ATLANTA -- This was a very tricky Caddie Confidential to do because there are only 30 guys here at the Tour Championship and that's a very small pool. That makes it tough to keep the caddie's identity secret, but what continues to make me laugh about doing this is that the only people who try and figure out my sources on a regular basis are other tour caddies.
This week's caddie and I get deep about money, switching bags and what a caddie should say after a water ball.
Collins: Let's talk money. Not only is the last place money good this week, the FedEx Cup bonus money can be big time too. Do caddies get a taste of the bonus money?
Caddie: I don't know that to be honest with you. It's funny, that's one thing you don't really ask guys. Even though we're close buddies, how much money did you get?
Collins: Like asking another caddie how much taxes did you pay?
Caddie: (laughing) Yeah. But obviously it's become public lately, the guys that have won, like Snedeker, Horschel, and those guys who paid their caddies a million bucks. I don't know how far down guys pay. I know there are a couple guys that have deals with their player, they get a piece of the FedEx money, but I don't think there's that many guys getting paid down the list. If you were to finish 25th on the (final FedEx Cup) list and the player makes, I don't even know what they make $150-200 grand? I think nowadays if a guy finishes first, second, or third, I think [the caddie] is getting a pretty good piece.
Collins: True. And if you finish 28th on the list you might not get a piece of that.
Caddie: No, but at the same time, I think most guys are getting like a 1 percent bonus at the end of the year.
Collins: Anyway, right.
Caddie: Yeah, so you're getting a 1 percent bonus on this as well as what you made for the year. Everybody here (at the Tour Championship) obviously has had a good year and made some good money, so you're getting a nice bonus check.
Collins: How shocked were the caddies when all the changes happened this year with Phil and Bones, Rory and J.P., and now Jason (Day) and Colin?
Caddie: I think very shocked. I mean, we hadn't had any changes in ... Phil and Bones was a complete shock. I think all three of 'em! You don't normally have a lot of big-name guys switching. J. Day and these guys have had their same caddies for a long time and all of the sudden we have three big names switch in two months? So yeah, I think there were a lot of guys that were shocked, including myself.
Collins: And with Phil, Rory, and Jason (Day) still uncommitted to a caddie next year, it must be strange in the caddie rooms wondering, "Is that guy going to call and try for that bag?" It's almost like high school!
Caddie: It is like high school. But you know what? If you want to get in the mix and start asking around, that's fine, but nowadays guys are professional. Rory's not going to start talking. I don't know what his deal is, he's probably got a few guys in mind. He had 150 guys reach out to him.
Collins: Guys were sending their rèsumès!
Caddie: (laughs) His phone's probably blowing up. He's probably sick of it, and he's probably got two or three guys he's thinking about. But it's one of those things that if you want to ask about it and find out information, you probably can. Who knows what's true and what isn't.
Collins: The hard thing for caddies, we are an extremely loyal bunch.
Collins: And in that sense, even if someone else becomes available we're like (hemming and hawing), "This is my dude. I'm not leaving him."
Caddie: And not only that, every guy here this week is a top-30 guy, and you don't really want your guy knowing you're out sniffing around trying to get another bag.
Caddie: It's just not, I mean, at the end of the day, a business is a business, and I think that if you're going to work for a Rory McIlroy, the guy is (28 years old) and the guy is one of the best players in the world. There's not a lot of guys that can argue with it, but at the same time it's hard to go about sniffing around. Because he's no different (than anyone else). You call his agent and his agent is friends with somebody else and it gets back to you.
Caddie: There have already been some grumblings about who's sent him emails and who's called. It's tough. If you really want the job, it's hard.
Collins: We also all know that caddying is temporary. So how's it going to be if you leave your guy to go work for Rory and it doesn't work out? You ain't going back to your old boss! Are players going to be gun shy to hire you?
Caddie: I don't think so, if you get Rory. If you're making "lateral" moves maybe. But if you're going to work for a top-3 player in the world, there's not too many times that opportunity comes up, so I think guys would understand that. At the end of the day, they know it's a business, caddies have families, and at the end of the day caddies want to get up there and compete just as much as the players do ultimately. But everybody has got an ego out here, and don't you forget that.
Collins: That's what I'm saying.
Caddie: When caddies start leaving players, it's a little different than caddies getting fired. We all know that. Players don't like to get fired. (We're both laughing at the truth to that.)
Collins: Yeah, if I break up with you, we can still be friends. If you break-up with me ...
Caddie: Exactly. It's OK if you dump her and then she runs off with some good-looking guy, but if she says, "Bye-bye Mikey! I'm leaving with ..."
Collins: Mikey is going to have a problem. I'm going to be a little bitter!
Caddie: Everybody's got an ego. Especially these guys. Their ego is bigger than most.
Collins: And they have to have an ego.
