Golf — Caddie Confidential — Zen and the art of U.S. Open maintenance


ERIN, Wis. — You know how the U.S. Open is supposed to be a test of patience? And how the caddie’s job is about keeping the stressed-out golfer as calm as possible in conditions that are right on the edge of unfair? Yeah, throw that all out the window. If you shot even par or worse in Round 3, you were getting lapped!

So how to adjust a golfer’s mindset on the fly? Truth comes from the caddie. Enjoy.

Collins: First off, how much different was the course Saturday compared to Thursday and Friday?
Caddie: It was pretty similar to the first couple days. It was soft after that rain last night. Made the scoring a little easier. Yesterday afternoon [the greens] were getting a little “crusty” but today it was gettable. You could stop the balls around those pins. I knew they were gonna have some tough pins in spots, but it was soft enough where you could still get pretty close to them.

Collins: Any hole locations on Saturday that were sketchy?
Caddie: Well, on 16 today I saw a player from pin high right putt it past the hole like 3 feet, and as he was walking up to it [the ball] backed up on him this far (holds his fingers about 3 inches apart)! You had to be right of that pin on 16! If you were left of it, you were gonna be right of it eventually! (Laughing)

Collins: The U.S. Open is supposed to be a test of patience and nerves, but when the conditions change to what seems like a birdie- and eagle-festival, how much more pressure does that mean for the caddie? Is it different?
Caddie: There is [a difference]. You know you can do it so you still have to have your patience and you have to go out there and hit your shots, but you don’t have to go out there and birdie every hole. You don’t have to play reckless just because it’s gettable. You still have to plod your way around the course. But it’s easier to plod your way around the course because you can be a little more aggressive without paying the penalty.
Collins: So the job, then, for the caddie becomes to make sure your player doesn’t become reckless. Unlike when it’s normal U.S. Open conditions and you’re just trying to stay patient and don’t be aggressive.
Caddie: Yeah, exactly. Because the ball will still roll off the green 20 yards — doesn’t matter how soft it is.

Collins: What was the hardest hole to caddie today?
Caddie: That’s a great question. Um … I’m kinda on that fourth hole today. Because they had the pin on the front left and most people have been laying up. Then you got like a 7-iron to that front pin. Or you can try to hit a driver down there and have 80 yards in, but there again … (Pauses)
Collins: (Laughing) Just the look on your face!! Brings us right back to the Aggressive or Reckless place!
Caddie: (Smiling) You need to have patience, but at the same time you need to have 80 yards in! So … sometimes you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Collins: Which hole played the most different from what you expected?
Caddie: Probably 15 because I didn’t expect the tee box to be that far up, to where some guys could hit a 3-wood on the green.

Collins: How much faster did the greens get as the day went on?
Caddie: They got a little firmer. But they were still faster today. Even though we had all that rain they were fast. Either that or they had them closer to slopes than they’ve had them before. They were fast downhill, real fast.

Collins: Many people thought after the first round of good scoring that the USGA would punish the field with the course setup in the second round, but they really didn’t … or couldn’t.
Caddie: I don’t think they could. I think all this rain we’ve had has made the golf course play easier. Kinda like what happened that year at Congressional when Rory tore it apart. ‘Cause when it’s firm you can’t tear Congressional apart.
Collins: So, expectations for Sunday?
Caddie: Just keep hitting those fairways.
Collins: No, I mean what do you expect the USGA to do?
Caddie: Oh! (Laughing) It’s gonna be tough, it’s gonna be hard. It’s gonna be a typical Sunday at the U.S. Open. I don’t think it’s gonna be a birdie-fest.

Collins: What could the USGA have done to prevent these scores from being so low?
Caddie: I think they could have brought that first cut of rough in and narrowed the fairways up a little bit where you’d catch fliers into the greens … I mean, you’d still be able to hit it, but you wouldn’t be able to hold the greens. And then you wouldn’t be able to hit as many fairways if they pulled them in. That would have brought the scores back down a little bit.

Collins: I’m curious to hear from a caddie, why do you think six of the top 10 players in the world missed the cut?
Caddie: That’s a great question. I don’t know. Maybe because the course is quirky? Maybe because there’s a lot of blind shots? Some people don’t like blind shots.

Collins: What the best part of caddying this week for you?
Caddie: We’re playing for a national championship. That’s what excites me and that’s why we come.
Collins: How much extra pressure, then, do you put on yourself? How hard is it not to do that?
Caddie: Yeah, you almost have to go the opposite ’cause your pro’s already doing that. (Laughs) You have to kinda like make it not such a big deal, just do your job. “It’s just golf, pro.”
Collins: So true. But what’s it like knowing a caddie on Sunday is gonna get a check for over $200,000?!
Caddie: Mind-boggling.

Collins: People would be surprised to know ____ about this course?
Caddie: I think something that’s very unique that [people] don’t really know about is that some of these holes are 500 yards long, but some of the guys are hitting wedges into ’em. The holes don’t play as long because they have these hills in them that if you run over the hills you get an extra 30 yards.
Collins: Like a speed slot?
Caddie: Yeah. So that’s one thing — the course doesn’t play as long as the yardage, for sure.

Collins: But the walk though …
Caddie: The walk was twice as hard.
Collins: Because of the “extra” yardage between the greens and tees, you have to walk [2,300 yards] …
Caddie: That’s like 27 holes a day, in soft ground.
Collins: Right! Today it was wet. What do your legs feel like after a day like today?
Caddie: Your calves get real sore. They have this wellness center here and I’ve seen caddies in there all week. They’ve been getting adjusted and getting [massaged]. I think that’s something that the PGA Tour might wanna look into.
Collins: Have you tried the compression sleeves for your legs?
Caddie: I have.
Collins: Do they work?
Caddie: Oh yes! I’ll tell you where they work the best on me is my feet. Squeezes your feet.

Collins: Any trouble sleeping after a walk like this or stress like this week?
Caddie: No. You have no trouble sleeping. At a major you never have trouble sleeping!
Collins: What about food?
Caddie: Pasta … I try to eat pretty healthy this week, just because you don’t need to be carrying an extra couple of hamburgers around when you’re out there!

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