Tuesday night is a fun time in San Antonio at the Valero Texas Open. A cookout (started years ago by Omar Uresti) for players and caddies helps relieve a bit of the stress of the golf season being in full swing. It's amazing what happens when a caddie gets some good ol' Tex-Mex in his belly.
Enjoy digging into this week's Caddie Confidential like it's big plate of fajitas and enchiladas!
Collins: How much different is this course (TPC San Antonio -- AT&T Oaks Course) compared to the last couple courses everyone has played?
Caddie: The course this week is longer than last week's obviously, but there's not that big of a difference. This is a ball-strikers' golf course. You notoriously have wind, and this year there's going to be wind from both directions, so you're going to see the holes play completely different from the beginning of the week to the end of the week. The greens are fairly small, so you have small targets. I really think the stretch (of golf) we're in is just a ball-strikers' delight.
Collins: Why do you say so?
Caddie: I mean you've got Augusta, Hilton Head, here (San Antonio) ... the Players, Byron Nelson, Colonial, Memorial and even Memphis. Ya know, all these events coming up, you really have to have your best game. There's no smoke and mirrors (during) this stretch of golf, that's for sure!
Collins: Speaking of "stretch of golf," after what happened with Lydia Ko (firing her caddie), what time of year do PGA Tour caddies get nervous about their job security?
Caddie: You know when I first got out here, it was always after the West Coast. That was always kinda when the chopping block came out. Now, I would say, I think after Augusta. I think after Augusta it's kind of ... the midpoint of the season. Everyone knows the second half of the season is beginning, because you know now (tournaments) just start coming at you nonstop until August or September. So I'd say right now. Between Augusta and the Players is when you see a lot of changes. There were two or three caddies who got fired on Sunday (after Hilton Head).
Collins: What's been the caddie talk about Lydia Ko getting rid of her caddie, Gary Matthews, after only nine events?
Caddie: You talking about "Animal"?
Collins: (Even caddies only know each other by their nicknames!)
Caddie: Honestly, I didn't even know he was working for her until last week. My biggest question was, why did she get rid of her original caddie in the first place? Wasn't she No. 1 in the world?
Collins: Yep. She was.
Caddie: I'd like to go back to that. I mean, why would you get rid of a caddie if you're No. 1 in the world? Because the last time I checked, you can't get any better. (Said with a questioning bit of sarcasm.) So she's either getting bad advice or that's her own fault just for putting Animal in that position in the first place. Don't blame him.
Collins: What would happen if Dustin Johnson fired Austin (his caddie and brother)?
Caddie: (laughing) Yeah. There'd be some pretty good reasons, but I mean, I would think you'd have a little more slack on your leash if you're caddying for the No. 1 player in the world and you were winning every time you teed it up.
Collins: Love that "slack on the leash" anecdote because it's so true for caddies. If you took a golfer to being No. 1 in the world, you'd think the caddie would have a little more "slack."
Caddie: Yeah, exactly. And if you didn't, I think that would be personality problems. And when I say personality problems, I mean the player doesn't have a personality.
Collins: On that note, let's get back to the golf course. Is there something about this golf course that people can't see on TV or hear on the radio?
Caddie: The fairways look like they're actually kind of wide out here on the telecast, but in person there's just not much margin for error. Yes, you can birdie every hole out here, but you can also double-bogey every hole. Then you mix in some wind like we should have this week ... Because the thing is, if you don't hit the fairway, you only have a few yards of rough and then you have all those trees, rocks and stuff. Kevin Na is the perfect example. He was what, 10 or 15 yards off the fairway that one year and what'd he make, a 19?
Collins: A 16 on the ninth hole.
Caddie: See. Every hole can come up and bite you ... that's why I said at the beginning of our conversation, that this is definitely a ball-strikers' delight.
Collins: Then what's the hardest thing about caddying this week?
Caddie: (Thinks for a minute.) I can tell ya it's a pretty long walk. It's gotta be one of the longest walks of the year because there's a lot of separation between greens and tees.
Collins: Even though it's not one of the longer golf courses on tour -- 7,435 yards on the official scorecard -- it's still one of the longest walks.
Caddie: Yeah, for sure. For instance, between (No. 1) green and (No. 2) tee is about 400 to 500 yards. And there's a lot of that.
Collins: No cart rides?
Caddie: Nope. The only shuttle you get is from (holes) nine to 10. Other than that, you're on your own!
Collins: The long walk between the first and second holes ... how big a difference is the conversation coming off birdie or par compared to bogey or worse?
Caddie: (Laughs) Yeah I guess it depends on the personality of the pro, but I would love to put a dedicated channel, like they did on DirectTV for the Masters. I would put a suspended camera that goes along the walk between (holes) one and two. You'd get a lot of different conversations for sure! From "hey, great read back there." To "you f---ing idiot! I can't believe we went long on that green!"
Collins: I wanted to get a caddie's perspective on the "friendliness" between Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose at the Masters coming down the stretch. Some people were not fans of it. As a caddie, how did you feel?
Caddie: OK, so I still play a lot when I'm home and I play with buddies and stuff, but when I'm gambling against these guys and I'm losing, I'm pissed. I don't wanna lose. So, I don't know, to me it would have been real interesting to see if one of them would have hit a bad shot, to see if they sit there and keep applauding each other. It's real easy to get happy for the guy when you're matching it and doing just as well but ... maybe it's the new wave. There definitely seems like there's moments when guys seem a little soft and you'd like to see a little more of that "I wanna kick your ass" attitude.
Collins: That would have been interesting to see it that would have changed if one guy hit a couple bad shots. Would he have still "rooted" for the other guy as hard?
Caddie: Exactly. There's a number of pros out here that, when they're playing well, they're the greatest guys ever. But when they're playing poorly, they just kinda go off and become reclusive. That's the beauty of the game. It really shows people's true character. Anybody can fake it, but how do you fake it when you're playing (terrible)?
Collins: How many players let their caddies drive the courtesy car pickup trucks this week?
Caddie: I'd say probably the (non-American) players. The ones who are staying here at the hotel (on site) this week. I'm staying (off-site) and my player has never offered to let me use the courtesy car. In all my years caddying, a player has never offered to let me have it.
Collins: How are things progressing between the caddies and the new commissioner?
Caddie: I had a conversation with another caddie earlier today and I feel like something is going to happen this year. The lawsuit is in the appeals court, which happens to be the same court (the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that President Donald Trump's) travel ban went to, so we're obviously not very high on the pecking order cause they got to that pretty quick over there (laughs). ... I really feel like the (court) is either gonna hear our case or if they throw it out completely, I think that the PGA Tour, with the new commissioner, realizes that they can't keep kicking the can down the road. Something will come up again down the line. They're gonna come to the table even if it (the lawsuit appeal) gets kicked out.
Collins: So it would be fair to say you feel optimistic?
Caddie: I feel extremely optimistic. Honestly? If this commissioner had taken the reins a year ago, this would never have been in the appeals court. At the time, our hands were tied, so we had to keep showing our due diligence. But now that there's new leadership, something is gonna happen this year.
Collins: Putting you on the spot. What score would you take, realistically, and sit in the clubhouse this week?
Caddie: Right now? Going off history and stuff, ooooh, give me 12 under.
Collins: OK, 12 under it is. Unfortunately, I do not have the power to grant you that, so you're going to have to work this week. Sorry. Caddie well, my friend!