Caddie Wack

By Rex HoggardMay 6, 2009, 4:00 pm
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The PlayersPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Steve Pepsi Hale watched all 5,947 of Johnson Wagners strokes in 2008, none more memorable than the 272 his man needed to take his first PGA Tour title last spring in Houston. But none of those pokes could compare in pure entertainment value to the quick, nervous swipe Hale took on Wednesday at TPC Sawgrass par-3 17th green.
 
As Tour traditions go, Wednesdays caddie contest on the Stadiums 17th may not be the most hallowed, or the most family-friendly considering some of the colorful language that was getting tossed around, but it does not lack for laughs.
 
2009 The Players
Steve Williams, Tiger Woods' caddie, hits a shot Wednesday at the Caddie Tournament. (Getty Images)
This years contest, which featured a donation jug that players contributed to, as well as a new laptop computer and iPod Touch to the winning looper with the shot closest to the pin, was won by Robert Karlssons caddie Gareth Lord, who toted his own pitching wedge to the tee and lofted his shot to 6 feet, 1 inch and, for good measure, stroked in the birdie putt.
 
The real genius to the caddie bout, however, are all those nervous souls who dont hit the green or even the water. In an unorthodox twist, Hale hit both.
 
Worst shot thats ever stayed on land, Wagner smiled.
 
The Tours ShotLink program would be pressed to follow Hales offering: It never got higher than 4 feet off the ground at its highest point, skipped once across the water, which took just enough spin off, hit into the mound of the bunker and stopped about 25 feet from the hole.
 
Ugliest shot that ever hit the green, pressed Wagner, whose not-so-gentle jabs make up the foundation of the caddie contest. Welcome to the Trash Talk Open. For caddies who spend their entire lives giving instructions and lecturing on positive attitudes and clear thoughts, the 17th is a chance for the player to take pained pleasure as caddies experience life on the business end of a golf grip. As a rule, most Tour caddies can play. Damon Green, who finished second with a shot that rolled to 8 feet, 3 inches, is a few years and little else away from a career on the Champions Tour.
 
Damon should be disqualified, joked Joe Damiano, Stuart Applebys long-time caddie. So long, in fact, hes had his fill of the 17th. I usually just throw a ball in the water and keep walking.
 
Thats not to say the gallery around Lake Dye wasnt treated to anything resembling good golf. The 17th ' water, galleries and all ' turns 2 handicaps into weekend hackers.
 
Exhibit A: Mark Love, an accomplished amateur who stepped in to caddie for his brother Davis, reluctantly took a swing. Hit it a little heavy onto the front of the green. It was dry. A small victory for a player whose golf genes run as deep as Loves.
 
Exhibit F: Longtime looper John Cubby Burke pulled his attempt so far left he avoided the pond altogether and bounced his best into the gallery.
 
Adding to the pressure of this years festivities was the looming presence of No. 41 in the gallery. As players marched to the tee they were greeted by former President George H.W. Bush. As if 130 yards of watery gloom and swirling winds werent enough to fry nerves.
 
The electronic scoreboard adjacent the 17th flashed: Once a year the PGA Tour caddies get an opportunity to show their skills. By and large, the announcement was a vowel off ' swap an i for a u in skills.
 
The days worst effort, however, belonged to Ray Farnell, the likable bagman for Greg Kraft. Just as the winds began to whip and the galleries had surged into the thousands, Farnell stepped to the tee, caught Krafts 9-iron heavy and watched his ball come up 20 yards short of the green.
 
As Kraft serenaded his man with heckles, Farnell tossed the 9-iron to another caddie waiting to tee off, over his head and into the water.
 
That was my 9-iron, a stunned Kraft said. Its the same club I hit on the last hole to win in Puerto Rico (in 2007).
 
The club ' like so many wayward golf balls, 46 of 70 by mid-afternoon ' stayed in the water, but the laughs lasted all afternoon.
 
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