What do the men who carry the bags for the game's best golfers really think? We granted 50 tour caddies anonymity in order to hear the truth about life on tour.
Q1. Which player would you most like to caddie for?
What does a caddie want from his paymaster? To be treated nicely and to be very handsomely remunerated. And if that paymaster also happens to be a living legend, that would help too. Our opening question returned some fairly predictable replies, with two men dominating the answers...
Rory McIlroy – 36%
“He’s a great guy, an unbelievable player and he’ll make you a killing. He still has a long way to go in his career and there’s no better bag out there than Rory’s.”
Tiger Woods – 34%
“How can you not answer Tiger to this? I’d have preferred to be carrying his bag 15 years ago, but even so. Just to be able to tell my grandkids I had.”
Brooks Koepka – 12%
“He’d win you a stack of cash."
The remaining votes were split between Xander Schauffele, Phil Mickelson, Tommy Fleetwood, Marc Leishman and Fred Couples (we’re guessing back in the day rather than right now).
Q2. If you had to work for free, which player would you work for?
The highest percentage here said Tiger Woods (36%). “Just to have said you had,” said one of many, in what was a recurring theme. “I’d make a lot of money with Tiger,” said another, not quite grasping the concept of ‘free’.
The next highest percentage (18%) was from caddies who flatly refused to work for anyone for free. “I mean, do you work for free?” asked one.
The remaining 46% was made up of Rory, Harold Varner, Seve (in a time machine) and Webb Simpson – “As nice a guy as you’ll find and he makes a boatload of cash,” said another confused soul.
Rickie Fowler (9%) and Adam Scott (7%) both rated highly, mainly on account of being nice guys who treat their caddies well but for an additional, money-can’t-buy perk. “You know you’ll always have a plenty to look at in that guy’s gallery!"
Q3. Which tour player has the fruitiest language?
Shame on you Ian Poulter (21%), Harold Varner III (19%) and Tiger Woods (14%) – “The mics don’t pick up half of what Tiger says, but he loves to drop F-bombs and tell dirty jokes.”
But when it comes to filling the airwaves with expletives and setting a very, very bad example, there can be only one winner: “It’s Pat Perez by an absolute mile,” said one of our bag carriers. Perez got 39% of the vote. “He’s always swearing but it’s just who he is.”
Q4. What's the best advice you've ever received?
One simple question elicited so many different replies.
“Be patient”, “Try not to ‘over-caddie’ and “Don’t be a ‘Yes’ man,” all featured repeatedly, alongside “Never be scared to lose your job – because it’s going to happen at some point, often out of the blue, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
A recurring theme centred on the need to prepare thoroughly and leave no stone unturned. “Always do the simple things well and be one-step ahead.” “Have everything ready. But don’t volunteer anything.” And “Just work hard. Period.”
However, the age-old caddie adage clearly still rings true in the modern era. “Turn up, keep up and shut up” – and variations on that theme – polled 19% of the votes, suggesting that even in an age of a friend on the bag, the boss remains the boss.
Q5. Who's the most generous player on tour?
In caddying circles, generosity comes in two forms – time and money. Defined thus, one man led the way...
“No one gives more time than Rickie Fowler,” said one of our caddies, as Fowler polled 17% of the votes. “He always treats people well and he always takes care of them, and that includes his caddies. In this one, it’s Rickie by a mile.”
Another very well regarded tour pro was Sergio Garcia, who polled a next-best 13% of the votes. “Sergio’s a super guy when it comes to his caddies,” said one respondent. “And his Christmas bonus is always a handsome one.”
Other notable good guys: Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Webb Simpson and Billy Horschel. “Billy’s always giving guys rides on the plane and he gave his caddie $1 million after winning the FedEx Cup. I wanna work for Billy!”
Q6. Who's the cheapest player on tour?
A clear and entirely expected winner here, as Matt Kuchar polled 35% of the votes. “He had everybody fooled but those inside the ropes knew. And it’s not even close.”
Indeed it wasn’t close, but the European Tour’s Richie Ramsay pulled in 23% of the votes, ahead of the likes of Miguel Angel Jimenez, Jamie Donaldson and Sungjae Im.
And while billionaire Tiger Woods is only name-checked once in this roll of dishonour, it is to memorable effect. “Tiger’s gotten a lot better over recent years, but he still has those alligator arms.”
Q7. Choose one word to describe Matt Kuchar...
"Cheap" came in with 61% of the vote, alongside:
Q8. Who's the best caddie on tour?
One caddie above all others, put on a pedestal by his peers, is Billy Foster, with 19% of the vote. "A cool customer and he’s had success in so many eras. The game has never passed him by.”
