Frank Williams, the caddie for British Open champion Stewart Cink, went from celebrating a major victory to stewing about it – at least until he realized he was the victim of a prank within the caddie ranks.
For whatever reason, Williams has never liked going to the British Open, and he was going to try to sit this one out. Before getting Cink’s permission, he checked on the availability of longtime looper Dave Musgrove, who told Williams he didn’t have work for the week but would be at Turnberry to watch and could fill in if necessary.
It wasn’t necessary.
“He was having a hard time getting travel and finding a place to stay,” Cink said. “He said, ‘Would it be OK if Dave Musgrove worked for you?’ I said, ‘I’d really rather you work for me.’ So I helped him with travel, and I got my agent’s office involved to find places to stay.”
Needless to say, it worked out quite well. Cink closed with a 69 to get into a playoff with Tom Watson, then won his first major with a guy on the bag who didn’t want to be there in the first place.
But that’s not the end of the story.
Scott Gneiser (caddie for David Toms) and Steve Williams (Tiger Woods) caught wind of this and decided to play a prank. Steve Williams’ wife was visiting her parents in Scotland at the time, so he wrote a letter pretending to be from Musgrove, and had his wife mail the letter from Scotland so it would look authentic with the postmark.
“There was no reason for him to believe it was not from Dave Musgrove,” Steve Williams said.
The letter said Musgrove had paid for a room deposit and airfare, both nonrefundable, then spent an entire week at Turnberry without work. He demanded that Frank Williams reimburse him, and it would only be fair to give him half of the caddie’s earnings from the Open.
It was delivered to Cink’s caddie at the Tour Championship.
“I got mad,” Frank Williams said. “I knew I didn’t tell him for sure he would be working. Boy, I was hot, knowing this guy wanted money. I didn’t say anything about it. Scotty and Stevie came up and said, ‘Did you get a letter?’ I said, ‘No, I didn’t get one.’ I was so mad I didn’t want to say anything about it.”
He spent the rest of the week wondering what he would say to Musgrove. The next week, he started wondering if Musgrove could have misunderstood him.
“I was laying in bed at night worrying about this,” Frank Williams said.
Steve Williams asked him again about the letter at the Presidents Cup, and Cink’s caddie finally broke his silence and began ranting about what Musgrove wanted and what he should do about it. Steve Williams’ laughter was the first sign it was a prank.
“That’s probably the best anyone has ever gotten me,” Frank Williams said. “That was good.”
Winning didn’t change one thing. The British Open is at St. Andrews next year, and Williams isn’t looking forward to it.
“Every year, I say I’m not going, and I always go because it’s my job,” he said. “Someone came up to me the other day and said, ‘Guess it’s your favorite tournament?’ I said, ‘No, I probably won’t go next year.’ Everybody knows how I feel.”
MASTERS INVITATIONS: Ben Curtis finished his season after the Hong Kong Open and was No. 43 in the world. He figured he was safe to finish in the top 50 and get into the Masters.
Then, his agent called last week to tell him he was at No. 49 going into the last tournament of the year. Curtis, the former British Open champion, wound up at No. 50 by one-thousandth of a point.
“Feels good,” Curtis said from the indoor practice facility at Kent State. “It’s a major, and it’s nice to be in. All it takes is one good week for everything to change.”
It’s not like he was on pins and needles waiting for the final world ranking to come out, however. Curtis has played Augusta National six times, missing four cuts. His best finish was this year, a tie for 35th.
Going into next year, 91 players already have qualified for the Masters. Sixteen players will be competing for the first time, a list that includes Brian Gay, Jason Dufner and Steve Marino.
The only other way to qualify is to win a PGA Tour event that offers full FedEx Cup points, or finish in the top 50 in the world ranking published a week before the Masters.
Among those still not in: Stephen Ames, Justin Rose and Davis Love III.
YAHOO HITS: At the start of the month, Tiger Woods ranked No. 18 among the most searched athletes on Yahoo! in 2009. Three weeks later, Woods was at the top of the list, bumping LeBron James out of the top 10.
When the search combines athletes and teams, Woods still is No. 1 over the Dallas Cowboys.
Perhaps the most telling aspect to the Yahoo! Top 10 list for most searched athletes? Natalie Gulbis is No. 8.
WELCOME TO THE 60s: Either these guys are good, or they tend to play the easier courses.
The PGA Tour released a statistic last month showing David Toms led the tour with 51 rounds in the 60s this year. Upon closer inspection, Toms also led the tour in a more dubious category. He had five tournaments in which he broke 70 every round and failed to win. Toms did that at the Sony Open, FBR Open, St. Jude Classic, Travelers Championship and Wyndham Championship.
He wasn’t alone. There were 120 players who had at least one tournament with every round in the 60s without winning, and 55 players did it multiple times. PGA Tour rookie Jeff Klauk did it four times, and the 12 players who had three such tournaments included Justin Leonard, Ryan Moore, Chad Campbell and Zach Johnson.
In all, there were 192 times this year when a player broke 70 in every round and did not win.
Strangely enough, neither Tiger Woods nor Phil Mickelson were on the list.
DIVOTS: Bernhard Langer was voted by his peers as the Champions Tour player of the year for the second straight season. … Nigel Edwards has been appointed Great Britain & Ireland captain for the Walker Cup in 2011 to be held at Royal Aberdeen in Scotland. Edwards played in four Walker Cups with a record of 4-5-3. … The Presidents Cup raised $4.2 million for charity. The PGA Tour also donated $500,000 to The First Tee of San Francisco as part of its agreement to host the matches at Harding Park.
STAT OF THE WEEK: David Duval and Todd Hamilton, who failed to make it through Q-school, are eligible to play in the Masters.
FINAL WORD: “It was a good year inside the ropes.” – PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.