Sep
25
2011
LaCava Links Up With Tiger (*Update)
By Stephanie Wei under Tiger Woods

Joe dumps DJ for Tiger

As if there weren’t enough excitement and surprise in golf on Sunday — while Hunter Mahan and Bill Haas were locked in a duel at the Tour Championship, Butch Harmon revealed on Sky Sports that he had just spoken to his student Dustin Johnson, who told him caddie Joe LaCava decided to leave Johnson for Tiger Woods.

The AP confirmed the news, citing two sources who spoke on condition of anonymity since Woods nor Johnson had spoken publicly about the change at the time:

David Winkle, Johnson’s agent at Hambric Sports Management, confirmed LaCava was going to work for Woods and a search for a new caddie would begin immediately.

“Needless to say, Dustin and I were completely surprised, as they have enjoyed a great relationship and have been very successful together,” Winkle said. “Nonetheless, we think highly of Joe, both as a caddie and a person, which is why he was hired in the first place. We wish him nothing but the best with his new employer.”

LaCava was the longtime caddie for Fred Couples, a relationship that ended in the summer because Johnson was looking for a caddie and Couples’ playing schedule was being reduced because of his health.

LaCava looped for DJ at The Players in May, but the pair officially started working together a few weeks later at the Byron Nelson Championship.

Whoever tweets for Tiger posted this update:

Johnson won The Barclays last month with LaCava on the bag, but there was speculation during the event that LaCava was thinking about going to work for Woods. For those close to LaCava, it was a bit surprising, but at the same time, it wasn’t — Joe has two kids, 12 and 14, and he doesn’t like to be away from his family. Dustin plays in a lot more tournaments and travels more internationally than Woods, who keeps a limited (and predictable) schedule. There’s also a possibility of Dustin taking up European Tour membership next season.

Johnson might have been a little caught off guard with the break-up (though knowing him, he’ll shake it off). He was headed for a corporate photo shoot in Georgia before flying to Scotland for next week’s Dunhill Links at St. Andrews.

The public has responded with shock of LaCava’s decision because Johnson is a promising, extremely talented young player and an automatic money-maker. But Tiger is supposedly going to be healthy and it’s an opportunity for Joe to finish his career with one of the best golfers to ever play the game.

I know the player is the one swinging the club, but I believe an excellent caddie, like LaCava, who is one of the most-respected, does save his guy strokes (and it works the other way, too — it will cost him shots, but the good ones do more of the former). I actually have a lot more confidence in Tiger’s “comeback” now that Joe will be on his bag. This might be the best decision Tiger has made…in a very long time!

I guess we’ll find out at the Frys.com Open in a few weeks.

*Update: Tiger’s people posted this on TigerWoods.com on Sunday evening:

Tiger Woods announced today that he has selected Joe LaCava as his caddie.

“Mark [Steinberg] and I were approached by a lot of people, including Joe, who expressed an interest in becoming my caddie,” Woods said. “This was an important decision, and I wanted to think about it carefully. Also, out of deference for the FedExCup Playoffs, I decided to wait until they were concluding to have substantive talks. We then spoke to Joe and came to an agreement.

“Joe is an outstanding caddie, and I have known him for many years. I’ve personally seen the great job he did for Freddie [Couples]. I’m anxious for us to be working together.”

LaCava’s first tournament will be the Frys.com Open, Oct. 6-9.

“I’m excited to be working with Tiger,” LaCava said. “I contacted Tiger and Mark because this is a unique opportunity to be part of something very special. Tiger and I have been friends for a very long time, and I know what he can do.

“I want to thank Dustin [Johnson] for the opportunity to work with him, and I wish him nothing but the best.”

Woods called Johnson after LaCava first told Johnson personally he would be working for Woods. Woods also spoke to Couples to alert him of the decision.

Looking back, I remember right after the news of Tiger-Stevie split, I was discussing replacement possibilities with someone close to both Tiger and Joe. This person said that had Joe not taken the job with DJ, it would have been a no-brainer that Tiger would have automatically hired Joe.

Insiders have said they think DJ will win more tournaments, including some majors, and more money, but Tiger will win more majors.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)