This article first appeared on Golfshake.com in Jul 2020
“WE MADE some good decisions out there.” “We played the course well.” “We got everything right.” “We really read the greens well and we putted superbly.” “I played some terrible golf out there today.” “I made some terrible decisions.” “I couldn’t find a fairway to save my life.”
You can’t help but notice that when a Tour pro plays well and is interviewed afterwards, he or she always refers to the royal “we”, while when they play poorly they always put the blame firmly on their own shoulders. The “we” is the player and his caddie, and anybody who believes that caddies do nothing more than hump a huge golf bag around the course really doesn’t know the game at all.
A good caddie can be worth three or four shots a round – and maybe more than that. They help with club selection, wind direction, reading the greens and they know what to say and when to say it if their boss is struggling. Here we look at just some of the best in the business.
Mike “Fluff” Cowan
Cowan has always looked like he is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, along with the bags of some of the finest players in the game. He started with Peter Jacobsen, with whom he worked for 18 years, before becoming Tiger Woods’ first caddie – he was by his side when Woods won The Masters for the first time in 1997. In 1999 he picked up Jim Furyk’s bag and is still working for the veteran American.
The Yorkshireman has worked with some of the best in the business, including Seve Ballesteros, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Darren Clarke – whom he famously sacked because he thought the Northern Irishman was not making the most of his talent. He has also started working as a TV pundit.
The Swede was at Nick Faldo’s side for four of his major victories and he credited her with being a huge part of that success. She also worked with Fred Funk and, briefly, with Sergio Garcia – she is not the only one to have worked briefly with the Spaniard. She finished her career with Henrik Stenson, and also helped to coach Martin Kaymer.
You will know that Williams caddied for Tiger Woods from 1999 until 2011. You may not know that at one time he was regarded as the highest-paid sportsman in his native New Zealand. Whether or not a caddie can ever be regarded as a sportsman is a moot point. Williams also worked for the great Peter Thomson and Adam Scott. He famously turned on Woods after the 15-time major champion let him go.
The Englishman worked for Lee Westwood and Seve Ballesteros (a LOT of caddies worked for Seve, who was a notoriously difficult employer) but is best known for his 22 years at the side of Bernhard Langer. In all, Coleman enjoyed 59 victories with nine different employers. That is some body of work.
Jim “Bones” Mackay
The 25-year relationship between “Bones” and Phil Mickelson was arguably one of the most entertaining the game has ever known. Bones was the voice of reason who frequently tried to talk Lefty out of taking on impossible shots. More often than not he was left shaking his head as Mickelson chose to ignore him and either ended up next to the hole or in the water. He now works as a highly respected golf analyst and on-course commentator.
“Aitch” was by Michael Bonallack’s side when the Englishman won the Amateur back in 1961. He also worked for Sam Snead, Gary Player, Tom Watson and Tony Lema. He carried the bag for Roberto De Vicenzo when the Argentinian won The Open in 1967 – he was with Lee Trevino for his two victories in The Open too. He would famously stand on the driving range wearing a baseball glove and catch Trevino’s golf balls.
LaCava worked for Fred Couples for 20 years and, briefly, for Dustin Johnson. In 2011 he picked up the bag of Tiger Woods for the first time. Woods’ injury woes meant that LaCava spent a lot of time with his feet up, but he was by the American’s side for his astonishing comeback victory at The Masters in 2019. While he was on the sidelines, Woods told LaCava to go out and find another employer but the caddie refused to do so. He clearly knows when he is on to a good thing.
Musgrove had a distinguished 50-year career and every one of his employers spoke highly of him and his ability to know when to say the right thing. He was with Sandy Lyle for the Scot’s wins at The Masters and Open, helped Lee Janzen to success at the US Open and Seve Ballesteros to The Open.
Fyles carried the bag for all five of Tom Watson’s victories in The Open Championship. His most famous contribution came at the 72nd hole of the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977. Watson wanted to hit a six iron but Fyles knew that adrenaline was pumping through his man’s veins and persuaded him to take a seven iron, which he put two feet from the hole to secure a famous win. How different history may have been.
Edwards was by Tom Watson’s side in America from 1973 until 1989. He also spent two years working with Greg Norman before hooking up with Watson once again until he tragically died with ALS in 2004.
Bender spent 45 years on the PGA Tour. He won with eight different players, including Ray Floyd and Lanny Wadkins. He won The Open in 1986 with Greg Norman and repeated the feat five years later with the popular Australian Ian Baker-Finch.
Jeff “Squeeky” Medlen
Medlen’s nickname came as a result of his high-pitched voice, but he was a renowned bagman. He carried the bag for Nick Price during all three of the Zimbabwean’s major victories. Price wasn’t able to play in the 1991 US PGA Championship at Crooked Stick, so Medlen took the bag of an unknown alternate who had to drive through the night to make his tee time. His name was John Daly.
Caddies are not known for their sartorial elegance, but “Mad Mac” was in a class by himself. He carried Max Faulkner’s bag during the 1951 Open at Royal Portrush, wearing a raincoat but no shirt. Fastened to a lanyard round his neck was a pair binoculars with no lenses which he used to study the lines on the greens for Faulkner, who would go on to win.
Greller and Jordan Spieth are turning into today’s equivalent of Jim Mackay and Phil Mickelson. Spieth hardly stops chirruping from first tee to final green. He chunters incessantly and poor old Greller stands there, listens to it all, hands Spieth a club, says “Yes” or “No” at the appropriate juncture and listens again as Spieth provides a running commentary after the shot has been played.