A caddie's worth

By Rex HoggardAugust 9, 2011, 7:40 pm

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Two out of three isn’t bad, at least if one takes into account the emotional turmoil Steve Williams has been saddled with for the better part of the last year and a half. Not to mention more than a decade’s old gag order.

Williams is a Jedi Master when it comes to the trifecta of the caddie code, show up, keep up and shut up, although why he blew through the stop sign on the latter on Sunday at Firestone is still perplexing.

“I have been caddying for more than 30 years now. I have won 145 times and that is the best win of my life,” said Williams following his new man Adam Scott’s victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, forgetting, we can only surmise, the baker’s dozen of majors he won with that other guy.

The New Zealander was clearly hurt by his very public, and very messy, split with former boss Tiger Woods and maybe the emotion of the moment got the best of him. But in this Williams is no different than 95 percent of all professional bagmen. A caddie-yard axiom comes to mind; there are two kinds of loopers – those who have been fired and those who are about to be.

Tony Navarro didn’t go all soapbox when Scott showed him the door not long after the two had finished runner-up at this year’s Masters, the Australian’s best Grand Slam finish ever. Bobby Brown didn’t start muckraking when Dustin Johnson bagged him for a more veteran looper despite caddying his man into the hunt at two of four majors in 2010.

Williams is one of the best in the business, but there’s a reason why caddies prefer the shadows to the spotlight. In many ways the golden rule is built in to shield the looper from unwanted – and unfair – analysis, as well as the player.

“I tell (caddie Michael Christensen), it’s a team effort until I step in with the club in my hand to hit the shot, at that point it’s all on me,” Kevin Streelman said.

Williams’ public epiphany, however, has opened the floor to a debate over a caddie’s worth to his player. Some in the mainstream media have speculated that a professional looper is little more than a mule who must adhere to the age-old adage that the help should be seen and not heard.

At best this analysis is an oversimplification. At worst it is blatantly wrong.

“I’ve heard on the radio guys saying (Williams) is not a coach, and that he’s not important in the big picture of things,” Stewart Cink said. “But that’s not true at all. These guys are just not pull carts out there.”

Cink should know, after Phil Mickelson and Jim “Bones” Mackay, Cink and his man Frank Williams may have the longest running caddie-player tenure at 13 years. It’s a relationship that spans a half dozen PGA Tour titles and the 2009 British Open, where, Cink said, Williams earned every penny of his winner’s share.

“We worked together on No. 18 to come up with a plan in case that hole played down wind (like it did on Sunday at Turnberry),” Cink said. “There was an area, about 8 yards short of the green, that we decided to play to and it worked out perfectly.”

In regulation Cink birdied the 18th hole to force extra holes and made par at the finishing hole in the playoff to beat Tom Watson.

World No. 1 Luke Donald, who split with his caddie, his brother, last year, concurred with Cink: “If I thought my guy was carrying luggage I wouldn’t pay him nearly as much as I am.”

In Cink’s and Streelman’s estimation, a good caddie can be worth a stroke a round under the right circumstances. But both players quickly point out a caddie can cost a player as well.

“I’ve cost my guy a stroke, for sure,” said one caddie who asked not to be identified. “You make mistakes, but the real test is when your guy isn’t playing well. That’s when a caddie earns his money.”

The last time Glory’s Last Shot was played at Atlanta Athletic Club may be one of the best examples of a caddie’s worth. Clinging to a one-stroke lead through 71 holes with a hanging lie and 209 yards of water and rough between himself and major glory David Toms looked to his caddie Scott Gneiser for advice.

“You want to lay up?” Gneiser offered. The rest is major championship history.

The best player-caddie relationships transcend the basics of “how far” and “which way?” The most successful tandems are more than employee-employer – they are friends who spend more time together than most families.

“It all depends on the player, some players want their caddies to stay quiet and be ready and that’s the extent of their relationship,” said Streelman, who has known Christensen for 15 years. “Others, like me and Chad (Campbell) and Stewart (Cink), we have our best friends caddying for us. It just helps keep everything loose and relaxed.”

It’s the kind of relationship that Woods and Williams used to have, before feelings were hurt and the wrong things were said. It’s what makes the relationship work, and why the breakups are often messy. It’s what prompted Williams to say more than he should have, and why the sudden collection of caddie critics are so wayward with their slings and arrows. On this point the pundits are correct, a caddie is not a coach they are much more.

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.