An inevitable question was asked to golf coach Hank Haney on Wednesday during an instructional clinic he put on for about 100 club members, staff and media at Black Bear Golf Course in Carlton.
“How much does a caddy really matter on tour?” asked a person in the crowd to Haney, who has coached Tiger Woods, Mark O’Meara, 200 touring professionals and is the host of The Haney Project on the Golf Channel.
The question was related to Woods’ firing of his longtime caddy Steve Williams prior to last week’s Bridgestone Invitational. Williams, who won 13 majors on Woods’ bag, was then hired by Adam Scott and he went on to win the Bridgestone.
Here is Haney’s response to the question:
“If the caddy doesn’t make that much of a difference, why did Adam Scott just pay Steve Williams $140,000 to carry his bag around last weekend? That’s a lot of money. He paid him 10 percent of his win to carry his bag around and I’m going to listen to people tell me caddies don’t matter? Come on. Please. The players think they matter or they wouldn’t be paying them that kind of money.
You could get somebody out of the gallery and say ‘hey, you want to have the time of your life? You can caddy for me.’ And the guy could have saved $140,000. You want to know something? He probably wouldn’t have won the tournament. I don’t know if it makes one shot a round, I don’t know if it makes two shots a round, I don’t know if it makes a shot a tournament or a shot a month. I just know it is an advantage no player would want to give up.
They would always want to have a good caddy, one that would give them good information, one that would be able to help them make a good decision in the clutch. That is one thing Steve Williams does very, very well. And he told us all. (crowd laughter). He got carried away there, there’s no doubt about it. But he is a great caddy. He’s the best caddy I’ve ever seen. It’s not just luck. He’s been on the bag.
The caddy lingo is, you know, ‘I’ve won this many tournaments.’ He knows he hasn’t won but that’s what they say. That’s a joke all the time with the players with caddies. Whenever they play good, the caddy says ‘we shot this.’ Whenever the he played bad, ‘he played terrible.’ (crowd laughter) That kind of irks the players a little bit. Without a doubt and for good reason.
But he’s (Williams) been on the bag for 145 tour victories. You just don’t get lucky that many times. He’s bringing something to the party. And he is a great, great caddy under pressure. In the tournaments, especially coming down the stretch, all the players get nervous. The caddies are more nervous. Steve Williams never ever, ever, ever, chokes. Never. Ever. It’s amazing. He will be out there and he will do his job. He’s not scared to say something.
Most of the time these caddies get under pressure and they clamp up. It’s unbelievable. It’s like they don’t want to say anything and it’s the same thing with coaches. I remember when Mark O’Meara won his first major at the 1998 Masters. He’s getting ready to tee off for the last round and Mark’s wife comes up to me. She doesn’t know anything about golf – I mean she knows what she’s watched a little bit. She comes up to me and says ‘Hank, whatever you do don’t tell Mark anything. Just tell him he’s doing good.’ (crowd laughter).
O.K. but that’s not how he got in this position. Because if something doesn’t look right, he wants to know it and he wants to know it five minutes before he tees off. He wants to know. And a good caddy will give a player information and a good coach will too. Sometimes they just can’t make words come out of their mouths. Steve Williams can always make words come out of his mouth.”
Haney, who said he visits Minnesota about once a year, spent about 45 minutes instructing the fundamentals of the golf swing during the morning clinic at the Black Bear driving range before taking questions from the crowd. Black Bear is relatively new on the Minnesota golf scene. The Robert D. Graves designed course opened in 2003 next to the casino at the junction of Interstate 35 and Highway 210. The par 72 course plays at 6,560 yards from the blue tees.
After signing autographs and posing for photos with guests, Haney answered questions from the media in a press conference on the range. He said he hopes an American can win the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club.
With Woods currently unable find the game that made him the No. 1 player in the world, I asked Haney if there is any player on tour who can dominate the PGA Tour field the way Woods did for nearly a decade.
“No. Nobody will ever play like Tiger again. I think Tiger Woods is just once in a lifetime player and I just don’t see that happening. Jack Nicklaus is the greatest player who has ever played because has the greatest record, won the majors and has the record. But I don’t think anyone has played better golf than Tiger Woods. There is nobody who is even close to Tiger Woods.”