Player-caddie relationship has its perks, drawbacks

By Jason SobelJune 25, 2013, 10:32 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – Show up, keep up and shut up. We’ve all heard those words before – they’re sort of the official unofficial motto of caddies, one which every looper from Eddie Lowery to Danny Noonan to Steve Williams has understood since the first time a strap touched their right shoulders.

That motto may make for a nice sign to hang in the caddyshack, but it doesn’t ring true anymore – at least the last part. These days, caddies on the professional circuit are instead expected to speak up, calling out yardages, gauging wind conditions and suggesting clubs for their players.

On Sunday, Ted Scott did just that. With his longtime loop Bubba Watson leading the Travelers Championship with three holes to play, Scott suggested a 9-iron over the 8-iron at the par-3 16th hole, and his player promptly deposited it in the water hazard guarding the front portion of the green.

What happened next, in a few prolific bursts, was YouTube gold. Watson berated Scott for his suggestion, then again after his shot from the drop zone flew the green. It was hardly the first instance of a player castigating his caddie in public, but the television cameras and microphones ensured the world would know about this one.

In the ensuing minutes and hours, Twitter timelines exploded with disgust for Watson’s audible outburst. After taking full blame, Scott found some humor in the situation, later tweeting, “Not sure what @bubbawatson was talking about. I never make a mistak.” Leave off the last “e” for epic.

Was public sentiment correct in instantly chastising Watson for his treatment of Scott? Or did we just have the curtain pulled back on the unseemly part of the player-caddie relationship?

In order to answer these questions, it helps to first understand this dynamic.


“Oh, yeah. It’s weird,” Brett Waldman, currently on the bag of Sean O’Hair, said of the player-caddie dynamic. “It’s definitely weird that I spend more time with my boss than my wife.”

The old joke around pro golf is that many player-caddie relationships are more stable than marriages, though some can be equally volatile. Think about it: Caddies are both employees and partners; they work for their players, but also with them.

“The dynamics are very interesting,” explained Scott Vail, who for the last seven years has caddied for Brandt Snedeker. “You have to separate between boss and employee and friend. In my case, Brandt is a friend, too. We have respect for each other. When it’s time to go to work, we don’t put our friendship aside, but it’s just a different dynamic in our relationship on the golf course.”

The job extends past simply finding yardages and pulling clubs. As many observers witnessed in the case of Watson and Scott, caddying can also include the role of punching bag – at least figuratively.

“Sometimes when a player messes up, he would rather think it wasn’t his fault, so as to keep his confidence level maybe higher than it would have been,” said Bob Estes, who has worked with his caddie, Chuck Mohr, since 2001. “Just like if you miss a putt, you might prefer to blame it on a misread rather than it being a poor putt. I don’t like to play mind games like that, but some guys do.”


“If I needed advice from my caddie, he'd be hitting the shots and I'd be carrying the bag.” – Bobby Jones

“Nobody but you and your caddie care what you do out there – and if your caddie is betting against you, he doesn't care, either.” – Lee Trevino

“The only time I talk on the golf course is to my caddie. And then only to complain when he gives me the wrong club. – Seve Ballesteros


Caddie culture may have advanced to the point where it’s a career and not just a job, but treatment toward caddies doesn’t always show similar progress.

“You hear some of the caddies talking about certain players who are much tougher on their caddies than other players might be,” Estes explained. “I’m sure there have been many instances where a player has chewed out his caddie, whether it was deserved or not. Sometimes it could be over a bad yardage or forgetting the umbrella or leaving a club on the driving range – something like that. There are reasons that the employer will chew out his employee, but hopefully it’s always in private and not in front of other people. That’s a situation where you kind of need to take him off to the side and talk.”

“Some guys belittle their caddie, they just do it in private,” one caddie said on the condition of anonymity. “I’ve worked for two different blamers. I guarantee 20-30 percent of the guys just cream their caddies – and only some of those guys apologize after the round is over. And a lot of ‘em are good friends. I had a buddy ream me so badly. After the round was over, we had a three-hour drive. I chewed him out the entire time for being such a jackass to me.”

Using that analogy to marriage again, there are times when irreconcilable differences can lead to the dissolution of the relationship.

“When it comes to the end of a relationship, you can see,” said Mick Doran, who has caddied for Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and Darren Clarke during a 25-year career and now works for Brendan Steele. “The player is always on him. I’ve worked for some good players. It might look easy on TV, but it’s not. They talk quietly to you. When it starts getting to the abusive part, you know it’s time to move on.”


So, you want to talk hypocritical?

