THE CADDIE & THE PLAYER- Whose Role Is It Anyway?

There has been quite a bit of controversy over the past week about the caddie and the role they play in a golfers success and failures. This all stemmed from comments made by a golf coach who had taken up a role as a commentator.

"There are only three types of #PGATOUR player that don't want to hire an expert caddy. The first has a problem with authority. The second has low trust and the third doesn't understand the construct of a team. I wonder who I am thinking of?"

There is logic behind most statements made, but I thought I would give my sentiments...

Why should you care what I think? Well you don't have to- that's your right to refusal. Everyone's opinion is just that- an opinion.

However, as a former tour player for 20 plus years and now as a golf coach for closing in on 10 years I have a different perspective. Heck you can throw in "caddie" to my resume' as I have even caddied for some of the professionals I have worked with. So with all experience bases covered I will try and be logical- if possible.

 

Heresay says the player the comment was aimed at was one Rory McIroy. Yes that Rory- the one with three of golf's four coveted Major trophies on his mantlepiece. The same Rory with a Fed Ex cup title and the massive dollar bonus that goes with it. Winner of 23 worldwide professional tournaments and presumably a bank balance with more zeros in it than I have hairs on my head.

Seems illogical to take aim at such a fantastic player with such a fantastic career- that presumably still has many of the world's biggest titles to be added to. And yet from a distance are we truly seeing the same Rory McIlroy we once loved and knew and watched in awe?

It is fairly noticeable that bad shots don't tend to annoy him as much as they once did. His eyes and head roam around the tops of the trees and into the gallery rather than showing the grit and determination he once had to fix a wrong with a right on the next shot.

We all thought the final leg of the Grand Slam was a lock when he entered the final round of this years Masters right in the mix. With more experience and more artillery in his bag he was a shoe in to peg back Patrick Reed's slender lead after 54 holes and get the green jacket and thus join the immortal five- Sarazen, Hogan, Player, Nicklaus & Woods- as the only men to accomplish the Grand Slam of professional golf titles.

Yet after a shaky first drive and a seemingly unmissable tap in for eagle on the 2nd hole that was it. Rory bounced and skipped along the remaining holes through the azaleas and pine trees with but a whimper of focus. He looked very much like someone playing the Thursday evening chook raffle 9 hole event than a man just a few holes away from completing the Slam.

Is that something we can blame on his caddie- Harry Diamond- his childhood friend who has now taken over the toting of Rory's bag?

Would someone such as his previous caddie- who he had great success with- JP Fitzgerald have been able to keep Rory focused better, given him more intelligent insight and information on every shot and given him a calmness to understand his true abilities that day and brought forth a visit to Butler Cabin that Sunday rather than a runway outta town at Augusta air strip? Who knows? We cannot confuse fiction with fact. We can never change a result by what-ifs.

I highly doubt Rory -and many other players insinuated by the comment- have a problem with authority.

Low trust- as classified in point 2 is just a common human trait. Sometimes you are comfortable with someone and sometimes you aren't.

As for a "team stucture" Rory ranks right near the top of the list in understanding the team that helped him become who has become in golf. His father is always prominent at events and the fact that he has resisted switching swing coaches is the greatest compliment he could ever give to the one person- Mike Bannon- who has guided him right through his formative years to all his victories at every level.

His spat with his management company could definitely have reason if business arrangements were made without his consent or best interests- again that is a part of life that often changes. Heck I just refinanced my house the other day in the pursuit of a better deal for myself. It ddnt mean I didnt like my mortgage company- I just had to look out for own best interests. Circumstances change as we mature and something has to break at times.

I guess the biggest conversation topic with many Tour players today is the fact many of them tend to choose friends to stride the fairways with them rather than head for experience.

Caddie shack mutterings can be heard all the way from the driving range to the 18th green on this topic. Why would he bring a friend out on tour? I know the courses better. I have been in the heat of the battle. I know how to get my man to the finish line. I can pull a club better than King Arthur can pull a sword from a stone. Caddies are great. They are all confident they can do a better job than the next guy- and you want that. But confidence or even experience can often be over rated.

Just ask Jordan Spieth. His caddie, Michael Greller, was teaching kids the ABC's not long ago and is know mentioned in awe as to how he helps Spieth and assists him in selecting the perfect concotion in any given situation on the course.

On tour the player is the star of the show. No matter what is said when surveying a shot- ultimately it is the player who has to execute the shot and get the result. Good information. Bad information. No information. The player is the one who calls the shots.

