The 37-year old former PGA Tour player and Florida Gator is in his 10th year as a caddie. With Vijay Singh he won 13 times worldwide, including nine on the PGA Tour and two money titles. For the last three years, he has worked for Sean O’Hair.
You’ve been in Texas for a couple of weeks. How do you prepare for each week?
My week always starts on Monday. Sean’s week, and most of the players if they can help it, starts on Tuesday. I spend about six hours on the golf course marking the greens out, trying to get their levels and basically trying to make the golf course that week feel like your home course.
Who makes your yardage books?
We have a guy out here named Mark Long who does a lot of our books. We pay him $20 a week for that course’s book and it’s well worth it. This way we don’t have to worry about finding all the sprinkler heads because it would take a week to get all that information.
What yardages do you give Sean on each approach shot?
I give him four numbers: a carry number, which could be over a bunker, false front or a water hazard; to the pin; a long number; and how many steps from the left or right edge the pin is. That’s pretty standard among all caddies on Tour.
How do you look at a golf course?
Everybody does it differently. I’ve heard of some caddies who like to walk a golf course backward. I do it tee to green. You stand on each tee and you have to assume what it is with a 20 mph wind, what it is when it’s downwind and generally how to respond when the wind switches.
One-time PGA Tour winner Chris Couch was your roommate at Florida.
I took about a one-year sabbatical between Vijay and Jerry Kelly and I worked for Couchie in late ’06 and the early part of ’07. It was the most fun that I’ve had out here. The problem with Chris and I is that we love each other’s company so much that we had a little too much fun.
You had a very brief career as a player on the PGA Tour in the late ’90s.
I was a Tour player, but I obviously didn’t succeed at that level. I was fortunate enough to get through on my first try at Q-School in ’96, but I was thrown into something I probably wasn’t ready for. I had an injury to my shoulder that never really gave me an opportunity to succeed out here.
How did you start caddying?
When I left the Tour in ’99, caddying never entered my mind. I thought that I would teach for a living. I actually went to work for Vijay’s present caddie, Chad Reynolds, who was the head pro at White Oak Plantation in Yulee, Fla. I loved the job, but I was only making about $20,000 a year. I had practiced a lot with Vijay and one day he asked me to come and work for him.
How demanding was Vijay as a boss?
In ’01 and ’02, I only got a total of 24 days off out of 730 days. I could complain about that, but Vijay took only three days off during that stretch. I got divorced over it. It was just too much. It’s not Vijay’s fault. It’s mine for not calling a time-out. But 11 days off in one year is not a life. When Vijay and I were able to sit down and talk about things, we said to each other, “Why didn’t we just talk this through?” Our personalities clashed. I’m very stubborn and I like to kind of give it back and he does the same thing. But we’re still good friends. We just couldn’t make it work as a team.
You’ve had two divorces from Vijay. Are you done working with him?
Yes. The second time I went back was a bad decision. I had a good job with Jerry Kelly, and when I left him to go back to Vijay it was purely a financial decision. Jerry and I were having success together and he treated me very well. I wish that I could take that one back.
What’s it like with Sean?
I get 24 weeks off a year now. I work 28 weeks and when I’m home now, I’m home. With Vijay on off-weeks we were always on the range. Now I have a fiancÃ©e and a daughter that I get to spend a lot of time with.
Did you feel resentment from the older generation of Tour caddies who came up through the traditional caddie ranks?
I think just about everyone on Tour resented me when I started with Vijay. I could feel it. I could hear it. But I think I have something more to offer than most people.
After the 2003 Masters you were blamed for a bad rake job in the bunker at the 12th hole on Sunday by Jeff Maggert’s caddie, Brian Sullivan, who told Sports Illustrated that you weren’t a 'real caddie.'
The rake job was perfect. It was a shame that Sullivan developed such a hatred for me. I just went up to him face-to-face later on and did it the old-fashioned way and told him that he needed to move on from this or we can take care of this like men. A lot of the other caddies came to my defense and that let me know that I was respected in caddie circles.
