PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The Wells Fargo Championship last week and the Players Championship this week are the two biggest events on the PGA Tour for caddies. The first because of the treatment, the second because of the money.
Wonder how the caddies feel about the "super groups"? Does not allowing media on the driving range really make a difference? The truth is what you want, and Caddie Confidential always delivers.
Show me the money
Collins: Last week's Wells Fargo and this week's Players championships are two big tournaments, but for caddies ...
Caddie: [Sly smile crosses his face] They're a little different.
Collins: They're a little different?
Caddie: Starting with the parking. Last week, we got the valet. Pulled right up to the clubhouse. This week, we have our own lot. A big lot, there's no parking spots at 10 this morning.
Caddie: [Angry whisper and nod] Yeah! I don't know who all's parking in there, but it's a lot more than caddies.
Collins: What is it about this tournament that's special to the caddies?
Caddie: Probably the 17th hole. Caddies have a chance to hit a shot and win some money.
Collins: Sometimes big money.
Caddie: Yeah, depending on the pot.
Collins: Best thing about this tournament?
Caddie: The purse [$11 million]. Yeah, the money.
Collins: This week can be a really good week for the caddie wallet.
Caddie: And it's a course that any player can win on. You have to have patience. So if you have a player who doesn't have a lot of patience, it's tough on the caddie to get them to hit the right clubs off certain tees.
Collins: Everyone is talking about the tournament moving from May to March.
Caddie: Yeah. I don't know about that. The course is going to play completely different. They're not going to be able to get it as firm and fast as it is in May because it's going to be overseeded, I'm sure. It can be cold and wet. The weather isn't going to be as good. The crowds are going to come no matter what, just the condition of the golf course [will be different].
Collins: But the crowds are going to look a lot different, too, that time of year.
Caddie: [Laughing] Yeah, the amount will be the same, but they'll be all bundled up. You're going to see a lot of rain gear!
Collins: Right. Who's excited about that? ... What's the thought of the two big marquee groups being put together? (Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler; Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas)
Caddie: Every tournament is going to have their marquee groups. I think it's good. The only thing is, there's going be so many people following that group [Tiger, Phil, Rickie]. [The crowd] is not going to be able to catch as much action as, say, if they spread those guys out a little bit. Personally, I don't want to be around any of them.
Collins: For real?
Caddie: Especially in front of them, because of the crowds. You don't want to be distracted from it. ... I mean Phil, Tiger and, who is it ... Rickie?
Caddie: And then you got Jordan, Justin and Rory. You're going to have so many people following those groups around the golf course. And then you're going to have other groups and they're not going to have anybody.
Collins: Is that like a dis though? The PGA Tour says, "We're going to put these guys together because the only people following you is your family."
Caddie: You know what, though, they do it in all the majors. They have their "super pairings" in every major, and this is considered the fifth major. It is the biggest purse in golf and has the strongest field.
The 'fifth major' factor
Collins: So that's what makes it a major, biggest purse and strongest field?
Caddie: From top to bottom, it's the best field in golf. Better than the majors.
Collins: So if the Players has to replace one, because there can only be four majors, which major is it replacing?
Caddie: Definitely wouldn't be Augusta. U.S. Open ... no.
Collins: Open Championship?
Caddie: [Big sigh] Aaaaaahh. I'd probably have to say the PGA.
Collins: So if they're going to flip-flop 'em out, PGA is out. That's funny because the PGA Tour and the PGA of America used to be together. Now not only did they separate, you have the Tour taking their last tournament away!
Caddie: [Laughing] Yeah, but it's always been known as the stepchild of the majors! Maybe [the PGA Championship] might change since they're going to put it in May next year. So it'll be before the U.S. Open. It won't be "Glory's Last Shot." Now, the Open Championship will be the last major of the year.
The course favors ... nobody
Collins: Let's talk about this week's course, TPC Sawgrass. Everyone talks about the finish. Other than those final three holes, what makes this course special?
Caddie: Literally anybody can win. I mean, you've had short hitters like a Fred Funk win here, and you've had the bombers. It doesn't set up for any particular golfer. You have to be precise. You have to control your golf ball. You have to hit fairways. If you miss the fairways, you have to be able to control your golf ball to hit it in the right spots around the greens. And there's a lot of water out there. Not only the last three holes. There's holes that you don't even think of water coming into play, like the second hole. There's water on Nos. 4, 5, 6, 7. There's water on No. 9 off the tee! There's water hazards everywhere!
Collins: And you [caddies] have to be aware of them!