Caddie: They absolutely have to. That's one reason they're good. If you don't have an ego out here, you're going to get beat up pretty quickly.
Collins: Well, if you don't have an ego, you wouldn't be here this week.
Caddie That's true, and if you are [here this year without an ego], you're not going to be here next year.
Collins: I know this week is different for players with a small field, but what's it like for caddies?
Caddie: It's awesome. It's easy to get around. It's kind of a short week, for most of the guys it's nine holes Tuesday, nine holes Wednesday, and no pro-am, so it's great. (We) stay downtown 15 minutes from the course. Plus, you know it's a big payday, last place check is what, $140 grand? So you know it's a good week for you. It makes everything a bit nicer.
Collins: Monday and Tuesday the course is closed to the public. There aren't even any marshals on the course. Is that strange for the caddies?
Caddie: It's great.
Collins: For real?
Caddie: Well, you know what? I don't mind it because you don't have all that time for a guy having to sign autographs. Easy and quick to the driving range, you know. Makes the day a lot quicker. Guys can get here and get some good work in, play your nine holes, practice a bit, and you're out of there.
Collins: Does it seem like the practice rounds are faster?
Caddie: Yeah. Well, I wouldn't call it that much faster because it's getting to the point where most guys are trying to sign (autographs) after they play as opposed to signing in between holes ... It's unfair if you get a group of guys who everybody wants their autograph and they are signing in between [holes], the group behind them is waiting all day. So I think it makes a lot of sense to just sign after (the round). But yeah, [when there are no people] everybody's quicker. You don't have any signing on the range, and you don't have signing after. I mean, it's not a lot of time, but I think it just makes everything go a little smoother.
Collins: Hardest part about the week?
Caddie: I'll tell yo one thing, if you get off to a bad start, it becomes a long week. Because once you finish outside the top 10, everyone's kind of making the same money, so it's key to get off to a good start here. I wouldn't necessarily say it's that difficult because everyone wants to have a good finish and you know with only 30 guys, if you go out on the weekend and play well ... I don't really think there's anything that's difficult, but I think getting off to a good start, getting in the mix, and staying motivated is important.
Collins: If you're like in 25th or 26th place going into the weekend, it's hard to give your guy a pep talk.
Caddie: Exactly. You have one bad round to start? I forget who [did] last year, but you get one bad round and it's like, (sigh) "OK." Now you're 10 strokes back with three rounds to play. And if you're out of it on the weekend, it can be a little tiring.
Collins: What's the biggest perk for the caddies this week?
Caddie: Uh, probably just the paycheck. The hospitality is nice; it's right in the clubhouse, so it's easy. The parking's good. But I think the best thing this week is knowing you're going to make a great check regardless of how your guy plays.
Collins: And this is another place where the caddies have their own locker room.
Caddie: Yeah ... they always do a great job of taking care of (the caddies). Gary downstairs is great. I got no complaints about this. I don't think anybody can complain about this week, or you got problems.
Collins: True. Any caddie who whines about this week is like complaining about making it to Kapalua.
Caddie: Exactly. This is very similar feel to Kapalua. Right? Thirty, 35 guys, you know?
Collins: Except this walk is much easier. And there are no shuttle rides on the course.
Caddie: Let me tell you, this isn't that easy of a walk. This is a pretty tough golf course to walk. Let me tell you, there's some good hills here. This is not a flat golf course. You got, let's see, the "new" side (the first hole), yeah (No.) 1 is tough.
Collins: How about the par-5 sixth?
Caddie: Exactly. Nine's a tough the par-3. I mean, there's some good walks here.
Collins: So what hole this week is going to be the hardest one to caddie?
Caddie: I would say 15. The par-3 over the water. I mean that's the hardest as far as caddying. You get on that back tee with some wind, I mean you're hitting 5-, 6-iron there. That's not that typical shot. This is a good golf course, so there's a lot of tough holes. The key here is, the greens are so quick, that you have to be on the [correct] side of the hole. You got to play smart golf.
Collins: Stay below the hole at all costs.
Caddie: These greens can get so fast. Let me tell you, you can be 10 feet above the hole putting down grain and you might wanna be 30 feet putting uphill putting into the grain. Because sometimes (downgrain) you got no putt.
Collins: I'm curious to know, on a hole like the par-3 14th, if your player hits a shot in the water, what do you say to him? Or when do you say something to him?
Caddie: Well, it all depends on the guy right? My guy knows when he hits a bad shot. That's fine. Let's get up there and make a four. You got a 60-, 70-yard wedge shot, so you go up there and you make a four. You're going to have a good chance at making four because of where the drop zone is, so close. And guys know it's a tough hole. You play the back tee and you're hitting a 5-iron to an island green. You got to suck it up and hit a good shot. Everybody knows it's a good hole where you got to hit a good shot or you pay the penalty. There's no bail-out.