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Who’s Your Caddy?

Last month, Tiger Woods fired his long time caddy, Steve Williams. Theirs had been a partnership for 12 years during which time, Williams had “been on the bag” for 72 victories which included 13 Major Championships. They were close friends who both stood up for each other at their respective weddings. Williams was the last remnant of Wood’s inner golf group (old coach, Hank Haney, his PR company etc.) from his halcyon days which ended three years ago. Some say this if the final layer of un-raveling; while others say that it was a much needed cleaning house.

Steve Williams now caddies for the brilliant, if sometimes underachieving, Australian, Adam Scott. Scott’s swing has long been compared to Woods’ (they shared the same coach for years, Butch Harmon before Tiger switched to Hank Haney). And while Scott’s swing has remained as pure a motion as you can find, it has been his putter that has been his nemesis.

Over the last weekend, Scott was dominant at Firestone CC, winning the World Golf Championship, Bridgestone Invitational, by an impressive 4 shots.

In what may have been a deliberate overstatement, Williams said; “Honestly, this was the greatest week of my life. The people here have been absolutely astounding. This is the greatest week of my life caddying, and I sincerely mean that.”

Perhaps part of that satisfaction came from the fact that this week was Woods’ return to competition and he finished a very pedestrian, 37th; 17 shots behind Scott. Or that Firestone CC and the Bridgestone Invitational was the tournament that Woods dominated like no other. At one point he had won a remarkable 7 out of 10 of these titles.

So does the caddy have that much to do with a victory?

Yes; and no.

For the “no”; it must be noted that the player will always be the one that is actually hitting the shots and that will never change.

For the “yes” however:

There is no sport that is more solitary than golf and the relationship between player and caddy is one important cog in what can be a very squeaky wheel.

A great caddy is a part time physiologist and a full time baby sitter. There is an old saying on the PGA Tour that a good caddy should observe three basic commandments:

  1. “Put Up”. Basically be able to tolerate anything that his player might do or say to him
  2. ‘Keep Up’. Always remain at your players’ side and be ready IF he has something to say to you.
  3. “Shut Up”. Under the penalty of death, do not in any event, ever initiate a conversation. Speak only when spoken to.

While employed by Woods, one of Williams’ primary functions was to be an “enforcer” and not allow people (press, media, and fans) to get close to his player. On several occasions, Williams, took his job to extremes with behavior that was over the top. Getting into heated shouting matches with people, destroying cameras and generally behaving like a bouncer.

Working for the very easy-going, Scott seemed to have relaxed the aggressive, Williams. And Williams’ influence on Scott seems to have allowed him to find the extra gear that his game, thus far, has lacked. This was the 31 year old Scott’s ninth victory on the PGA Tour and may well prove to be the catalyst for him to become everything that he has promised for so long.