The yips: two words that strike fear into the hearts of every golfer.
For Lucas Glover it was a terror that haunted him for years.
An involuntary muscle tension in the wrist, the yips isn’t exclusive to golf, but the term – popularized by legendary Scotsman Tommy Armor in the 1920s – has become synonymous with a spasm that can cripple the swing of even the biggest stars of the game.
Ernie Els, Danielle Kang, Bernhard Langer and Georgia Hall are just four major winners who have battled the yips – also referred to as “the staggers” or “whiskey fingers” – which is primarily associated with problem placement .
In 2009, Glover was crowned US Open champion and became the 15th highest ranked golfer in the world. Six years and a case of the yips later, the American had plummeted to world No. 634.
“You don’t have a lot of control in your arms, you don’t have a lot of control in your stroke,” Glover told CNN Sport’s Don Riddell.
“The closer you get to the hole, the worse it gets.”
Glover has steadily rebounded, climbing back into within striking distance of the top-100 by early 2023, but his green stats continued to make for impressive reading.
Despite being among the best golfers in the approach game, Glover was 189th in par (-.568) and 187th in shots per round (29.83) on the 2021/22 PGA Tour season. It was time to call for help, and that support arrived in the form of former Navy SEAL Jason Kuhn.
An NCAA Division 1 baseball player, Kuhn had dreams of playing in Major League Baseball (MLB) before the yips hit, leading him to throw six wild pitches in one inning, close to an NCAA record. MLB hopes faded, with Kuhn joining the Navy shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Today, he is a mental skills and team culture coach, working with business leaders and athletes, including those battling the yips. His client base included MLB pitcher Tyler Matzek, whom Kuhn helped overcome a devastating yips issue to win a World Series with the Atlanta Braves in 2021.
Having first met with Kuhn in May, Glover began working with the former Navy SEAL shortly thereafter. It brought a change in gear – the 43-year-old switched to a long, broom-style bike – and a change in mindset.
“It put me through a process of how to attack it instead of being afraid of it,” Glover said.
“It freed up my brain, my mind and my stroke … it’s really fun to go to practice, to play, to actually hit shots instead of being scared. It has changed my life so far.
“I never lost my faith too much and I always thought that if I could find a way to overcome that fact that I would get back to where I could.”
The results were immediate and excellent.
Having lost five of his first six PGA Tour events to open the year, Glover has finished in the top six in all but one of his last six starts, including back-to-back wins at the Wyndham Championship and FedEx St. Jude Championship.
Suddenly, he’s a six-time PGA Tour winner and, at No. 30 in the world, is gunning for a career-best ranking, targeting a remarkable hat-trick at the BMW Championship in Illinois this week.
A golfer who was once afraid of hitting is now the most knowledgeable player in the game. To some in his position, that might have seemed like a pipe dream, but for the “mentally stubborn” Glover, a rebirth was always on the cards.
“I told myself a long time ago when I started, if I ever lost faith in myself and my abilities, then that would be the time to retire or just give up,” said Glover, who still works with Kuhn.
“Never lose faith, never lose hope… it’s up to us as individuals to be happy and we can control that on our own. It’s not up to anyone else to make us happy or tell us we can do something.”
If he continues the momentum, Glover hopes to play himself into the thoughts of US Ryder Cup captain – and close friend – Zach Johnson.
Although he did not have the points to qualify as an automatic pick, Glover could see his dreams of playing a first Ryder Cup come true if Johnson selects him as one of the six captains in Rome in September.
“Ever since I turned pro, it’s been one of my goals and I’ve never been able to achieve it,” Glover said.
“This is the closest I’ll be to being in the mix for a pick or even making it clear for about 10, 12 years.
“I’m excited for the opportunity and it’s in my hands – I’ve got two weeks to keep proving myself and make the decision easy… It doesn’t mean I necessarily have to win, but just to show the consistency, the toughness, and keep going. put my name up there.”
Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark and Patrick Cantlay have already stamped their tickets to Italy, with the remaining three automatic places – currently held by Brian Harman, Brooks Koepka and Max Homa – to be confirmed after the BMW Championship.
On August 29, all eyes will turn to the home of the PGA of America in Frisco, Texas, where Johnson will announce the six selections selected to help Team USA try to win on European soil for the first time in 20 years.
Glover has a perfect Presidents Cup record, winning in 2007 and 2009, with Johnson as his teammate in both tournaments. The Presidents Cup is a biennial competition between Americans and an international team open to players from outside the United States and Europe.
“To make a team representing your country as an athlete is the highest honor,” Glover said.
“Not being a part of it [the Ryder Cup] always pushed me a bit, to be honest. I would love to do that.”
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