While players sticking it to caddies is enough to cause a social media uproar, caddies sticking it to players is still seen as high comedy. Case in point:

Golfer: “You’ve got to be the worst caddie in the world.”

Caddie: “I don’t think so. That would be too much of a coincidence.”

Golfer: “Please stop checking your watch all the time. It’s too much of a distraction.”

Caddie: “It’s not a watch – it’s a compass.”

Golfer: “I’d move heaven and earth to break 100 on this course.”

Caddie: “Try heaven, you’ve already moved most of the earth.”

Golfer: “Do you think I can get there with a 5-iron?”

Caddie: “Eventually.”


“There have been plenty of caddies just drop the bag,” said the aforementioned anonymous caddie. “I’ve twice seen it myself mid-round. I mean, you’re just an employee and if a guy treats you like that, you can just take off.

“The first tournament I ever caddied was at Westchester Country Club. We had a late tee time, so I went out early to how the course was playing. Well, I’m out on 15, just to the right of the green, watching shots and putts.

“Here comes this player and his caddie – I won’t say who it was – and I hear the caddie yell, ‘I’m trying my best!’ The player says something back and the caddie slams down the bag, pulls off his vest and starts screaming at the fans. ‘Who wants this job? You want it? You want it?’ He points at me; he has no idea who I am. I’m like, ‘Um, I already have a job.’

“So he starts climbing this hill just off the 15th green. He goes about 20 yards and then turns around. I figure he must have come to his senses. Nope. He gets back down to the bag, takes his wallet out and walks back up the hill.

“Just like that, he was gone.”


“A lot of people on the outside feel like we’re just part of the background,” Doran contested. “But we’re not. We’re doing a lot. If you can save them a shot each week, that’s a lot. But you do sometimes mess up.”

When these circumstances happen – and yes, they will happen – every caddie appreciates when his player follows such a mistake by claiming “we” messed up, rather than pointing a finger at the guy carrying his clubs.

“You have to remember,” Estes said, “it’s an employer-employee relationship, but at the same time you’re teammates.”

Ask a veteran caddie and he’ll claim that the usual stuff associated with caddying is hardly the most difficult part of the gig.

“The psychological part of my job is easily the most important part of my job,” explained Kip Henley, who has caddied for Brian Gay for the past seven years. “Saying the right thing at the right time and knowing when to shut up and get out of the way. The psychology of caddying is way ahead of yardages and reading greens – no doubt about it.”


All of this information leads us back to the Watson-Scott situation from this past Sunday.

Chris Stroud was Watson’s playing partner in the final twosome of the day, giving the eventual runner-up a front row seat at what occurred on the 16th hole.

“For him to hit that one shot poorly and then just go off like that was very surprising,” said Stroud. “For being that close, he could have easily have made a bogey there or at least a double and still been OK. My caddie [John Limanti] and I were talking about it the whole way up to the green while he was in the drop circle. He just talked himself out of the tournament.

“I think more than anything he'll learn from that. I think the next time he's in that situation, I think he'll draw and say, ‘You know what, I'm not going to do that again. I'm going to choose to be positive with myself and just be persistent and just do the best I can.’

“For Bubba to do that was a little bit of a surprise. I'm sure he'll learn from it.”


With everything we’ve come to know not just about that specific situation on Sunday, but the dynamic between players and caddies, let’s review those earlier questions.

Was public sentiment correct in instantly chastising Watson for his treatment of Scott? Or did we just have the curtain pulled back on the unseemly part of the player-caddie relationship?

The correct answer may be yes in both instances.

Behind closed doors, among whispers down the range this week, Watson is being called out for his boorish behavior. There are players and caddies alike who seemed to enjoy seeing a “blamer” as they call that type exposed in a public forum.

Then again, there’s something to be said about being teammates, too. Scott has looped for Watson for years, at one time before his Masters win giving an ultimatum that if the player’s attitude didn’t improve, he would walk away from the job.

With that in mind, Watson wasn’t just berating an employee on 16; he berating a friend and partner. Some have contended that if he wasn’t so secure in their relationship, he wouldn’t have felt so comfortable reprimanding him in public.

What we do know is that it’s something that has happened many times before and will happen many times again – even if it isn’t always televised.

After all, as Scott knows so well, everybody makes mistaks.

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Podcast: Fujikawa aims to offer 'hope' by coming out

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 17, 2018, 12:03 pm

Tadd Fujikawa first made golf history with his age. Now he's doing it with his recent decision to openly discuss his sexuality.

Last month Fujikawa announced via Instagram that he is gay, becoming the first male professional to come out publicly. Now 27, he has a different perspective on life than he did when he became the youngest U.S. Open participant in 2006 at Winged Foot at age 15, or when he made the cut at the Sony Open a few months later.

