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Is It Important to Have a Caddy on Tour?

phillyk

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This isn't apart of my normal road to championship stuff, but just something I thought about a lot in the Kuchar caddy payment thread.
Part of the Kuchar issue is what role the caddy actually played, in his win.  But, it begs the larger question of what does a caddy really do for a Tour player?

Besides the normal role of carrying a bag and raking bunkers, etc., a caddy is, imo, in essence a GPS for the player, a support person, and sometimes a coach.  Not that the player can't get the info on their own or that they don't already.  But, a player does not make it to the PGA Tour because of a caddy.  Many of these guys played in college without caddies.  They were already top athletes before they decided to hire an extra hand.  They made or bought their own yardage books and marked them up with notes during practice rounds, they found their own yardages, they decided what shots to play throughout the round, they played through any emotional stress, etc, all without a caddy to get to where they are.  

I said before that a caddy is like a GPS.  Well, GPS's should be able to speed up pace of play.  A player using a caddy should be able to make decisions faster, and I think this is true most of the time.  But I'm sure there are cases where the caddy second guesses the player and then they sit there for 5min debating what idea is best.  The real question, I think, is how many strokes is gained purely for a caddy helping by way of being a GPS?  I'd say it's a pretty small number and definitely not a stroke per round, because all the info given is something the player can already do for themselves and pace of play is laughable on tour.

Another part that a caddy helps with is emotion / mental support.  Especially for newer players on Tour who may have a lot of jitters, having a support person to keep the noise (distractions like all the bill boards with their name, pic and stats, all the people or audible noises, and then the typical noise like bunkers or hazards to try and ignore) in check can mean something.  Keep you focused on the game when needed and not the emotions that come with the game. After a bad shot or maybe in between shots, distracting the player to make them feel more content.  A player doesn't want to be on overdrive or pissed, there's a middle ground where the best golf can be played and having a caddy to help keep you there can save one from a stupid decision or rushed swing.  Again, how many strokes can be gained from having a caddy for emotional / mental support?  I'd say it's definitely higher than the GPS caddy, but still not a lot.

The last part a caddy could help with is by being a coach.  This could go either way as for how helpful it is. No one should really be trying to change their swing or routine in the middle of a round as it usually creates more problems than it solves.  But like in the case of Holmes in the final round this last weekend, the caddy actually helped adjust his set up with his driver in the middle of the round, and he seemed to hit the ball a bit better after that.  It's hard to assign a value here to potential strokes gained, because I don't think it's very common.  I could be wrong. Either way, most players, I'd assume, have some sort of back up plan should their swing go haywire, so having a caddy there for this purpose may not be needed.

As far as the local caddy vs normal caddy topic, from my own experience at Pinehurst #2, the caddy that was given to our group supposedly knew every crevasse and slope but routinely mis-read breaks on the greens.  Maybe he was doing a half-assed job intentionally or maybe he really didn't know the course.  Either way, he didn't help for being a GPS caddy (because of having a yardage book and rangefinder) and he definitely didn't help for being a support or mental help caddy.  My experience is just one example but a local caddy is unlikely to provide any emotional support to anyone unless they know each other, but may help as far as a GPS caddy.  For Kuchar's case, he played/walked the course before marking all his notes, etc.  I doubt he needed the caddy for helping with GPS-like stuff, and because the two didn't know each other, the caddy wasn't really a support person.  He definitely filled the role of carrying a bag and raking bunkers, but there likely wasn't more to it than that.

So, what is a caddy worth?  Is it worth paying a few thousand dollars a round for the potential stroke(s) gained on the field?  I doubt it's a physical issue because those guys could just as easily carry their own super light bag with a few balls, etc (or I assume push carts are acceptable, just frowned upon).  Unless you hire a local caddy, you'd have to pay someone a livable wage for them to constantly travel with you.  Or maybe it's not about the golf at all, it's about traveling with someone instead of being bored outside of playing.  I don't know.  Either way, I think caddies play a minimal role in the performance of the player.



