SOUTHPORT, England -- Mother Nature dropped her fury on the course Wednesday, leaving you and me standing in the cold with no rain gear and no Caddie Confidential.
But we were not dissuaded Thursday, thanks to a very nice caddie who had to go back to work for a bit after we started talking but came back to finish our chat. Ready to hear the truth about Royal Birkdale and the first-round setup? The promise of anonymity to my caddie friends means you always know you get the truth. Enjoy Caddie Confidential at The Open, Round 1.
As we sit down, two young boys approach the caddie, who has placed the golf bag next to us.
First boy: Excuse me. Is there any possible chance that I might be able to have a ball please?
Caddie: As you asked so nicely, there is. (To other boy) Would you like one, little man?
Second boy: Yes, please!
Caddie: You're both very polite. Obviously very well brought up. (Hands them each a golf ball.)
Both boys: Thank you so much!
Collins: When I caddied, I had a kid scream, "Gimme your 3-wood!"
Collins: I wish it was a joke, but when I looked at the kid's mom she just shrugged and said, "Maybe he'll get one."
Collins: What makes The Open different than any of the other majors?
Caddie: Primarily the elements. I've never caddied in an Open where the weather's been perfect. ... As a caddie, right from when you pack the bag in the locker room you've literally got everything. From sunscreen to scarves to hats to the four different sweaters in the different colors that they have to wear. I mean, the bag's not big enough! So you're carrying the heavy bag around [because] the day changes.
Collins: What makes this place so special?
Caddie: There's not a bad hole on the golf course. There's not one which stands out where you'll say, "That's the signature hole," but every hole is good. And it's very rarely that you'll go to any golf course that you'll say every hole is good. So it's just the consistency of good holes. It's a good test. ... I just love the way it flows; it has such a great flow to it. You'd think you'd get bored playing par-4 after par-4, but you don't. You look at this [score]card and you think, "Well, looks quite boring." Then you actually go out there and have a fantastic time.
Collins: Which hole surprised you the most in Round 1?
Caddie: Uh, the first hole surprises me of how hard it is; it's just brutal. It's the hardest hole on the golf course! Not only because it's the first tee shot, but it's brutal. It's savage.
Collins: What makes it so hard?
Caddie: Well, I think it's the fact that it's the first tee shot -- you're finding your game, you're finding the strength of the wind and everything else, and the majority of people are hitting irons off the tee. Like a low 2-iron. On a hard left-to-right wind. And then you're hitting a relatively blind mid- to long-iron into a crosswind. So it's just two very demanding golf shots followed by a very quirky green.
Collins: What was the hardest thing about caddying today [Thursday]?
Caddie: The hardest thing today? For me personally it was knowing that we had the right setup. Because I persuaded my golfer to put four wedges in. We've got four wedges and no 2-iron. So I lost a lot of sleep last night thinking, "I wonder if he's going to absolutely rip me after the round for saying we should have carried the 2-iron." And that's genuine. I sat on that first tee today and had to give him [a] 3-iron, and we had to hit a 5-iron in ... and I thought "Mmm, maybe we should have carried the 2-iron." That was the hardest part. The uncertainty. Probably the easiest part? The easiest part was giving him a 9-iron into 17. That was the easiest part of the day, because it was just a perfect number for us ... so from my point of view it was just cartwheels in my head.
Collins: Which hole played the most different compared to the practice round?
Caddie: The eighth hole. For instance, today we hit driver and it was just a "flick" with a lob wedge. ... Whereas yesterday it was a driver and a 6-iron. So yeah, the wind was a complete 180 switch. All the clubs you hit for the last two days are irrelevant. Luckily we played on Monday and it was the same wind [as Thursday], so we kind of knew what to expect.
Collins: How much more or less mentally tiring is this major compared to the others?
Caddie: Mentally I find Augusta horrid. I think it's the golf course. ... I find that week shattering compared to any other week. At least out here we're trying to play at least for front edge or roughly front edge, where at Augusta you're playing for inches.
Collins: Does it make a big difference for the caddies when the golf broadcast starts so early over here? It's on for the first tee shot.
Caddie: Yeah, it's fantastic. It's only been recently that it's happened. ... I was up at 6:30 watching the first shot and I managed to watch an hour of golf, so I saw like the first five or six holes, pin positions and all that, which is great! It saved me going out and walking, getting all wet and cold.
Collins: Would you come out, though?
Caddie: If there's something that I feel like I need to see, then I'll go and see it. But because there's so much you can see on TV, it's a huge advantage.
Collins: Give me one thing about this course that would surprise people to know?
Caddie: That's such a good question and such a hard answer. I mean, generally speaking I think just how fair this golf course is. I'm sure on TV you see guys hitting bad shots and good shots -- yeah it looks brutal, but it rewards good shots. If you play well here, you will shoot a good score. There's no tricks up there. It is very, very fair, unlike some of the other courses that we play. ... You get out what you put in really [at Royal Birkdale]. The person that wins it at the end of this week is going to be the person that stripes it around. There's not going to be any flukes this week.