Steve Williams had the best seat in the house for Adam Scott's breakthrough victory at the 2013 Masters. He offers a glimpse into that historic day in his own words.
The first tournament I worked for Adam Scott as his full-time caddie was the 2011 British Open at Royal St. Georges, shortly after Tiger Woods had fired me. I flew to Heathrow, in London. Adam had been in England for a week, playing golf, getting used to the time difference. I got to baggage claim, and there he was. I had never experienced that before what a pleasant surprise.
I am a 50-year-old New Zealander, and Adam is a 33-year-old Australian. I've known him half his life. I caddied for Greg Norman for years, and Adam grew up idolizing Norman. As a young pro Adam played with Greg whenever he could. He signed on with Greg's teacher, Butch Harmon, and he eventually hired one of Greg's former caddies, Tony Navarro, one of the greats in my profession. You couldn't help but admire how Adam went about his business.
As I watched his career progress, I wasn't at all surprised by the quality of the tournaments he won. He was so talented. I did wonder about his play in the majors. I was surprised that, 11 years into his career, he had really contended in only one, the 2011 Masters, the one Charl Schwartzel won with birdies on the last four holes. I often wondered why Adam hadn't played the majors better.
The first tournament I ever worked for Adam was the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional. (I was still with Woods, who was sidelined by an injury, and I was working for Adam on a fill-in basis.) He played 18 holes on the Saturday before the Open. On Sunday, another 18. More golf on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I felt like it was way, way too much and that he wasn't fresh when the bell went off. The other prominent players I had worked for most especially Norman, Woods and Raymond Floyd never worked like that. When Adam and I first started having serious conversations as player and caddie, they were about how to prepare for majors. Last year, when he won the Masters, he'd played nine holes on Tuesday, nine holes on Wednesday and that was it. He didn't even play in the par-3 tournament.
He played those 18 holes with Ernie Els and Louis Oosthuizen. Ernie's caddie, Colin Byrne, is deeply knowledgeable about golf. He said, "You put those two nines together, that's one of the best rounds of golf I've ever seen." I knew that to be true. But hearing Colin say it, I think it gave a little jolt to Adam, and I know it did to me. I said to Adam, "This is the week. Just keep doing what you're doing." A lot of caddying, at the highest levels of the game, is that kind of conversation. Adam does not possess the sense of confidence that Norman or Woods or Floyd enjoyed in their primes. When you remind Adam how good he is, he actually takes notice.
From our start together, I urged Adam to stay in a house at the majors. I'd say, "Rent a house, and hire a cook." The restaurants are crowded. You're on your feet, waiting for your table. You're getting up and down to say hi to this person and that one. I convinced Adam that it's much better for your mind and body to be in a house, and he agreed. In his Augusta house last year, there was Adam; his father, Phil; his swing coach, Brad Malone; his manager, Justin Cohen; and me. I had stayed with players before, but never in an atmosphere that this group had (and has). There was so much camaraderie, and it was so relaxed. Still, we spent time every day talking about what had happened that day and laying out a game plan for the next.
Nine months before that Masters, at the 2012 British Open at Royal Lytham, Adam had a tournament that golf fans remember differently than I do. They recall an "epic" collapse that allowed Ernie to win from the practice putting green. And of course Adam did have a four-shot lead with four holes to play. But to me, we had a game plan, and we came very close to executing it. It was an important week for him and for us as a team.
At the next major, the PGA Championship at Kiawah, he finished 11th. Then came the '13 Masters. One of the things we were really working on was that you don't play your way into position for Sunday afternoon. My view is that your intensity on the first hole has to be the same as on the last. That's how you win majors.
Adam birdied the 18th on Masters Sunday last year to become the leader in the house. Angel Cabrera was right behind us, playing in the final group, one shot back. I said to Adam, "Prepare yourself for a playoff." From the back of the green, looking down the hill of the 18th hole, I could see Cabrera from the waist up. That told me he had killed his drive, and that he had 150 yards in, maybe less. We were watching in the scorer's hut when he stiffed the shot, made the two-footer and forced the playoff. We got in a golf cart in the rain and went to the 18th tee for first playoff hole, where Adam and Angel both made par.
On the 10th, the second playoff hole, Adam hit his approach shot above the hole. You seldom see a player above the hole on 10. In fact, I can remember only one time, in well over 100 competitive rounds at Augusta, seeing a player putt from above the hole there. That was Greg. It's an odd, tricky putt. As we walked to the 10th green, I remember thinking that Adam would not be familiar with that putt. A caddie has to know when to step in, so I decided I would help with the read whether he asked for it or not. Fortunately, he did ask. In went the putt, in the dark and the rain.
Adam invited me to join him for the winner's dinner in the clubhouse, with all the members. I appreciated the offer, but declined. That's just not my kind of thing. I drove his tournament courtesy car back to the house. While I was driving, Norman called. An Aussie had finally won the Masters, and Greg was thrilled. He said, "I could read your lips twice. On that second shot on the last hole you told him, 'It's playing longer than you think.' And on that putt to win you told him, 'It breaks more than you think.' Am I right?" He was both times.
I was emotional driving back to the house because I truly thought I had just caddied in the last tournament of my career. I hadn't told Adam that, but that's what was going through my mind. I had helped a great guy win his first major. What a note that would be to go out on. Thankfully, some friends from home talked me out of it when I returned to New Zealand. To show my appreciation, I've arranged for them to come to this year's Masters. But I am planning this year to be my last as a full-time caddie. There are other things I'd like to do, including racing cars.
Adam's win at Augusta has to be one of the most popular wins ever. He's a rare person. In August 2011 we won our first tournament together, at Firestone. It had been an emotional summer for me, getting fired by Woods after 13 years and 13 major championships together and going to work for a new player. In the aftermath of Adam's victory I went a little crazy in a live interview with CBS. I said some things I regretted. It was Adam's moment, and I should have stayed in the background. I apologized to Adam almost immediately.
He looked me right in the eye. (Unlike some others I know in the game, he takes handshakes and eye contact seriously.) He said, "Don't even worry about it. I understand what happened. We all make mistakes."
It was a beautiful thing for him to say. Profound, too. Because in golf, and in life, you're going to make mistakes. How you manage them is what makes the difference. When a guy wins a major, the heroic shots make the highlight reels. But the reality is that the player who wins is the one who makes the fewest mistakes, hits the fewest bad shots. Adam played 286 shots over 74 holes last year at Augusta, and by my count he hit only four bad shots. That's astounding, by any standard. In 2012, and again in 2013, he had the lowest aggregate score of anybody who made the cut in all four majors. That tells me that he was all in, from start to finish. I expect there will be more of that this year, starting at Augusta. I love being in the driver's seat. But caddying for Adam Scott, that's an amazing seat too.