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(or I assume push carts are acceptable, just frowned upon)

On the PGA Tour, push or pull carts are not allowed.

And you're really under-estimating just how much endurance is required to play competitive golf on the PGA Tour for a season. That's a big part of why virtually every Tour player objected to Casey Martin. They understand just how integral walking is to the game, and thus, even carrying an extra 20 pounds around would add substantially to the challenge.

PGA Tour players take caddies because they feel it's worth it, that they'd be at a disadvantage without it. That what they pay is worth what they get.

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Also, a lot of caddies are very good players. They just aren't Tour level, but they know the game. So, they function as more than mere "sack draggers". 

And consider what Tiger said when interviewed after the last round at the Genesis. He said, "Yeah, I'm tired!" The pros were up and on their feet a ton last week, and that takes a toll. Imagine if anyone was carrying their own bag! 

Now comes the WGC in Mexico City at altitude, which will be another physical test. Heck, a couple years ago my buddy was on vacation so we golfed it up big time. We played 108 holes in 5 days, and I could barely get out of bed the day after! And we were riding in carts! 

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Ill admit I left out the physical exertion required of these guys and why caddies make a big difference there. But outside of not being tired, I wouldn’t say they make a huge difference in performance. 

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On 2/18/2019 at 12:45 PM, iacas said:

And you're really under-estimating just how much endurance is required to play competitive golf on the PGA Tour for a season. That's a big part of why virtually every Tour player objected to Casey Martin.

I of course agree with this. But FWIW this component of caddying was rather minimized during the Kuchar thread. 

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Interesting subject to discuss. 

I mostly go long with your ideas.  Outside of the physical effort of carrying the bag and grooming the course, I imagine one of the biggest reasons every pro has a caddie is because they can have one.  And they are afraid that IF a caddie might make a 1 or 2 stroke difference, then they sure as hell want to have that advantage when everyone else in the field has a caddie.

 

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I think you summed up the why do use caddies pretty well in three reasons:

  1. Pack mule / course maintenance
  2. GPS / course scout / game manager
  3. Emotional Support / Coaching

I think the real question is why do pros maintain a regular caddie as opposed to using someone different each week.  I think the answer is obviously NOT #1 and obviously YES to #3.

But I think #2 is an interesting issue.  I would imagine most tour stops have good local caddies - I must assume that Riviera has some good caddies that really know the course so well they might be an advantage over a regular caddie - think the guy Crenshaw used at Augusta.  But I would guess some of the issues with using a local caddie are: 1) there's probably not one for the entire field; 2) how do you know / do you have confidence that you are getting a good one?  Still I'm a little surprised no head strong pro has tried the "local caddie" strategy.  Maybe because there might be more downside than upside.

I don't know if this will work but this links to an article from two years ago where a tour pro talks about what the tour would be like if there were no caddies.

Dustin-Johnson-2015-US-Open-Championship

Here's the question: What would the World Ranking look like if we had to carry our bags? No caddies.

Also, FWIW, there was an interview podcast last year with Webb Simpson's caddie right after he won the Players.  He talked about one of the things he does to prepare for a big round is prepare a list of non-golf things to talk about to keep Webb from thinking about golf every minute of the round.

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17 hours ago, gbogey said:

I think you summed up the why do use caddies pretty well in three reasons:

  1. Pack mule / course maintenance
  2. GPS / course scout / game manager
  3. Emotional Support / Coaching

I would think all three in varying degrees for different players.

Can a man or woman carry their own bag, get their own distances and be their own best friend? Absolutely. It's not an inherent essential element of golf play, professional or otherwise. 

But why take a chance really? 

In general my take would be similar to @bkuehn1952's. The arena is so cutthroat competitive for relatively  large sum of moneys, that any advantage, however small or even if it only perceived at best, would be acquired. 

I know I would. Especially the 'carrying my own bag' thing sounds like it would cost me some physical fatigue strokes over 72 holes. 

Edited by GolfLug

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