PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Grayson Murray says he was thinking about making a caddie change even before the final round of last week’s Wells Fargo Championship.
He just didn’t expect to have to make it so suddenly.
On Sunday, Murray, a 23-year-old PGA Tour rookie, had an argument with his caddie, Mike Hicks, that resulted in the veteran looper dropping the bag in the middle of the ninth fairway and saying, “Go find someone else.”
Murray signaled to a friend outside the ropes, and they finished the final nine holes together. Murray shot a second consecutive 76 and tied for 63rd.
“I thought it was kind of unfair that it happened in the ninth fairway,” Murray said before his practice round Tuesday at The Players. “There could have been a way that we both managed to get through the next nine and a half holes and figured it out after that. It’s too bad that it happened that way because I had a chance to make some birdies and have a better finish. But that’s beside the point. In my head, I’m upset about it and ready to count down the holes to the finish.”
Murray has known Hicks, who was on the bag for Payne Stewart’s 1999 U.S. Open victory, since he was 10, and their families have been close for several years. Murray says that neither he nor his caddie did a “very good job of separating the friendship and business.”
Hicks declined to elaborate when reached Tuesday morning.
Murray and Hicks have worked together for the past two years, since Murray graduated from 2015 Web.com Tour Q-School and claimed his PGA Tour card with a successful year in the minors. He earned the most money in the Web.com Tour Finals, giving him fully exempt status for this season and a spot in this week’s event at TPC Sawgrass.
This season has been a struggle, however, as Murray has amassed just three top-25s in 15 starts. Player and caddie have had differences in decision-making and course strategy, and Murray felt as though “I wasn’t able to use my strengths.”
“I was scared to tell him ‘no’ in a sense because Hicksy is like a father,” Murray said. “I was raised to not talk down to a guy I respect or is older than me, so I never wanted to approach him or say, ‘This is what I’m having issues with, let’s fix it,’ because he’d perceive it the wrong way.”
Their issues boiled over Sunday, after Murray was talked into hitting 3-wood instead of a driver (wound up short, in a greenside bunker) on No. 7 at Eagle Point and then flew a gap wedge over the green on 8.
Walking off the green, Murray smacked his putter against his bag, breaking the secondary strap. He received an “earful” from Hicks as they walked to the next tee.
After hitting his tee shot on 9, Murray found his father, Eric, outside the ropes.
“Dad, I’m done after this round with Hicksy, I just want you to know that,” Murray said.
His father told him to get through the next 10 holes and they’d deal with it later. But Hicks apparently overheard Murray’s comments and confronted him in the fairway.
“He was very upset and asked me what I told my dad,” Murray said. “I told him that I think we probably need to split ways after today, and that we’re just having our differences. And he wasn’t really getting that.”
“I think he’s had his thoughts about this whole thing like I have,” Murray continued. “It’s hard to talk to one another in a way that one of us wouldn’t get mad at each other. He had frustration built up, too, and he let it out on me on the ninth hole. He basically threw my bag, said, ‘Here’s the bib, go find someone else.’”
And so ended their player-caddie relationship.
“It’s very hard,” Murray said. “I just wanted a caddie out here, and Hicksy tried being a lot of different roles, and that was probably hard on him. It’s definitely hard on me, because I just wanted him to be the caddie but I couldn’t tell him that. I didn’t want him to think that I’m questioning his knowledge of the game. But he was trying to play the roles of caddie, mentor, father figure, swing coach, and I think it finally got to him, too. It wore him down.
“It’s too bad we couldn’t have figured it out between the two of us, but that’s the nature of the business.”
This week, Murray will use a fill-in caddie, Barry Williams, who is normally on the bag for Bobby Wyatt.
The Sunday drama was a hot topic on Twitter on Monday – Robert Allenby and his caddie also parted ways mid-round in 2015 – and Murray later tweeted an explanation of the incident. He has since shut down his controversial account.
“I deactivated it for now,” he said. “I don’t want anything to do with it.”