Caddie Confidential: Zurich Classic format creates buzz, uncertainty

AVONDALE, La. -- The caddies at this week's Zurich Classic get to be a part of golf history. For the first time, the event is using two-man teams playing two rounds of foursomes (alternate shot) and two rounds of four-ball (best ball).

Sounds like fun, right? Not so fast! Our anonymous caddie this week used the saying "too many cooks in the kitchen," which in New Orleans is definitely appropriate. Caddying for your player is one thing, but having two other guys on your team is something else.

Enjoy this week's Caddie Confidential.

Collins: How long after the format was announced did your player start talking about getting a partner and playing?
Caddie: He was excited. It wasn't long, and he had already kind of figured out who he wanted to [partner] with. I'm excited about it. I think it's one of the better-run tournaments on tour ... they're in a tough spot on the schedule, they've had terrible weather, so I think it's great they've had a rejuvenation as far as the field and the "buzz."... Especially after the Ryder Cup and what Patrick [Reed] and Rory [McIlroy] did, it was the perfect time to follow all that up with, "Let's do a team thing." Break up the monotony a little.

Collins: You said "buzz" earlier. What's the buzz you've heard from caddies and players about this event?
Caddie: I've heard guys talking about it for two or three months since they decided [on the format]. Normally you'd never hear guys talking about New Orleans except for [complaining]. Everybody's been pumped, for sure.

Collins: On your team, who's been doing the most homework: the players or the caddies?
Caddie: So I've got a theory on that, and maybe this is from my limited team experience. I think the wrong thing to do is overthink it. So our team and our partnership has taken the concept of, "It's just golf." So let's not put so much pressure on this whole [team] thing. Look at the alternate shot specifically. You don't want too many cooks in the kitchen, because only one guy is hitting a shot at a time, right? So in theory, you would have three caddies on top of the one player if you're taking it that seriously, right? I think if you want your player's input, that's great, but my player and I, when it's not our tee, we're just going to stay down the fairway and let our partner and his caddie do their normal routine. Because that way you're not feeling the weight of, "My partner's here, and I feel all this pressure. I've got to hit a perfect drive." Just let them play golf, because that's all you're doing still! Right?

Collins: True, but this is historic because we've never played alternate shot before on the PGA Tour.
Caddie: And especially stroke play! The guys who've played it in the past were match play. I said last week, something funny is going to happen. Somebody is going to tap in a putt or pick up a ball or do something out of instinct, thinking that's the "normal" range of play. I'm kind of curious to see how, if that happens, the rules officials have to deal with it.

Collins: Do you know of any guys who've played alternate shot during practice rounds before this week?
Caddie: I don't. We played a practice round with our partner [a while back], just like nine holes just to hang out and chitchat. We didn't try to get an "official" practice in for alternate shot because, again, as a caddie, I look at it like, let's make it the least amount of pressure as possible. Make it super fun. I don't want my guy or our partner feeling like, "Gosh, I've got to hit this shot for my guy." Especially alternate shot. Best ball is going to be way different because they're both great players, so you're going to have one guy probably hanging in there to make par [every hole]. But alternate shot on a course like this, when the wind's blowing 25 mph -- there's a lot of water out here ... crazy bunkers -- you could get some big swings, you know. Guys playing really good and then make a double or something.

Collins: What do you think will be the hardest part of caddying this event?
Caddie: I think the hardest part is going to be the fact that you're only playing half the round in alternate shot. And it's like, you want to be involved, but I don't want to be too involved. I was talking to some other guys, and what they've experienced in some team events when players and caddies overthink it -- like both caddies start getting numbers and one caddie goes, "We got 135." And the other caddie says, "No, no, wait. I think that was the wrong [sprinkler] head. We've got to double-check that." And then they change it. Then the [first] caddie realizes, "No, no, no -- I was right the first time!" All of a sudden you've got indecision, kind of crazy situations and stressful things you don't normally see if you just have one player and caddie. Like I said, too many cooks in the kitchen. I think you just have to find a balance so you're not adding pressure to your player.

Collins: Off the course, what about New Orleans?
Caddie: New Orleans is a place that has a ton of culture, and if you embrace what New Orleans is -- like to me, the first couple years I didn't get it. Then over the years I realized it's a super special place, and I just love coming here.
Collins: The city has a vibe unlike anywhere else in our country.
Caddie: Anywhere. The city has a history and a culture and the people! The people are lovers, right? I mean, they just love you, welcome you, and they want you to experience their history. And their food! You know, you can have a relaxing, chill week or ...
Collins: You can have a week where there are some nights you don't remember!
Caddie: Exactly! And that's all right because we don't get that every week.

Collins: What's the one food you'll eat here this week that you won't eat the rest of the year?
Caddie: Jambalaya and gumbo. My favorite thing to get here: shrimp and grits!
Collins: That's something I only eat here! Shrimp and grits.
Caddie: And crawfish. I normally won't eat crawfish but here. They just know how to do it. I can't think of ever having a bad meal here.
Collins: I eat a year's worth of oysters here, too. Don't eat them anywhere else.
Caddie: That's another thing! I don't either. You eat so many that you don't even want oysters the rest of the year.
Collins: Exactly! OK, we've got to finish this soon because my belly is growling like a bear.

Collins: Back to the challenge of caddying this week. How did you decide who's playing odds or even holes? Three of the par-3s are odd-number holes.
Caddie: We had our stat guy do an analysis of ...
Collins: (I just bust a gut laughing.)
Caddie: Seriously. Of which one of us should play the odd or even holes.
Collins: I'm sorry, but I can't help laughing because, just the fact that you said, "We had our stat guy."
Caddie: No, because you're right. I mean, you got nine tee shots, and one guy is going to hit three par-3s. So you would think that your better driver of the golf ball would hit on the even holes. Maybe the longer of the guys would hit on the even holes and the more consistent guy would hit on the odd holes.

Collins: One thing you'd change about this tournament?
Caddie: Honestly? Only the date on the schedule. I think it's a really difficult place on the schedule if you want to get a good field here.
Collins: Do you think the format now will change that?
Caddie: I do.
Collins: I think next year, the only guy in the top 10 who doesn't play is Adam Scott because he's never played here. And the other three have legit excuses for not being here.
Caddie: Dustin Johnson was scheduled to play originally. ... We'll have to see how this week goes, but I'm optimistic that this will be a game-changer. Not just for this week, but I think for the tour in general. I think because we do the same thing every week we might need a little more mix-up. ... Maybe for some of the more "average" tour stops that people are not that into watching. ... Ratings this week? You watch, ratings are going to be good this week because it's a team event, and you got some dynamic teams out there.

Collins: So what could go wrong? What would be the biggest fear this week?
Caddie: I'll say this. I'm glad they did best ball on Friday and Sunday. There's less opportunity for something to go wrong. Alternate shot is the most volatile thing going on, so you might have a situation where somebody in contention does something silly. You could have a big number coming just because the team concept is just something guys are not used to playing every week. My boss even said to me this morning, "Man, I'm kind of concerned. I want to play good for my partner." I'm like, "When do you ever think that on a weekly basis?" You don't.