AUSTIN, Texas -- There are two PGA Tour events going on this week, a full-field tournament in Puerto Rico and the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at the Austin Country Club. Since I'm covering the WGC, which started Wednesday, it only makes sense for me to speak to a caddie about that event.
This week's anonymous caddie opines on the unique format, the golfers he wants no part of in match play, Tiger Woods' inner torment and why caddies are excited about the new commissioner. Enjoy this week's Caddie Confidential.
Collins: Forget the players -- this is a long week for the caddies. How different is this week and format compared to a normal week on tour?
Caddie: I don't think it's that much different. Other than you've got to get here a little earlier. ... (Some) players still want to do two practice rounds ... so it's a little different, but not that big of a deal.
Collins: What's your opinion on the format? Three rounds guaranteed instead of one and done.
Caddie: I personally like it, and here's why. I think in match play, the way it used to be, you get guys coming here from all over (the world) and they have one "off" day and they're done. Here you can have that one off day and still advance, or you still have something to play for because you have the potential to make a little bit more money based on how you finish. ... I know some guys don't like it. A few players didn't show up, but I think that's just because of the way the schedule has gotten ... the way it falls a couple weeks before Augusta.
Collins: Because we're so close to playing the Masters, what's the hardest part about this week?
Caddie: I'd say just conserving your energy. This can be a long week you know. If you have a guy and he plays well, you're looking at seven rounds. That's a lot of golf, especially if you've got a guy who's playing next week in Houston. So I think conserving your energy is the key to being close to Augusta. Augusta is not only a fun place, it's also a very tiring place because it's a lot hillier than people think, and it's stressful.
Collins: Which hole this week will be the toughest one to caddie?
Caddie: Ah man. It just depends on how the matches are going. I think the par-3 there on the front nine, the fourth hole. It's a good little par-3 depending on what the wind's doing and where the pin placement is. I think that's a tough one. When you get on the back nine, I really think that drivable hole (No. 13, 317 yards on the scorecard) is a tough one to caddie. ... It really is a good match-play hole. To lay it up is fairly easy and the wedge shot is easy, but you get some guys who just (takes a deep breath) -- they're like they've got to go for it. The grass behind that green is not good. It's just one of those holes you kind of pucker up when you get to it. You just wish your guy would hit a 4-iron out there to the right and hit a wedge close. Do it that way. Get a few less gray hairs in your head!
Collins: Give me the two guys you want no part of this week because it's match play and they'd be so tough to beat.
Caddie: I look at, I mean he's obviously been playing great, Rory McIlroy. He's driving it so well. I think it's going to be the key this week, not only for him but for everybody. The greens are tricky, and I think where they're going to put the pins there's not going to be a lot of straight putts. I'd say Rory for sure, and then I like Brandt Snedeker. I think it's a great golf course for him. I'm going to give you one more name that I think is going to have a good week: that's Matthew Fitzpatrick. He's kind of a little dark horse, and it's a great golf course for him. He's a really good player, great short game and obviously has a lot of match-play experience.
Collins: Tiger Woods -- what do you think?
Caddie: It's tough, because I like Tiger Woods.
Collins: We all do.
Caddie: I'm thankful for what he's done for this game. You know none of us would be in this position if it wasn't for him, and that's honest. I feel for him, because I think he's empty inside a little bit. I think he's gotten something that was so valuable to him, his physical assets, taken away from him. ... I think his body, as an athlete, it's not able to hold under what he needs it to do. ... Listen man, I mean, certainly not on any sort of the same level, but I was a decent player at one time and I know the way my body feels now after doing this (for years), and when I go and try to play I can't do the same things and so it makes me not enjoy playing, so I can only imagine for him. He loves winning, there's no doubt about it. That's not a secret, but the fact that he can't do that anymore on a regular basis, I'm not saying he can't ever do it again, but right now it probably really hurts inside. He's probably really struggling with that.
Collins: Because shooting 77 is not fun for Tiger Woods.
Caddie: Or anybody (at this level). People have said it before, and it's come back to bite them. "He's done." But man, it's different when you're 28, 29 or even in your 30s, people be like, "Psssh, man he's done." And you're like (rolling eyes), "Yeah, OK, whatever." Now that's he's 41 -- I'm (close to the same age), and I know how my body feels! He's done a hell of a lot more than me, so I wish nothing but the best for him. He's been amazing for the game.
Collins: Since the APTC (Association of Professional Tour Caddies) was formed and the new commissioner (Jay Monahan) is now in office, how are things for caddies?
Caddie: It's gotten way better. A lot of it, and I would tell him to his face, was Tim Finchem. He was the leader of the tribe, so to speak. He had a terrible outlook on caddies for whatever reason. It hurt a lot of guys out here for a long time because you have a tour that's providing such a great product, making so much money and doing so much for charities. I'm all about charities, but they didn't do anything for us. Whatever his hang-up was on caddies set us back 15 to 20 years. Now that the new (commissioner) is coming in, he seems very pro-caddie. It's a whole different view. (He) realizes that we're not a bunch of bums and vagabonds or whatever word you want to call us. ... He's receptive to some of our ideas ... and it's gotten better at every tournament! ... Last week at Bay Hill, that was at one point one of the worst caddie treatment tournaments of all time, but the last two years were unbelievable. Listen, people like the caddies. If your player is in a bad mood for the Wednesday pro-am, we're the ones that are talking to the CEO of whatever. We're the ones throwing a signed ball to a kid after your player's done playing. Those are the little things that are growing the game, and the tour had failed to realize we actually do bring a little something. So it's nice now to finally see that tournaments are kind of picking up on it.
Collins: Austin is known for its nightlife and music scene. What's the hot spot this week?
Caddie: I couldn't tell you. I stay away from all that. I got a nice little place at (a hotel), and I just chill out and go to Lupe Tortilla and the Yard House for dinner. I stay away from that downtown district.
Collins: You think fans still believe caddies still party like it's 1999? At this week's event, how many caddies are going to go out and hit the town hard?
Caddie: I'd say if anybody does it they're idiots, during the week. If your guy loses and you're sticking around town for a couple days ... then maybe you go out, catch a live music show and maybe tie one on a little bit, cab it home (to the hotel). I'd say very little this event and really hardly any events guys do it (party) anymore.
Caddie: One, it's too hard to get a job out here anymore. It's always been hard, but it's really hard now. Not only the amount of money you're playing for, but all these guys feel like they have a chance to win every week, and you only get so many chances to win. You don't want to screw that up. And the quality of guys, caddies, has changed over the last 15 to 20 years. Guys are much more responsible. They're husbands, they're fathers, they have families. They have just a little bit more than themselves to think about instead of just the gas money to get to the next tournament, which is the way it was when you started!
Collins: Now it's a business.
Caddie: Yeah. You can now get a little bit ahead in life and you don't want to screw that up. I think a lot of guys have become a lot more responsible. Sorry man, it's no dirt but that's what it's come to. But the question was what the fans think we really do, and that's the truth. Nobody is going out, getting chopped up and going to struggle making it to the first tee.
Collins: The winning caddie this week has 166,000 reasons to not party hard in Austin (10 percent of the winner's check).