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Caddies often thrown for a loop

Before we get to the hiring of a new caddie for Tiger Woods, we have to talk about how he fired Stevie Williams.

Tiger says he fired Stevie face to face. Stevie says he got fired over the phone. They're both telling their own version of the truth.

As a caddie, I have to side with Stevie, though, on the exact time of the firing. They might have sat down and had a face-to-face and heart-to-heart (exactly how much would it cost to keep that book from coming out?), but when the phone rang and it was Tiger saying, "We need to talk ..."

Why yes, it is the same as when a woman says it to you.

But you have to understand, it's the nature of the business. Sometimes when a player says we just need a break for a little bit, caddies and players get back together and have success.

Most recently my old boss and his former caddie -- Scott Piercy and his looper Darren Woolard -- took a break for a little less than a year. (I worked for him from the 2010 John Deere through the 2011 Puerto Rico Open.) And Piercy turned around and just won the Reno-Tahoe Open two weeks ago. But it is definitely not the norm; usually when it's over ... it's over.

How guys get fired can happen a few ways. These are a few of my favorites:

• Tearful-goodbye firing: The one that made me feel the worst was when the guy I had been caddying for a while, and who was and still is a really good friend, wasn't playing well and realized I wasn't going to be able to caddie for him at PGA Tour Q-school. I was lucky enough that my new career on the media side had started to blossom, and my player wanted to give me the opportunity to fully pursue that career path.

Of course, he didn't tell me that part. So when he let me go, he called me on the phone five minutes after he left me at the golf course, to tell me. Clearly upset at the decision he was making -- he didn't want to cry in front of me -- which made me cry. I can honestly say it's the only time I cried after getting fired.

• Most confusing firing: Miss the cut in the first event on the job, make the cut in our second but don't have a top-10 finish, so we are not qualified for the next tournament, in Phoenix. We still go to TPC Scottsdale together, but he decides he's going to have his coach caddie the Monday qualifier.

They miss ... let me write that one more time to clarify ... they miss qualifying for the tournament by a couple of shots. Again I'm standing with my player in the parking lot talking about the next event. I leave and go to the house of a friend I'm staying with that week. I'm there for about an hour when I get a call from my player.

"So you wanna do this now or ... 'cause I think I need to make a change."

Uh, I think you just did.

• Biggest relief firing: Picked up a rookie in the parking lot at an event after being fired two weeks before. I had known him from my days caddying on the Nationwide Tour and realized just how good he was. I knew he was going to win. What I didn't know was what an egomaniac he was at the time.

I do have to say he is no longer like that, as this game at this level will smack you down if you get too big for your britches.

My TV work had gotten me recognized publicly, and by our third week together, my player was getting a bit annoyed with more people asking for my autograph than his. I get along with 99 percent of the guys on tour and they know my background as a comic, so when they hear new jokes, they'll always come share them with me. That also annoyed my player because he thought players should be talking only to him and not his "servant."

During the week of a U.S. Open, I was told specifically that if I did one interview, I was fired. That's when it got really good.

One of the things caddies, myself included, will do is give the used golf balls to kids in the crowd as we are playing a round. We always try to save two for when we finish, one for the sign bearer and one for the walking scorer. But most pros don't care whether the caddies keep them or give them away.

Not my guy.

Here's the speech I got from his wife: "Mike, we don't want you giving the golf balls to kids during the round. If [my player] feels like giving a child a ball, then the youngster should feel the honor of receiving it directly from [my player.] It doesn't mean anything coming from you."

Hmph, well ain't that a ...

Two weeks later, on a Thursday after shooting a 78, the player's wife came out to the parking lot to inform me she was going caddie for her husband on Friday and that my services were no longer needed. She caddied him to a 66 on Friday, and they missed the cut by only one. He won later that year. His wife was not on the bag.

It just goes to show you, it doesn't matter how good an individual player or caddie is, on the course they have to work together and get along with each other to have success.

Now on to the hiring.

Nowadays, no caddies get hired by just hanging out in the parking lot on Monday and Tuesday, but there have been a couple of hirings that have made my ears perk up just a little bit.

Last year, Paul Stankowski didn't expect to get into the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic. He was well down the alternate list and didn't want his full-time caddie to fly to Florida to sit and hope for a spot. (For those of you who don't know, caddies pay all their own expenses -- airfare, hotel, car rentals, etc.)

So what would Stanko do for a caddie just in case? Turns out the week before a guy had found him on Twitter and offered his services on the off chance Paul got in. When Paul goes to fifth alternate and decides to go to Orlando, imagine the surprise when the guy checks Twitter and there's a message from Stankowski asking whether he still wants to loop for him.

Lo and behold, Rocco Mediate pulls out on Thursday morning, and guess who is the last man in the field? And it gets better. Not only does Stankowski make the cut, but he shoots 66 on Sunday to end up in a tie for 17th.

I even know of a caddie who was hired via Facebook.

A European player didn't have a phone number for a caddie he wanted to talk to about a job -- the looper was sitting at home in Australia after being let go two months earlier -- and he probably thought the call would be really expensive. So he asked about the guy. Turns out another caddie talked to the pro and suggested Facebook.

Wonder if it was like junior high ... "If I 'like' your Facebook page, will you 'like' mine back?"

I can't make too much fun -- they're still together, and that was two years ago.

So what is the process for Tiger Woods? Rumors had Mark O'Meara's caddie Shane Joel in Akron, Ohio, on the driving range "interviewing" with Woods for the position. Seems like a long way to go (Joel lives in Florida) just for a quick chat about maybe working for a guy. But according to Tiger, he hasn't made any solid choices on a full-time loop yet.

Woods said in his news conference at the PGA Championship that some of the offers he's gotten are from people who are not professional caddies, and he laughed when he thought about it. Which leads me to believe there must be a process like a real job interview involved.

And if there is, what do you ask your perspective boss and what does he ask you? Can anybody get in for an interview? Imagine what some of those sit-downs must have been like. Maybe like this?

Michael Collins covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPNcaddie@gmail.com.