Joining as the guest on the latest Golf Channel podcast, Fujikawa discussed with host Will Gray the reception to his recent announcement - as well as some of the motivating factors that led the former teen phenom to become somewhat of a pioneer in the world of men's professional golf.

"I just want to let people know that they're enough, and that they're good exactly as they are," Fujikawa said. "That they don't need to change who they are to fit society's mold. Especially in the golf world where it's so, it's not something that's very common."

The wide-ranging interview also touched on Fujikawa's adjustment to life on golf-centric St. Simons Island, Ga., as well as some of his hobbies outside the game. But he was also candid about the role that anxiety and depression surrounding his sexuality had on his early playing career, admitting that he considered walking away from the game "many, many times" and would have done so had it not been for the support of friends and family.

While professional golf remains a priority, Fujikawa is also embracing the newfound opportunity to help others in a similar position.

"Hearing other stories, other athletes, other celebrities, my friends. Just seeing other people come out gave me a lot of hope in times when I didn't feel like there was a lot of hope," he said. "For me personally, it was something that I've wanted to do for a long time, and something I'm very passionate about. I really want to help other people who are struggling with that similar issue. And if I can change lives, that's really my goal."

For more from Fujikawa, click below or click here to download the podcast and subscribe to future episodes:

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Miller's biggest on-air regret: Leonard at Ryder Cup

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 12:00 am

Johnny Miller made a broadcasting career out of being brutally honest, calling golf tournaments exactly like he saw them.

His unfiltered style is what kept him on the air for nearly 30 years, but it wasn't always the most popular with players.

After announcing his upcoming retirement, Miller was asked Tuesday if there were any on-air comments he regretted over the last three decades. One immediately came to mind.

"I think that I didn't say the right words about Justin Leonard at Miracle at Brookline about he should be home watching it on TV. I meant really - I did say he should be home, but I meant the motel room. Even then I probably shouldn't have said that," Miller recalled. "I want so much for the outcome that I'm hoping for that I actually get overwhelmed with what I want to see. Almost the kind of things you would say to your buddies if you were watching it on TV, you know? He just couldn't win a match."

After struggling on Friday and Saturday in team play, Leonard ended up the U.S. hero after halving his Sunday singles match with José María Olazábal by holing a 40-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole - one of the most famous shots in Ryder Cup history.

"Of course he ended up - after the crappy comment I made that motivated maybe the team supposedly in the locker room, and he ends up making that 45-, 50- foot putt to seal the deal," Miller said. "Almost like a Hollywood movie or something."

Not only did the putt seal the comeback for the U.S., but it also earned Leonard an apology from Miller. 

"I apologized to him literally the next day; I happened to see him. I tried to make a policy when I go over the line that I get ahold of the guy within 24 hours and tell him I made a double bogey, you know. That's just the way I have done it through the years."

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Love him or not, Miller's authentic style stood out

By Doug FergusonOctober 16, 2018, 10:11 pm

The comment was vintage Johnny Miller, raw enough to cause most television producers to wince.

Miller was in the NBC Sports booth at Doral in 2004 when he watched Craig Parry hit another beautiful shot to the green. Miller said what he saw. That was his job.

He just didn't say it like other golf analysts.

''The last time you see that swing is in a pro-am with a guy who's about a 15-handicap,'' Miller said. ''It's just over the top, cups it at the bottom and hits it unbelievably good. It doesn't look ... if Ben Hogan saw that, he'd puke.''

Parry got the last word, of course, holing out a 6-iron from 176 yards in a playoff to win.

Except that wasn't the last word.

''I was in Ponte Vedra going back to the Honda Classic, and my phone is blowing up,'' said Tommy Roy, the longtime golf producer at NBC. ''It started percolating down in Australia, and you had radio stations demanding Johnny Miller be fired.''

Miller could make golf more fun to hear than to watch.

''He doesn't have a filter. That's why he's so good,'' Roy said. ''What he's thinking comes out. And 99.5 percent of the time, that was a great thing for viewers, and for me. And 0.5 percent of the time, it was a problem for our PR department and for me.

''And it was worth it.''

Roy was in Wisconsin on Monday night for his first look at Whistling Straits for the 2020 Ryder Cup. It will be the first Ryder Cup since 1989 that doesn't have Miller in the booth weighing in on good shots and bad with thoughts that immediately become words.

He often entertained. He occasionally irritated. He was rarely dull.

