A Bad Case of the Yips

What are “the yips”? It’s sports slang for when an athlete chokes under pressure…or makes a rapid, and spectacular collapse. Hey, they’re only human—and here are some the worst instances of the yips in sports history.

Ernie Els 

The yips can even affect the all-time greats, like Els, at one time the top-ranked golfer in the world who has won 71 tournaments…but never the illustrious Masters. In 2016, he got off to a bad start in the Augusta, Georgia, classic. On the very first hole, it took him six puts to sink the ball, or nine strokes in total. Els recorded a quintuple-bogey—the worst score on that hole in Masters history.

Rick Ankiel 

Ankiel’s first full season in the major leagues came in 2000 for the St. Louis Cardinals. His 11-7 record and 3.50 earned run average helped his team win a slot in the postseason playoffs, and started Game 1 of the National League Divisional Series against the Atlanta Braves. He allowed no runs in the first two innings…and then in the third, the Braves scored four runs off Ankiel, the result of two hits, four walks, and a yips-caused five wild pitches. (Then he got taken out of the game.) Ankiel returned to the mound in the National League Championship Series against the New York Mets but was removed in the first inning after he threw another five wild pitches.

Nick Anderson

In 1995, the Houston Rockets won its second consecutive NBA title, sweeping the Orlando Magic in four games. However, the Magic almost pulled off a narrow victory in Game 1, if not for a sudden yips attack to star shooting guard Anderson. With the clock running out, the Magic were ahead by three points, and Anderson was fouled. Ordinarily a reliable free-throw shooter, Anderson missed both attempts. Then he was fouled again…and missed those free throws, too. That’s when the Rockets’ Kenny Smith drilled his record seventh three-pointer of the game, sending the game into overtime…which the Rockets won, of course.

Nick Folk

In 2007 and 2008, Folk established himself as one of the best field-goal kickers in the NFL, missing just seven times over the course of two seasons for the Dallas Cowboys. In 2009, however, he just couldn’t make a goal—Folk missed 10 kicks in his first 14 games. The last one, which led to him getting cut from the Cowboys: He missed an easy, 24-yard attempt.