The bond between a player and caddie is complex, to say the least. It’s like a marriage. The best way to describe it is the relationship you have with your husband or wife (girlfriend or boyfriend, etc.). Even if you’ve known each other for a decade and you’ve been dating for over a year, new challenges arise that test the relationship. You’re always learning about the other person and how he/she react in unfamiliar situations.
Adam Scott and Steve Williams have been working together for just over a year, and they’ve won a tournament together as frontrunners — the 2011 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational here at Firestone (aka Stevie’s infamous 18th green interview that he dubbed the “best win of his career”). However, they hadn’t experienced the heightened pressures and emotions of closing in the final round of the Open Championship with a four-shot lead with four to play. The stakes at a major are much higher.
After Scott’s devastating loss (some members of the Australian media are still in mourning) at Royal Lytham, he met with the media again on Wednesday morning at Firestone CC. It’d only been about ten days, but Scott had some time to process. He reiterated some of the main points he made right immediately after he let the Claret Jug slip from his fingers that Sunday afternoon when he made four bogeys in the final four holes. (A few days ago I read Scott’s post-loss presser for the first time since listening to it and it’s truly worth the read — the guy handled himself with such poise and put things in great perspective…)
It’s just golf at the end of the day and Scott feels more confident than ever about how he’s playing. I don’t think anyone would be surprised if he “pulled a Rory McIlroy” and came back to win next week’s PGA Championship.
But I digress. Because of Stevie’s strong presence, everyone wondered what happened to the winningest caddie on the planet right after the disappointing defeat. (Well, he basically got the hell out of there as quick as possible and avoided the press.) So on Wednesday morning, we finally had the chance to ask Scott about the dynamic between the caddie-player duo and what they discussed in that consecutive stretch of bogeys. Was there something he regretted that he could have done to help Adam? What did they talk about afterward?
Scott provided interesting insight:
“We left it a few days for each to think about, and then we had a chat in the middle of the week. Obviously we’re both disappointed with the outcome. We’re both disappointed, I think, in both of our performances because we didn’t get the job done. And hindsight is always a great thing, but it’s 50/50 because you never really know what would have happened if you did something different.
But no, I think it’s part of our relationship out there, growing and getting better. First time for us, really, in that position. Steve has been in that position a bunch with other players but never with me, and I think we’re going to hopefully put ourselves in that position a lot more, and we’ll know how to handle each other that little bit better maybe. He’ll understand me that little bit better because I’ve told him how I was feeling, and we’ll just get it done. I mean, we’ve got a great relationship out there, and everything went really well for that week.
But we just didn’t quite match it up on the last few holes. That’s what the pressure of those situations can do. It’s unfortunate, but I think it’s a great chance for us to rectify that next time.”
They weren’t on the same page coming down the stretch. It takes experience and time for a caddie to learn how to handle/help a player in those circumstances. After all, they aren’t just luggage toters, they are also mental and life coaches, among other things. So, chalk up the mistakes made to a learning experience and the next time — which no doubt will be sooner rather than later — Stevie will know what he should or shouldn’t do to help Scott close out.
So, were there specific decisions that Scott and Stevie look back on and think that perhaps they would have done differently? Oh, you know like, what the heck happened with that approach on 17 and why they took 3-wood on 18 off the tee?
“Look, I mean, I could go over every shot and want to hit them all again. The shot into 15, I could hit again, the shot into 16, the shot into 17, the tee shot on 18. You could pick them all again. But there’s no excuse for me not making a good swing into 17, and we decided to hit 3‑wood off 18, but it’s so difficult to know whether it’s right or wrong because neither of us were confident that 2‑iron was going to fly the right bunker, which was right of my target, but still, if it went in there neither of us were confident of that.
“I could have hit driver off of 18, too. In fact, if I hit 3‑wood, I could have hit driver. It’s all these things. The fact is you’ve just got to make a good swing, and I didn’t make my best off the 18th tee. But I made good swings on the other holes off the tee and just not such good ones into the green.
“And again, that’s just part of the process for me. I’ve got some more work to do. Everything was so great, but any error is just magnified under those circumstances. And certainly to miss it left on 17, that was poor by me. I could miss it so far to the right and still have a really good chance at making 4, but you just can’t miss it left.”
Scott sounds like he’s come to terms with his mistakes, analyzed them, and figured out what he could have done better — which was sort of what he said immediately afterward at Lytham. (You know, like when you have a fight with your wife, you guys talk it through like mature adults and then come to a compromise and/or learn how to handle things better next time.) Some guys get defensive when they botch a tournament and it turns into a chip on their shoulders, which means they haven’t come to terms with their mistakes yet or let it go, so it’s bound to happen again the next time they’re in contention to win.
However, Scott faced his mistakes head-on. That tells me he’s moved on and ready to tackle the next challenge.
Favorite at Kiawah? For sure. And he’s just a solid guy to root for.
(Getty Images/Ross Kinnaird)