SAN MARTIN, Calif. – Tiger Woods offered Joe LaCava the job as his caddie, and it wasn’t a difficult decision for him.
“Why? Because he’s Tiger Woods,” LaCava said Wednesday, offering very little by way of elaboration. “Enough said. It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? That’s my thought. It’s Tiger Woods.”
LaCava is among the top caddies on the PGA Tour, having spent most of his 25 years with Fred Couples, a former Masters champion and No. 1 player in the world who was the biggest draw during the peak of his career.
So big crowds will be nothing new for LaCava.
He just never imagined working for three players this year, the last one Woods.
Couples was playing less and urged LaCava to work for Dustin Johnson, regarded as the top young American talent. Johnson, who already has five wins and played in the final group at three majors, was runner-up at the British Open and won The Barclays. By then, however, Woods had fired Steve Williams and was looking for a replacement.
LaCava told him he was interested.
“When you say was it a hard decision, it was hard in the fact Dustin was great to me,” LaCava said after his first official day of work for Woods. “Was it hard to tell him I was leaving to go to work for Tiger? Yes. Was it hard to go to work for Tiger? No.”
But the timing made some people question the move.
Johnson already has proven to be a cash machine, with more than $12 million in earnings after four years on the Tour, and headed for another top-10 finish on the money list.
Woods is winless over the last two years, and has managed to play a full schedule only once in the last four years because of injuries or chaos in his personal life.
LaCava was asked if he was betting that Woods still had great golf ahead of him. This brought a smile of confidence.
“Of course, no question,” LaCava said. “I know he does. I’m not betting on it.”
LaCava has been around Woods often over the last 15 years, starting with practice rounds that Woods played with Couples at the Masters and U.S. Open as an amateur. LaCava was prepared to work for Woods at the 2005 Presidents Cup when Williams went home to New Zealand for the birth of his son. Couples, however, made the U.S. team and Woods hired Billy Foster for the week.
LaCava broke the news to Johnson after the Tour Championship, then came out to CordeValle for a tournament that was never on his schedule. For Woods, the Frys.com Open is his first tournament in seven weeks, and his last PGA Tour appearance this year.
There will be some adjustments, as always, but not that many.
“He’s trying to envision how far I hit the golf ball and what I would like to hear for certain numbers through bunkers or carries,” Woods said. “So he kind of got all that. And he basically said, ‘OK, just let me know what you want on each hole.’ And that’s how we kind of did it. So he got a feel for what I liked, or would like to think or see, and he’s got a good understanding of it.”
Woods is longer off the tee than Couples, shorter than Johnson.
Then again, caddies go through these adjustments all the time. Jon Yarbrough, for example, went from caddying for Morgan Pressel on the LPGA to working for Gary Woodland on the PGA Tour (with one stop in between).
The attention around Woods will not be that much different for LaCava, either.
“Back in the day, Fred had the biggest crowd,” LaCava said. “Obviously, it’s bigger today because golf is bigger. But back in the day, Fred had just as big a crowd in relation to how many people were out there.”
Woods’ pro-am group had some 300 people at CordeValle. No other group had more than a dozen.
LaCava doesn’t typically stop to give interviews, either, although he understood why all the attention on his first day at work. He is only the third full-time caddie Woods has employed in his 15 years.
“I understand it’s the first week,” LaCava said. “I don’t want to not talk to people anymore just because I work for Tiger. But at the same time, I want to fly under the radar. He’s the one hitting the golf ball. I’m just caddying for him.”
LaCava and Woods will have plenty in common when it comes to sports. LaCava is friends with Ernie Accorsi, the former general manager of the New York Giants. He still lives in Connecticut and loves all things New York – Knicks, Rangers and Yankees.
Woods is a Californian and leans toward the Lakers and Oakland Raiders, who were in Los Angeles when he was a kid.Ive got a better team, LaCava said, referring to the Giants. I root for the Raiders now. Ive got to have an AFC team, right?