Caddie: Yeah. There's water on 11, 12, 13. [Laughing] It's just ... there's only a handful of holes out there the water doesn't come in to play. I noticed the other day, when I was walking the course, there's certain holes, like No. 1 and the 15th hole, where if you miss the fairway ... there's fairway, there's first cut, and then it goes straight into pine straw. There's no rough. And then you have the crowds, where the ropes are right up to the first cut. So you're going have some guys get some pretty funky lies in that pine straw from the crowds walking through there.
Collins: That is wild, because other holes have rough.
Caddie: Yeah. There might be some other ones out there, but I didn't really notice them as much.
Collins: What about No. 12, the "reachable" par-4? A bunch of guys complained about that hole last year
Caddie: I [missed] last year, so I don't know.
Caddie No. 2 jumps in: They raised and flattened the slope [on the left side of the fairway], so it's not as sharp right to left.
Collins: That's good. Won't shoot tee balls in the water.
Caddie No. 2: [Nodding] So it kicks a little straighter. And there was a pot bunker on the right that they pushed further right.
Caddie: I heard they didn't really touch the green. Did they?
Caddie No. 2: No. They didn't touch the green. I asked the guys [grounds crew].
Caddie: Here's my thought on that hole: If they want to make that a true, drivable par-4, they need to redo it.
Collins: Blow it up and start over?
Caddie: Why not just play the back tee? Play it as a normal hole, where you still have options off the tee. You can be aggressive and try to hit driver up there and have wedge in. Lay back, hit an iron. But for the tee they play and trying to make guys go for it, I don't really think it's worth the risk.
Collins: The risk is not worth the reward?
Caddie: Exactly. Because you bail out right. There's water left, and you bail out right. Then you could hit your second shot in the water if you don't hit a good shot. And then when you lay back, it's not an easy wedge shot. Especially to the front right and back right pins.
Questions on the range
Collins: This year the tour is not letting media on the driving range. How does that affect y'all?
Caddie: Doesn't really affect us at all. There's certain tournaments -- one of them that stands out to me is Bay Hill [Arnold Palmer Invitational] -- it seems like there are hundreds of people on that driving range. It doesn't really affect us at all. I mean it's kind of like, "Who are all these people, and why are they here?" We're still going to do our thing and get our work done. I noticed that they're not even letting the putter reps set up on the practice green this week. They are not allowed to put their bags and putters on the greens this week.
Caddie: Yeah. Was that a thing they did last year?
Collins: No. Is that this tournament trying too hard to be a major?
Caddie: Yeah, I think so. For sure... Now, I can understand cutting back a little bit, but I don't want it turning into Augusta, where you can only have your caddie and one person. I hope they don't get to that point because it is the Players Championship. This is about [the players].
OK, let's eat
Collins: Food good this week?
Caddie: So far it's been OK. I mean, it's no Wells Fargo, but ... [laughing]
Collins: That is the one tournament where, if a player asks his caddie for input on schedule, the caddie always says, "We're going to play [Wells Fargo]!"
Caddie: They have the best food of the year [at Wells Fargo]. On Cinco de Mayo, they had Mexican food for us.
When the work is done ...
Collins: Most major weeks, caddies are so focused, then tired, they won't go out on the town. This week we're at the beach in a pretty good area for night life. What's your plan at night?
Caddie: I'm not going to. We have a house south [away from town], on the beach, so I'm just going to be hanging out at the house, walking up and down the beach, enjoying the peace and quiet.
Collins: I am so hating on you right now.
Caddie: Getting away from the crowds. I'm not a big fan of huge crowds. [laughing]
Collins: [Also laughing] That's one of the things fans don't get nowadays when they're like, "Hey! Where's the party at?!" And caddies are like ...
Caddie: As far away from you as ... [starts laughing and can't finish]
Collins: What's the one thing no one talks about when it comes to this tournament?
Caddie: Hmm. Probably what it takes to get mentally prepared to play this tournament. There have been low scores in the past -- if the conditions are right. This is a true test of all parts of your game and being prepared mentally to deal with it. Especially coming down the stretch those last three holes, you have to be mentally tough. If you're trying to come from behind, you have to [lock in] and hit some good golf shots. You have to be mentally focused.
Collins: How do you do that? Is there a way?
Caddie: I think it differs from player to player. Some players have it, and some guys don't. And the guys that don't, they just have to find a way to gut it out.
Collins: Hang on to that steering wheel for dear life!
Caddie: Speaking of steering... A week like this, they try and steer that golf ball around the golf course, and that's when it's going to jump up and bite you. You just have to go out there and trust your swing. Let it happen.