A caddie's worth

By Rex HoggardAugust 9, 2011, 7:40 pm

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Two out of three isn’t bad, at least if one takes into account the emotional turmoil Steve Williams has been saddled with for the better part of the last year and a half. Not to mention more than a decade’s old gag order.

Williams is a Jedi Master when it comes to the trifecta of the caddie code, show up, keep up and shut up, although why he blew through the stop sign on the latter on Sunday at Firestone is still perplexing.

“I have been caddying for more than 30 years now. I have won 145 times and that is the best win of my life,” said Williams following his new man Adam Scott’s victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, forgetting, we can only surmise, the baker’s dozen of majors he won with that other guy.

The New Zealander was clearly hurt by his very public, and very messy, split with former boss Tiger Woods and maybe the emotion of the moment got the best of him. But in this Williams is no different than 95 percent of all professional bagmen. A caddie-yard axiom comes to mind; there are two kinds of loopers – those who have been fired and those who are about to be.

Tony Navarro didn’t go all soapbox when Scott showed him the door not long after the two had finished runner-up at this year’s Masters, the Australian’s best Grand Slam finish ever. Bobby Brown didn’t start muckraking when Dustin Johnson bagged him for a more veteran looper despite caddying his man into the hunt at two of four majors in 2010.

Williams is one of the best in the business, but there’s a reason why caddies prefer the shadows to the spotlight. In many ways the golden rule is built in to shield the looper from unwanted – and unfair – analysis, as well as the player.

“I tell (caddie Michael Christensen), it’s a team effort until I step in with the club in my hand to hit the shot, at that point it’s all on me,” Kevin Streelman said.

Williams’ public epiphany, however, has opened the floor to a debate over a caddie’s worth to his player. Some in the mainstream media have speculated that a professional looper is little more than a mule who must adhere to the age-old adage that the help should be seen and not heard.

At best this analysis is an oversimplification. At worst it is blatantly wrong.

“I’ve heard on the radio guys saying (Williams) is not a coach, and that he’s not important in the big picture of things,” Stewart Cink said. “But that’s not true at all. These guys are just not pull carts out there.”

Cink should know, after Phil Mickelson and Jim “Bones” Mackay, Cink and his man Frank Williams may have the longest running caddie-player tenure at 13 years. It’s a relationship that spans a half dozen PGA Tour titles and the 2009 British Open, where, Cink said, Williams earned every penny of his winner’s share.

“We worked together on No. 18 to come up with a plan in case that hole played down wind (like it did on Sunday at Turnberry),” Cink said. “There was an area, about 8 yards short of the green, that we decided to play to and it worked out perfectly.”

In regulation Cink birdied the 18th hole to force extra holes and made par at the finishing hole in the playoff to beat Tom Watson.

World No. 1 Luke Donald, who split with his caddie, his brother, last year, concurred with Cink: “If I thought my guy was carrying luggage I wouldn’t pay him nearly as much as I am.”

In Cink’s and Streelman’s estimation, a good caddie can be worth a stroke a round under the right circumstances. But both players quickly point out a caddie can cost a player as well.

“I’ve cost my guy a stroke, for sure,” said one caddie who asked not to be identified. “You make mistakes, but the real test is when your guy isn’t playing well. That’s when a caddie earns his money.”

The last time Glory’s Last Shot was played at Atlanta Athletic Club may be one of the best examples of a caddie’s worth. Clinging to a one-stroke lead through 71 holes with a hanging lie and 209 yards of water and rough between himself and major glory David Toms looked to his caddie Scott Gneiser for advice.

“You want to lay up?” Gneiser offered. The rest is major championship history.

The best player-caddie relationships transcend the basics of “how far” and “which way?” The most successful tandems are more than employee-employer – they are friends who spend more time together than most families.

“It all depends on the player, some players want their caddies to stay quiet and be ready and that’s the extent of their relationship,” said Streelman, who has known Christensen for 15 years. “Others, like me and Chad (Campbell) and Stewart (Cink), we have our best friends caddying for us. It just helps keep everything loose and relaxed.”

It’s the kind of relationship that Woods and Williams used to have, before feelings were hurt and the wrong things were said. It’s what makes the relationship work, and why the breakups are often messy. It’s what prompted Williams to say more than he should have, and why the sudden collection of caddie critics are so wayward with their slings and arrows. On this point the pundits are correct, a caddie is not a coach they are much more.