Honourable mentions for Mark Fulcher (11%), Joe LaCava (13%) and Steve Williams (15%).
Q9. Which of these players wins a major first?
We gave the caddies four players we expect to break their major duck in the not-too-distant future.
Xander Schauffele – 45%
"He's got the game and, more crucially, the mind. He's not afraid to rip someone's heart out to win. He'll win multiple majors."
Jon Rahm – 45%
"He's head and shoulders the best player in that group. Way too much game. The only thing holding him back are his emotions."
Tommy Fleetwood – 7%
Rickie Fowler – 3%
Related: US PGA Championship 2020 preview
Q10. Who's the most "clutch" player on tour?
Tiger Woods picked up an unsurprising 60% of votes. "I mean, how do you not say Tiger? He’s won 82 times and was clutch long before the phrase was invented.”
The next most clutch tour player was Xander Schauffele, who polled 27% of the votes and was praised for being able to “play flat out and fearless” and for having “giant onions”.
Notable others included Brooks Koepka (7%) and Justin Thomas (6%), whose onions are not quite so large.
Q11. Who is the most fragile player on tour?
The opposite of clutch – those players who wither when the pressure rises. Oddly, for a man who showed balls the size of barrage balloons in the 2016 Open, our winner by some distance is Henrik Stenson (33%). “He’s a headcase who can go off the rails after a single bad shot."
Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Charley Hoffman all polled multiple votes – with Hoffman labelled “Mr Thursday” for his ability to let early leads slip away.
Q12. What's the easiest major to win?
The Masters – 62%
PGA Championship – 38%
US Open – 0%
The Open – 0%
Q13. What keeps you awake at night?
What does the average tour caddie worry about to the point of not being able to sleep? Not much, it would seem.
A quarter (25%) say they sleep just fine. “If you’ve been around a while, you’ve seen it all and there’s nothing that should worry you,” said one.
Those who do worry are troubled by the fear of being late for duty (18%) – “An early alarm in the morning and fear of missing a tee time.”
The wind is also a significant concern (12%), “Especially when it’s blowing 20-25 mph”.
Fear of the sack troubles only a few (6%).
But the biggest concern for those who do lose sleep is of making a wrong decision (22%). “Any decision that costs the boss shots is going to play on your mind.”
Q14. What's the biggest mistake you've made that no one knows about?
“I once put the bag down on the ball when we were looking for it in the rough,” admitted one.
“I quit the bag of a future major champion when he was a nobody and before he hit it big,” harrumphed another.
Most often though, the concerns centre on miscalculations. “I once gave a bad yardage and my player hit it over the green, we made bogey and lost the tournament by one,” admitted one. “My boss didn’t know, or at least he acted like he didn’t know.”
“So many wrong yardages,” laughed another. “But it’s just part of the job and you can’t be right all the time.”
Happily, it’s not always doom and gloom. “I once miscalculated on the first hole,” chuckled one caddie. “Well, I thought it was the first hole but it turned out it was the 10th. My player got to 15ft and birdied it.”
Q15. Who's the most overrated player on tour?
Rickie Fowler – 24%
“He’s got five wins. But for the amount of attention, publicity and money he gets, you’d think he had twice as many as that. Don’t get me wrong, Rickie’s a really nice guy and a good player, but he’s definitely got some holes in his game.”
Ian Poulter – 15%
“Unless it’s the Ryder Cup”.
Matt Kuchar – 9%
“He’s not just cheap”
Jason Day – 6%
“He’s constantly sick, injured or moaning about something.”
Q16. Who is the most underrated?
Xander Schauffele – 22%
“Xander just doesn’t get the respect he deserves for how good he is.”
Matt Fitzpatrick – 22%
“Matt could do with winning in the US but he’s got so much talent and it will happen.”
Props to Marc Leishman, Brandt Snedeker, Webb Simpson, Ross Fisher and Kevin Na, all name-checked several times as we tried to identify the game’s most underrated.
One caddie went as far as to name Tiger Woods – “He’s even better than people think, as crazy as that sounds.”
Q17. Who's the best all-round player in the game today?
Rory McIlroy – 69%
"Now that he’s putting better, Rory has no weakness. When he putts even average, there’s no one better out here.”
Tiger Woods – 19%
"Tiger's still the best, when he's healthy."
The man who’s won three of the last seven majors and spent 38 weeks as World No.1 would surely beg to differ, but Brooks Koepka was barely mentioned. Justin Thomas got the odd nod, as did Jon Rahm – “No question he’ll dominate the rankings at some point” – but this wasn’t even close...
