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December 06, 2001

Blame it (more) on caddie
By Dan Patrick

Are you still talking about David Duval's win at the British Open? I didn't think so. Are you still talking about what happened with Ian Woosnam's caddie, Myles Byrne? I thought so.

There seem to be two schools of thought on who was right and who was wrong. Or, in this case, who was more wrong.

When the caddie for PGA Tour player Olin Browne called into the radio show, he made a distinction: On the range, the clubs belong to the player. Once the player leaves the range, they belong to the caddie.

ESPN and ABC analysts Curtis Strange and Ian Baker-Finch also believe the blame falls on the caddie. Strange said during the broadcast he would have fired his caddie on the spot. Would that have forced Woosnam to carry his own clubs for the duration of the match? Can't imagine that, could we?

ESPN analyst Andy North says Woosnam is to blame. After all, they are his clubs. Woosnam should have noticed there were one too many drivers in his bag. There is some accountability there.

But like a mechanic who takes responsibility for the driver's car -- it's his or her job to return the car to the driver fully intact -- the clubs are the caddie's responsibility. It's the caddie's job. The pro golfer's job is to try and win a tournament and not worry about what's in his bag. Yes, Woosnam was trying out a new driver on the range, but he also told Byrne to take the driver out of his bag.

Because Royal Lytham & St. Annes starts with a par-3 first hole, Woosnam, who does not carry a 3-wood in his bag, used his 1-iron off the first tee. Had the first hole been a par-4, would he have spotted the other driver sooner? Maybe.

Mike Tirico doesn't buy into that theory. When a player is competing in the final round of the British Open for the opportunity to win his first major in 10 years, he said, there are probably a few other things on his mind besides how many clubs he has in his bag. Counting clubs was probably the last thing Woosnam was thinking about.

I am not suggesting Woosnam would have won the British Open had he not been penalized. There is culpability on both sides. Certainly, the caddie can be blamed for allowing an extra club to remain in the bag, causing the two-stroke penalty. But Woosnam also deserves blame for how he reacted to the penalty. The two penalty strokes cost him, but it took him awhile to regroup. He bogeyed the third and fourth holes, and those two extra strokes cost him as well as the penalty.

Give Woosnam credit for showing some class and restraint in the heat of the moment by not firing his caddie on the spot, as Strange suggested. No one knows how long Byrne will stay employed. He probably doesn't know. Maybe Woosnam is waiting for the spotlight to fade before making that decision.

Just like Jean Van de Velde's "Poseidon Adventure" did with Paul Lawrie's 1999 victory, we didn't want this mishap to take attention away from Duval's winning first major, but it did.

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