Getty Images

Watson back in top 40 after OWGR free fall

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Bubba Watson ended his free fall in the Official World Golf Ranking with a two-shot victory Sunday at the Genesis Open.

Watson, a fixture in the top 10 in the world as recently as 13 months ago, had dropped all the way to 117th after a 2017 season in which he struggled with poor form, illness and desire.

After his third career win at Riviera, he is up to 40th.

Kevin Na rose from 95th to 65th after tying for second in Los Angeles, while Tony Finau jumped from 41st to 33rd.

Tiger Woods actually improved in the world ranking, from No. 550 to No. 544, despite a missed cut at the Genesis Open.

On the European Tour, Joost Luiten surged from 90th to 68th after his victory in Oman.

The top 10 in the world remained unchanged as the PGA Tour heads into the Florida swing: Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy.

Getty Images

Bubba catapults, Phil creeps up in Ryder Cup standings

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 1:21 pm

Bubba Watson was an assistant on the 2016 Ryder Cup team. He doesn’t want to be driving a cart in Paris.

Watson, thanks to his victory in the Genesis Open, jumped from 60th to 10th in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings. The top eight after the PGA Championship qualify automatically for this year’s edition at Le Golf National in France.

Phil Mickelson moved up one spot to 11th after tying for sixth at Riviera Country Club.

Players will receive one point per dollar earned in regular events this year, with 1.5 points per dollar in majors and two points per dollar for winning a major. Here's a look at the current U.S. standings:

1. Dustin Johnson

2. Brooks Koepka

3. Justin Thomas

4. Jordan Spieth

5. Matt Kuchar

6. Brian Harman

7. Gary Woodland

8. Rickie Fowler

---

9. Chez Reavie

10. Bubba Watson

11. Phil Mickelson

12. Patrick Reed


On the European side, the top four players from the Ryder Cup points list will be joined by the top four qualifiers from the world points list, with captain Thomas Bjorn making four additional selections. Here's a look at the current top names:

Ryder Cup Points

1. Justin Rose

2. Tyrrell Hatton

3. Ross Fisher

4. Matthew Fitzpatrick

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Tommy Fleetwood

3. Sergio Garcia

4. Rory McIlroy

Getty Images

Genesis Open purse payout: Bubba makes bank

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 1:03 pm

Bubba Watson won the Genesis Open for a third time on Sunday, moving his career PGA Tour win total to 10. Here's a look at how the purse paid out at Riviera Country Club.

1 Bubba Watson -12 $1,296,000
T2 Kevin Na -10 $633,600
T2 Tony Finau -10 $633,600
T4 Scott Stallings -9 $316,800
T4 Patrick Cantlay -9 $316,800
T6 Adam Hadwin -8 $241,200
T6 Phil Mickelson -8 $241,200
T6 Cameron Smith -8 $241,200
T9 Jordan Spieth -7 $180,000
T9 Martin Laird -7 $180,000
T9 Xander Schauffele -7 $180,000
T9 Ryan Moore -7 $180,000
T9 Justin Thomas -7 $180,000
T14 James Hahn -6 $133,200
T14 Aaron Baddeley -6 $133,200
T16 Alex Noren -4 $111,600
T16 Sung-hoon Kang -4 $111,600
T16 Dustin Johnson -4 $111,600
T16 Derek Fathauer -4 $111,600
T20 Rory McIlroy -3 $78,000
T20 Bud Cauley -3 $78,000
T20 Kevin Chappell -3 $78,000
T20 Talor Gooch -3 $78,000
T20 Jason Kokrak -3 $78,000
T20 Vaughn Taylor -3 $78,000
T26 John Huh -2 $46,996
T26 Peter Uihlein -2 $46,996
T26 Luke List -2 $46,996
T26 Rafael Cabrera Bello -2 $46,996
T26 Patrick Rodgers -2 $46,996
T26 Jamie Lovemark -2 $46,996
T26 Dominic Bozzelli -2 $46,996
T26 Matt Kuchar -2 $46,996
T26 Anirban Lahiri -2 $46,996
T26 Sam Saunders -2 $46,996
T26 Graeme McDowell -2 $46,996
T37 Branden Grace -1 $33,120
T37 Tommy Fleetwood -1 $33,120
T37 Charles Howell III -1 $33,120
T37 Luke Donald -1 $33,120
T41 Bryson DeChambeau E $24,516
T41 Troy Merritt E $24,516
T41 Kevin Streelman E $24,516
T41 Pat Perez E $24,516
T41 Charley Hoffman E $24,516
T41 Brandon Harkins E $24,516
T41 Jonas Blixt E $24,516
T41 Nick Taylor E $24,516
T49 Austin Cook 1 $17,964
T49 Brendan Steele 1 $17,964
T49 Paul Casey 1 $17,964
T49 Chad Campbell 1 $17,964
T53 Tom Hoge 2 $16,437
T53 Benjamin Silverman 2 $16,437
T53 Li HaoTong 2 $16,437
T53 Retief Goosen 2 $16,437
T53 Martin Kaymer 2 $16,437
T53 Adam Schenk 2 $16,437
T53 Adam Scott 2 $16,437
T60 Ryan Blaum 3 $15,696
T60 J.B. Holmes 3 $15,696
T60 Harold Varner, III 3 $15,696
63 Kelly Kraft 4 $15,408
T64 Padraig Harrington 5 $15,120
T64 Ryan Armour 5 $15,120
T64 Sean O'Hair 5 $15,120
67 Martin Piller 6 $14,832
T68 Thomas Pieters 7 $14,400
T68 Greg Chalmers 7 $14,400
T68 Abraham Ancer 7 $14,400
T68 Tyrone van Aswegen 7 $14,400
T68 Charl Schwartzel 7 $14,400
T73 Vijay Singh 8 $13,896
T73 Chez Reavie 8 $13,896
T75 Sang-Moon Bae 10 $13,608
T75 David Lingmerth 10 $13,608
Getty Images

