It was a good news/bad news kind of a comeback week for Tiger Woods at the Hero World Challenge.
The good news? He played 72 holes with no pain, and showed off a much looser, freer swing. He hit the ball longer and higher, and swung full speed with his driver and hit some good shots with it.
The bad? Short game, and it was really bad. For probably the first time since he was a beginner, Woods chunked or bladed 10 chips, pitches and bunker shots in one tournament, including a three-chip hockey match on a single hole Thursday. The prevailing commentary on Twitter was that Tiger had grown a case of chipping yips while he was away.
Woods attributed the troubles to rust, tough Isleworth grass and a change in the "release pattern" he is developing with swing consultant Chris Como, and said it's something he would clean up before his next start, in early 2015.
Top New York teacher Michael Jacobs says Woods doesn't have the yips, but it will take time to change the way his wrists work through the ball--and the problem is magnified on smaller, more delicate shots. "Golf teaching in general is in love with the idea that you should make a little backswing, freeze your wrists and put forward lean on the shaft on the way through as you strike down on the ball," says Jacobs, who addresses that myth in his new book, Swing Tips You Should Forget. "If you bend your right wrist and arch your left and keep them frozen that way, the only way to get to the ball is to push and drive your hands down. Great pitchers of the ball have soft arms that come towards them as they go through the ball. Tiger's arms are extending, and he's pushing the club into the ground."
That pushing move has become so ingrained in Woods' swing that it can feel like a yip as he tries to change it with Como, says Jacobs, who is based at the X Golf School in Manorville, Long Island. "The clubhead isn't releasing naturally, so your muscles start driving the handle. You can have pockets of good chipping and pitching if you have great athleticism--like Tiger does--but it will eventually catch up to you. He's trying to work his way out of that frozen wrist condition, and it's tough to break that habit."
To improve your chipping and pitching, take your 7-iron and head to the practice green. Hit some small chip shots from the tight surface, experimenting with the best way to cleanly pick the ball off the grass. "You're trying to compress the ball the right way instead of driving your hands down," says Jacobs. "Let the club do the work."