Miller is retiring after three decades calling the shots for NBC. His last tournament will be the Phoenix Open, the perfect exit for a Hall of Fame player once known as the ''Desert Fox'' for winning six times in Arizona. Miller was so good for so long that it was easy for younger generations to forget about that other career he had.


Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019

Best of: Photos of Miller through the years


And to think that was nearly his only career in golf.

Miller said he wasn't interested when NBC first approached him, but then his wife stepped in and told him it would be nice to have a steady paycheck. Even then, it took time for him to realize his audience was in the living room, not the locker room.

He made his debut at the Bob Hope Classic in 1990 and it didn't take long for him to leave his mark. Peter Jacobsen faced an awkward lie to the 18th green with water to the left.

''The easiest shot to choke on,'' Miller said.

People thought about choking. Miller said it because that's what he was thinking.

''What came into his brain came out of his mouth,'' said Mike McCarley, president of golf for NBC Sports. ''He was the first to really talk about the pressure. It's the most important element of the game, especially in those really big moments. He was doing it at a time when others weren't.''

It wasn't just the word ''choke.''

Phil Mickelson was getting up-and-down from everywhere at the 2010 Ryder Cup when Miller suggested that if Lefty weren't such a good putter he'd be selling cars in San Diego. Justin Leonard and Hal Sutton were losing a fourballs match at the 1999 Ryder Cup when Miller blurted out, ''My hunch is that Justin needs to go home and watch it on television.''

During the 2008 U.S. Open playoff at Torrey Pines that Tiger Woods won in 19 holes over Rocco Mediate, Miller suggested that guys named ''Rocco'' don't get their name on the trophy, and that Mediate looked like ''the guy who cleans Tiger's swimming pool.''

It wasn't all bad.

Roy, who also has produced NBA Finals and Olympics, said he wants analysts who first-guess, not second-guess. The latter is for talk radio. First-guessing means sharing instincts, and Miller had plenty of them.

Woods was playing the final hole at Newport in the 1995 U.S. Amateur when Miller said, ''It wouldn't surprise me if he knocked this thing a foot from the hole.''

And that's just what Woods did.

McCarley remembers how retired NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol used to worry whenever Miller called because he thought it was about retirement. McCarley soon inherited that feeling.

''Every time I'd see Johnny's number pop up on my cellphone, my heart would skip a beat,'' McCarley said. ''Two years ago, he made that call I had been dreading.''

McCarley kept him working a slightly reduced schedule, but no longer. Miller is 71 and has been on the road for 50 years. His 24th grandchild was born on Sunday. He wants to teach them fly fishing in Utah, perhaps even a little golf.

Miller wasn't sure he would last a week when he started. He never imagined going nearly 30 years.

He leaves behind a style all his own.

Most loved it. Some didn't. But everyone listened, and that might be his legacy in the broadcast booth. Roy said what he has heard from viewers he knows is that 70 percent really like Miller, and 30 percent really don't.

''But they all have an opinion,'' he said.

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CJ Cup: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 16, 2018, 9:20 pm

The PGA Tour returns to South Korea this week for the second edition of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges. Here is the key information for the no-cut event, where Justin Thomas is defending champion.

Golf course: Located on Jeju Island, the largest island off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, The Club at Nine Bridges opened in 2001 and was designed by Ronald Fream and David Dale. The par-72 layout (36-36) will measure 7,184 yards for this week's event, 12 yards shorter than last year.

Purse: The total purse is $9.5 million with the winner receiving $1.71 million. In addition, the winner will receive 500 FedExCup points, a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, and invitations to the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions, Players, Masters, and PGA Championship.

Last year: Thomas defeated Marc Leishman with a birdie on the second playoff hole to earn his seventh career PGA Tour win.

TV schedule (all times Eastern): Golf Channel, Wednesday-Saturday, 10 p.m.-2 a.m.

Live streamingWednesday-Saturday, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. 

Notable tee times (all times Eastern): 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, 8:15 p.m. Thursday: Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Sungjae Im; 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. Thursday: Marc Leishman, Si Woo Kim, Ernie Els; 8:25 p.m. Wednesday, 7:15 p.m. Thursday: Jason Day, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama

Notables in the field: Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Ernie Els, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and last week's winner Marc Leishman.

Key stats:

 This is the third of 46 official events of the season and the second of three consecutive weeks of events in Asia

• 78-player field including the top 60 available from the final 2017-2018 FedExCup points list

The field also includes 12 major champions and two of the top five in the Official World Golf Ranking (highest ranked are No. 3 Koepka and No. 4 Thomas)

Thomas and Koepka both have a shot to ascend to No. 1 in the OWGR this week - they will play their first two rounds grouped together

Stats and information provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit