That too is inevitable.

I can only hope that Graham DeLaet has a much stronger mental constitution than I do.

But then, I would think a common housefly has.

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