After Further Review: Haas crash strikes a chord

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 2:39 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.


On the horrifying car crash involving Bill Haas ...

I spent a lot of time this week thinking about Bill Haas. He was the passenger in a car crash that killed a member of his host family. That man, 71-year-old Mark Gibello, was a successful businessman in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and a new friend.

Haas escaped without any major injuries, but he withdrew from the Genesis Open to return home to Greenville, S.C. When he’ll return to the Tour is anyone’s guess. It could be a while, as he grapples with the many emotions after surviving that horrifying crash – seriously, check out the photos – while the man next to him did not.

The entire Haas clan is some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Wish them the best in their recovery. – Ryan Lavner


On TIger Woods' missed cut at the Genesis Open ...

After missing the cut at the Genesis Open by more than a few car lengths, Tiger Woods appeared to take his early exit in stride. Perhaps that in and of itself is a form of progress.

Years ago, a second-round 76 with a tattered back-nine scorecard would have elicited a wide range of emotions. But none of them would have been particularly tempered, or optimistic, looking ahead to his next start. At age 42, though, Woods has finally ceded that a win-or-bust mentality is no longer helpful or productive.

The road back from his latest surgery will be a winding one, mixed with both ups and downs. His return at Torrey Pines qualified as the former, while his trunk slam at Riviera certainly served as the latter. There will surely be more of both in the coming weeks and months, and Woods’ ability to stomach the rough patches could prove pivotal for his long-term prognosis. - Will Gray


On the debate over increased driving distance on the PGA Tour ...

The drumbeat is only going to get louder as the game’s best get longer. On Sunday, Bubba Watson pounded his way to his 10th PGA Tour title at the Genesis Open and the average driving distance continues to climb.

Lost in the debate over driving distances and potential fixes, none of which seem to be simple, is a beacon of sanity, Riviera Country Club’s par-4 10th hole. The 10th played just over 300 yards for the week and yet yielded almost as many bogeys (86) as birdies (87) with a 4.053 stroke average.

That ranks the 10th as the 94th toughest par 4 on Tour this season, ahead of behemoths like the 480-yard first at Waialae and 549-yard 17th at Kapalua. Maybe the game doesn’t need new rules that limit how far the golf ball goes, maybe it just needs better-designed golf holes. - Rex Hoggard


On the depth of LPGA talent coming out of South Korea ...

The South Korean pipeline to the LPGA shows no signs of drying up any time soon. Jin Young Ko, 22, won her LPGA debut as a tour member Sunday at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, and Hyejin Choi, 18, nearly won the right to claim LPGA membership there.

The former world No. 1 amateur who just turned pro finished second playing on a sponsor exemption. Sung Hyun Park, who shared Rolex Player of the Year honors with So Yeon Ryu last year, is set to make her 2018 debut this week at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

And Inbee Park is set to make her return to the LPGA in two weeks at the HSBC Women’s World Championship after missing most of last year due to injury. The LPGA continues to go through South Korea no matter where this tour goes. - Randall Mell