A few weeks ago Tiger Woods dumped longtime caddy Steve Williams, and as someone who spent six summers caddying I have a bit of perspective to offer on that.
I’d categorize the response of the media and the public to Tiger’s decision as mostly negative. It would be easy to join the majority here. Really, how could the golfer dump a guy who’s been so loyal and integral to his success for so long?
But I’m going to file a minority opinion. Tiger has the right to choose his own caddy. After the wretched stretch he’s been through, Tiger probably wants to make as a clean a break as he can with his past, a shake-up to get his game going again.
That’s unfortunate for Williams, but he’s landed well with Adam Scott.
During six summers caddying during my teens, I lugged bags and gave distance estimates for everyone from regional club pros at tournaments to weekend duffers whose game was my destiny, too. A caddy can’t make a golfer swing the club a certain way or fade a shot as recommended, but he plays a role in the golfer’s success.
Giving the golfer accurate information is important, as is following all the proper etiquette in handling the flagstick around the green. Caddies must adapt to the personalities of the golfers. If the golfer’s a talker, you can probably talk back. If he’s taciturn, keep your mouth shut.
One of the best runs I had came in caddying for a golfer who was reasonably good but surprised everyone by making a serious bid for the women’s club championship. Round after round, I think she genuinely looked forward to taking on each match with me alongside. I felt the same way.
She made it to the semi-finals before losing to the top-ranked player, the defending club champion who had won many times. I suppose I got a decent tip after it was over — $50 probably, big money for a teenager in the mid-70s — but what has stuck with me was the sense of teamwork that we established on the course.
Tiger has trashed many relationships by his behavior, and it’s not for me to judge. I hope he finds a caddy who will help him re-establish his confidence, if not his groove.