I know your type. You’re the kind of person who loves the game of golf and thinks you know your way around the course pretty well. You’ve been lucky enough to bird-dog a few buried balls in the rough and unlucky enough to have a career that doesn’t list that as a prerequisite.
All of which means at one time you’ve thought the following words. Or whispered them aloud. Or told everybody you know.
"I'm gonna be a PGA Tour caddie!"
Nice work if you can get it. Spend your days outside walking the world’s greatest tracks. Collect a cool 10 percent every time your loop wins a trophy. And maybe best of all, get a sweet nickname from the other guys in the caddyshack – like “Fluff” or “Bones.”
Not so fast, “Slim.” (That could have been your sweet nickname.) Caddying isn't just about throwing a bag on your shoulder and taking a long walk. In order to be a top-level caddie, you've got to be equal parts agronomist, mathematician, psychologist, meteorologist, swing coach and in special circumstances, even – gulp! – massage therapist.
Or so we’ve been led to believe.
All of that has rung true for much of the past few decades. Now comes the Curious Case of Sergio Garcia, playing some of the best golf of his life without the assistance of a “real” PGA Tour looper.
Two weeks ago, after parting ways with longtime caddie Gary Matthews, Garcia enlisted local man David Faircloth at the Wyndham Championship and won stateside for the first time in more than four years. At last week’s Barclays, he used regular CBS spotter Wayne Richardson and finished in a share of third place.
In each instance, Garcia didn’t ask his bagman to play all the roles of a usual professional caddie. In fact, he didn’t even ask for yardages. Didn’t even ask them to carry a yardage book. Just carry the bag and keep the clubs clean.
It was the ultimate paean to the old caddie credo: Show up, keep up, shut up.
Of course, there was a method to Garcia’s apparent madness.
“The only good thing that I have about this is that I'm making my decisions, good and bad,” he said last week. “So am I more aware? No. When I have a professional caddie, obviously he tells me everything that I should know. Am I more committed to pretty much all my shots? Yes.”
What in the name of Lou Loomis is going on around here?
Garcia’s recent results are enough to leave every dreamer on a 19th hole barstool once again salivating at the thought of hitching his wagon to the bag of an elite professional.
And it’s worth asking the question: In today’s copycat world, when players will try everything from brandishing a long putter to eating a certain type of snack if someone else finds success with it, could others employ the Sergio strategy of a different non-professional caddie every week?
Don’t count on it.
“You start to work as a team and you find out what you’re supposed to tell the guy and what you aren’t,” explained Rickie Fowler. “Right now, if Sergio is playing good, it doesn’t matter who’s carrying his bag. He’s swinging good. He gets a number and goes. The caddie helps you more in some of the tough times. If you’re battling down the stretch, it’s nice to have somebody there for you.”
“I think the most important thing is to do whatever your player requires of you,” said Joe Skovron, who has been Fowler’s caddie since turning pro in 2009. “Some players are going to need more numbers, some just want conversations in the fairway, some want more of the psychology part of it and some don’t really need much. The best caddies adapt toward what their player needs and get them the info they need to play their best.”
As Loomis, the legendary caddiemaster in the even more legendary “Caddyshack” once implored to his rowdy band of misfits, “If you want to be replaced by golf carts, just keep it up.”
Faircloth and Richardson may not come equipped with steering wheels or drink holders, but as simply club carriers they convey the same role in human form.
Just as a cart pales in comparison to the camaraderie of a real caddie, though, men like each of Garcia’s recent loopers can’t compete with the professional version.
“When a player gets into contention, if he’s worried about what yardage he’s got for a carry and that’s information that we have like the back of our hand, then he doesn’t have to worry about that,” said Mike Hartford, longtime caddie for Pat Perez. “There are some instances where we might have a better feel for what he’s doing. He doesn’t have to think about it. He can just ask us.”
“These guys out here are so talented that technically they don’t really need a professional caddie,” added Julien Trudeau, a former Web.com Tour regular who has spent the last few months on the bag of Graham Delaet. “But to optimize your chances, you want to have a good caddie on the bag.”
Sorry, “Slim.” Even though Garcia’s recent trend bucks conventional wisdom – after taking this week off, he’ll again have Richardson caddying at the BMW Championship and Tour Championship – the chances of you going from the 19th hole barstool to an elite player’s loop seem rather, well, slim.
Take heart, though. In your dreams, you’ll forever be a caddie. And as every caddie knows, the best tip you’ll ever receive is total consciousness on your deathbed.
So you’ve got that going for you, which is nice.
- SCORING: BMW PGA | Crowne Plaza | Senior PGA
- Euro chief: 'Colored' friends | Unfortunate
- Zoeller: Garcia controversy will 'blow over'
- Sergio's 'chicken' jab | Apology | Tiger: Hurtful
- DNA anomaly source of rib injuries for Snedeker
- Rory, G-Mac MC at BMW | No 3-peat for Donald
- Scott joins legal coalition against anchor ban
- Grill Room: Trevino regrets 'Happy Gilmore' role
- USGA, R&A ban anchored stroke | Explanation
- Bowie Young leads LPGA in Bahamas | Scores
- Haas, Waldorf co-lead Senior PGA Championship
- Tip of the Week: Stop scooping your chip shots