When you came out on Tour to work for Vijay in 2000 was there a caddie that you looked to for advice and mentorship?
I wish that I could throw a name out there, but I was pretty green when I came out here. Vijay was the boss and he wanted things done in a very specific way. So I didn’t need to look around to see how everybody was doing it because we did everything the way Vijay wanted it done. Obviously everything that I’ve turned out to be is because of what I learned from Vijay: the work ethic and how to look at golf courses.
Give me an instance of where your preparation really made all the difference for your player in a tournament?
In ’05 at the Shell Houston Open, Vijay beat John Daly in a playoff on the 18th hole at the Redstone Golf Club. On paper for the pros it was a 5-wood, 5-iron type of par 4 with water running down the left side. On Monday I noticed that there was this big open area to the right near these white tents where if you hit your ball there you got a free drop. To that spot you could hit driver and have a great angle with about a sand wedge into the green. On Tuesday I told Vijay about it and he looked at me like I was crazy, but we did it every day. On Sunday Lanny Wadkins, who was the CBS analyst, thought we were stupid for pulling a driver in the playoff, but it was the right play. Daly hit a 3-wood into the water. Vijay played the hole 1-under par for the week and it was the hardest hole on the course.
In what areas have you helped Sean most?
It’s interesting. Vijay didn’t need much guidance. Most of the work with Vijay came on the range with the golf swing. When I first started working with Sean almost three years ago, he didn’t know much about the little idiosyncrasies of Tour golf. For example, when you lose the ball you don’t go up there running to find it, you take your time and let the marshals look for it for a little while because your five minutes don’t start until you get there. If you’re thirsty, go to the cooler. When you’re on the clock, he doesn’t need to run; I need to run so when he gets to the ball he’s got all of his numbers and he can play the shot.
Do you get nervous on the golf course?
I was a nervous player, but I am not a nervous caddie. I’ve been nervous three times as a caddie: my first win with Vijay in 2000 at Houston; with Sean at Bay Hill against Tiger in 2009 when were tied for the lead on the 18th tee; and with Jerry Kelly at the President’s Cup in South Africa. Each time I was nervous about a club selection.
Are you still living down the mini-mess you started by wearing the 'Tiger Who?' cap at the 2000 Presidents Cup?
When I still worked for Vijay, it always came up. I’ll always hear about it, I’m sure. Vijay and Tiger always had a little tense relationship. Anytime you’re No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, I don’t think you’re going to be holding hands going down the fairway. After that event Vijay and I were paired with them like the next five tournaments and there wasn’t a word said between the caddies or the players. Eventually I went up to Tiger and told him that I meant it as joke and he said he appreciated me saying something, but that it did make him want to beat us more.
Is their hierarchy of PGA Tour caddies?
I don’t think so. If you work hard people are going to notice you and if your man is hitting it in the hole it’s going to make you look a lot better. I think there are a lot of good caddies who don’t get the recognition that they deserve because maybe their guy isn’t playing well. One day Sean asked me, “Does the player make the caddie or does the caddie make the player?” I gave him this stupefied look like, “Are you crazy?” I told him that I worked just as hard for Chris Couch as I did for Vijay. Obviously there are a couple of caddies that stick out from everyone else, Bones Mackay and Steve Williams. But Bones is one of the guys. I don’t think there is anyone out there who doesn’t enjoy Bones’s company. As far as Steve goes, not a lot of us know him.
How do most caddies get paid?
It’s 5 percent for a made cut; 7 percent for a top 10; and 10 percent for a win. Then the players give you another $1,000 or so to cover basic expenses for the week.
Where do you stay when you travel?
I stayed in an Extended Stay last week at the Byron Nelson, but I think that will be my last time doing that. Obviously travel has gone up with everything else. The rental cars are atrocious. The one advantage that we have with web sites like Priceline and Hotwire is that we’re able to stay in a lot nicer hotels than we could in the past.
What’s the state of the caddie profession?
Guys have really taken it as a profession. I’m really proud of that. I do think it’s a shame sometimes that the Tour doesn’t recognize the caddies more. But I think most importantly the players do.