Following a public scolding from Bubba Watson that was picked up by television microphones during a triple bogey that dropped him from contention at the Travelers Championship on Sunday, caddie Ted Scott took responsibility for a poor club selection.
'I convinced him to hit the wrong club,' Scott told PGATour.com. 'I 100 percent take responsibility for it. It's totally my fault. I got in the way of the painter on that one.'
For his part, Watson later chalked it up to a team error.
'Did we do the yardage wrong? Was it a gust of wind? We were just trying to figure out what was going on,' he said . 'We planned to do one thing and didn't do it. We mis-clubbed is all.'
With the entire situation caught by cameras, it turned into a juicy subplot to a tournament that Ken Duke would win in a playoff over Chris Stroud.
Holding a one-stroke lead on the par-3 16th tee, Watson was between clubs when Scott suggested he hit the 9-iron instead of the 8-iron. He did, but a gust of wind pushed the shot back into water hazard that fronts the green. Within seconds, Watson audibly voiced his displeasure with Scott’s selection.
After his third shot from the drop zone ran through the back portion of the green, Watson turned to Scott and said in an accusatory tone, 'So you're telling me that's the right yardage?'
When he finally finished up, carding a triple bogey and falling not only from the lead, but from title contention, Watson could be heard saying, “There’s just no reason for me to show up.”
With the entire series of actions televised, the majority of observers blamed Bubba for deflecting the blame and sided with Scott, contending that it’s not the caddie who hit the shots.
However, Scott himself wasn’t part of that majority, after the round taking the blame for the club selection.
If nothing else, this situation should bring to light the player-caddie dynamic.
Yes, the relationship exists as employer-employee, but ask any professional golfer and you’re more likely to hear the words “teammate” and “partnership” than anything regarding subservience or inferiority. For a few decades now, the game’s top caddies have viewed their profession as a career, many working in forms of swing instructor and mental guru rather than just someone carrying the clubs.
Then again, that relationship is still nebulous when compared with those of other sports. Was Watson’s outburst toward Scott analogous to an NFL coach berating his quarterback after a poor throw? Or the quarterback berating a receiver after a poor route? Those are two obviously different dynamics, but the answer could speak volumes about the veracity of claims that the player was completely in the wrong in this situation.
To fully understand the dynamic between Watson and Scott, to realize what caused the player to berate his caddie on the course Sunday and why afterward the caddie took full responsibility, we should look back at the history of their relationship.
Three years ago, a blubbering Bubba won his first career title at the Travelers Championship. Through tears, he discussed what had previously held him back.
“When I first got out here, my problem was, ‘Why can't I win? Why can't I do this?’” he said at the time. “My caddie stayed with me for four years even though I kept being mad and (upset) on the golf course.”
His caddie was Scott, who not long before the breakthrough victory had offered an ultimatum: If Watson didn’t improve his on-course attitude, he was leaving. Just like that – he’d walk away from the bag of an insanely talented player who hits it longer than just about anyone else on Tour.
That served as an eye-opener for Watson, who worked on his behavior and retained Scott on the bag, as they’d go on to win a Masters title together. It should also serve as important background information in the wake of what was a one-sided on-course argument that received plenty of attention.
There’s quite a history between Watson and Scott. It was easy for observers to simply hear Watson’s words toward the caddie on the 16th hole and come to a conclusion, but it’s just as important to understand that relationship and understand what they had to say about it after the round.