I had the same caddie for 7 of my 9 years on the PGA- Alan Bond (aka The Brit- because of his homeland). The first time he ever caddied for was the Shell Houston Open in 1996. I had received an invitation to play the event and his regular bag - David Edwards- was having a week off. I didn't know Brit from a bar of soap and he didnt have the foggiest idea who I was. We were connected that week by a friend of mine who was a caddie for Paul Goydos. By Sunday's end I had finished 8th in the tournament and we kind of both looked at each other after the scorer's hut and said -"if the chance arises in the future we should do this again".

That chance eventuated 4 months later when I had also received a sponsor exemption to the BC Open up in Endicott New York. When that week was over and I had finished 9th Brit and myself knew there was something special about the way we interacted on the course. By the end of 1996 I had earned my full playing card through qualifying school and the Brit & Brad show became a reality not long after.

I never looked for too much from a caddie. I liked a yardage and that was about it. I didnt need someone to feed me too much information. I had played the practice rounds. I had studied the terrain. I knew where to go and where not to go.

Know yardage. See shot. Pick club. Hit ball. That's the science I had dumbed playing golf down to. It is a very different atmosphere to what we now see at regular PGA events. It is sometimes mentally exhausting watching players prepare for a shot in many circumstancess these days. Yet some players like their hands held from go to woe- an Australian expression - from beginning to end.

I vividly remember Brit heading to Australia with me in early 1998 as we played the Australian Masters. The Masters was a kind event to me having already finished 4th, runner up and winner in three of my four previous attempts at the title. We got a yardage book- played our practice rounds and on Thursday morning I said.."Brit, I know this course so well. You just walk around, give me the numbers and let me take it from there"... Four days later Brit had earned the easiest 10% winners percentage in his life and I had a tournament record score that still stands to this day.

    Brit & Myself 1999 Open Championship Carnoustie                            Steve Williams between myself and Greg Norman- 1988 Australian Open

Few people know that when I was 12 years old and was first able to join a golf club I had a run in with possibly the most famous caddie ever- Steve Williams. "Stevie" was the assistant professional at my golf club in Melbourne and because I would spend practically sun up to sun down at the course each day learning how to play we spent a great deal of time together. I would hit balls and play from 7am until 6pm on my own and then Steve and I would go out and play until we couldnt see the ball any longer. I would even go caddie for him in his "assistant pro' events on Mondays, so technically you could say I possibly taught him to become the caddie he turned out to be.........I am not saying I am an expert but hey I had a role in teaching the best.....

As an instructor I sometimes caddied for the players I was working with. Did so a few times in Australia and in a couple of USPGA Tour events. One player had fallen into the habit of probably being too reliant on his caddie for club selection and it was a definite deterrent to the instinct he had for playing great golf. On one hole- perfectly placed in the middle of the fairway- we agreed upon the yardage- it was 149 yards- he asked what club should I hit? I informed him it was 149 yards and that I myself as a player could hit 3 different clubs to that pin, so go ahead and pick one. Initially he looked at me like I was an idiot, but then he got it.

A player should never compromise their own ability and inspiration they draw and see in their shotmaking. Like I said earlier- the golfer is the star- the artist- the one calling the shots. 149 yards was just a number- paint the picture of trajectory and shape that you as the player see and don't let my thoughts (the caddie thoughts) interfere with your brilliance.

I used caddies I had never met. I used experienced caddies. I used friends as caddies.

I really only wanted my caddie to have a golfing background because I had enough to consume myself with on the course. I didnt want to be worrying about him and having to tell him where to stand- or hey go clean that guys ball while his caddie rakes the bunker. I certainly didnt want someone who had no awareness of etiquette who would walk on other players lines. And certainly the number one caddie rule is to know the rules. Golf is hard enough without being penalized for someone else's mistake- less your own mistake.

I can therefore see every side of all the arguments here. What makes a good caddie? What makes an expert caddie? How do you beome an expert? How do you know the right thing to say at the right time? How do you know when to just sit in the saddle and just ride your player to the finish line?

Those opinions are really only rightfully answered per every single player/caddie relationship and what that player needs. We the people can only observe from the outside. Every person is different. Every person's needs are different. The player has first right of refusal.

Time will tell if Rory can utilize his friend as a great caddie or if he needs a great caddie whilst still keeping a great friend.

Angelo Argea- one of the more famous caddies- due to being bagman for Jack Nicklaus throughout many of his victories and Major Championships really didnt say much at all. When asked about his role as The Golden Bears caddie he responded.. " I do basically two things... 1) I remind him that he is the best player out there and 2) I remind him that there are still plenty of holes left"

It doesnt get much simpler than that......