Related: WITB Rory McIlroy
Q18. Which tournament treats you the best?
Caddies are not by nature complicated souls. All they require to be happy is to be fed and watered and treated like if not VIPs then RIPs – rather important persons.
For that reason, The Masters rated highly here (18%). “The food is great, the locker room is better than the players’ and best of all, they have beers ready for you when you finish.”
Wells Fargo also ranked high (16%). “The food in the caddie area is great and they let us valet,” beamed one. “Everything is done just right.”
But the premier tournament among caddies lies on our own shores. Wentworth’s BMW PGA Championship received more votes (26%) than any other tournament. “The food is excellent, the changing rooms are great, they just seem to get everything right.”
Q19. Which tournament treats you the worst?
Only in a world of multi-millionaires could a person moan about having to go to Hawaii. But carrying a bag in paradise and getting paid for
it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. “The Sony Open is atrocious,” moans one of many (26%). “There are no facilities, they have us outside in a tent and the parking’s lousy. As for the food, to say it’s not good is being kind.” Not good? “It’s horrendous,” says another.
The Honda Classic (13%) and John Deere Classic (7%) are better, but not much, while The Masters isn’t universally loved. "It’s the worst because there are so many rules. I hate that.”
Q20. Have you ever seen a tour player cheat?
Yes – 94%
“I see it all the time with guys ‘testing’ different clubs behind their ball in the rough. The next thing you know the grass is matted down and they have a clean look at it. And we all know who they are.”
No – 6%
“If it is happening out here, I haven’t seen it. At least, not yet.”
Q21. What do you say to your player if he's in the lead coming down the stretch?
Opinion is split here. Some caddies suggest their player should embrace thesituation as much as possible, others would say nothing.
“My player’s a winner and he knows what to do,” they said. The second-most popular (29%) approach is to take the player’s mind off the situation completely. “We’d talk about anything at all other than golf,” said one. “It would be a time for every joke I know.”
But the most popular approach, accounting for 50% of the votes, is to just keep on keeping on. “Take it one shot at a time. If it’s been good enough to get you into this position, just keep doing what you’ve been doing.”
Q22. What one rule would you change?
So many, many options here, but the replies centred on a handful of recurring issues. Still being able to be DQ’d for signing an incorrect scorecard rankles, as does the rule of intent – “There are people who are cheating and it’s far too vague of a term.” The new lower drop is also still an issue, likewise the moveable obstruction rule. As one caddie pointed out, “You really shouldn’t be able to have an entire gallery help move a boulder.”
However, they are minor quibbles and most votes were split between the age-old issue of slow play (25%) and the ruling on divots (44%). “If you’re in the fairway you should get relief from a divot,” said one of many.
Q23. How many shots per week do you save your player?
0 shots – 0%
1 shot – 0%
2 shots – 40%
3 shots – 29%
4 shots – 25%
5 shots – 6%
“Depends on the week but it’s between two and five, though they would never admit that.”
Q24. What's the worst piece of caddying you've ever seen?
Some 21 years later, the memory of a Frenchman daftly paddling around in the burn still dominates most thoughts when this question was posed...
Jean van de Velde's Open collapse got 42% of the vote.
“When Jean van de Velde lost the 1999 Open at Carnoustie with Christophe Angiolini on the bag. If he’d hit wedge, wedge on the last hole, he wins The Open.”
The remaining 38% abide by some caddie code of omerta, refusing to name names. Most are variations on the theme of giving their paymaster bad advice and watching as his ball airmailed the green or fell into the water as they missed the cut or narrowly lost the tournament.
Q25. And the best piece of caddying you've witnessed?
Much caddie kudos to Joe Grenier for getting Max Honma over the line at Wells Fargo in 2019 for his first PGA title – acknowledged by 40%. “He was all over Max the whole back nine on Sunday, he played such a big part in his victory.”
Michael Greller at the 2017 Open Championship was also highly commended. “When Jordan Spieth hit it off the map, Michael kept him calm and was instrumental in him getting that win.”
But half our caddies (50%) plumped for Steve Williams at the 2013 Masters. “Steve Williams wins this by some distance,” said one of many. “If he hadn’t had the experience of knowing just how much that putt broke on the 10th hole at Augusta in 2013, I’m not sure Adam Scott would have won that Masters.”
Q26. Should rangefinders be legal?
To be blunt, no. 84% think they should remain banned on tour. A good number believe they actually slow down play. Many believe it replaces an artform with cold, hard science. And a few are fearful of where it would end. “We’ll be out of a job soon if they don’t stamp them out.”
Related: Best Rangefinders 2020