Best of luck Edoardo, it was a pleasure carrying your bag


GOLF:A good player can make any caddie look good as long as he doesn’t trip over his player’s ball and generally keeps out of his way, writes COLIN BYRNE

IT IS the nature of golf business that as soon as a relationship begins it is actually going to end. This is applicable to players and their long list of gurus and confidants. The modern player will have a team of four or five people on average who they rely on, in some form, on a weekly basis.

This team extends from the caddie, who spends about 60 hours a week at his player’s side, to a coach, a physiotherapist, a manager and perhaps a psychologist. This varies, but the person who spends most time with the player on a weekly basis is the bagman.

There is a life-cycle for a player-caddie relationship. If you last three years the chances are you are on borrowed time. There are always exceptions – Bones and Phil Mickelson are over 20 years together. The best way to ensure longevity as a caddie is to find a good player to work for. Success builds a bond that reassures the player about your worth. When things go wrong, a player is likely to try a new face to perhaps spark off a change in fortune.

I got together with the aspiring elder of the famous brothers from Italy, Edoardo Molinari, towards the latter part of last season. He had shot up the world rankings at a rate that would give most a nose bleed. He had won in Japan the previous year; he won in Scotland mid-season and was on the verge of a Ryder Cup place when he called me in to carry his bag.

I wondered at the time why he would want to discard his caddie who had been with him for all his success and take a chance with someone he didn’t know. He advised me he was planning to play more in America and that he would probably need someone with experience over there to help him find his feet quicker in the US PGA cauldron.

After all my years as a toter I have yet to really understand what makes players tick when it comes to a wing-man. Why would a player change when he enjoyed so much success with a caddie? Martin Kaymer decided to break his successful caddie partnership earlier last year and he ended up winning his first Major and the European Order of Merit with his replacement. He didn’t last a year. He has changed again.

There is nothing wrong with change, and it is how the player-caddie relationship has always worked. If things are not working out then there is no point in being bound by a restrictive contract. It’s not like an office situation where there are other personnel to break the tension; it’s just the golfer and his gofer on the course.

Change is the nature of the business and it happens because it can happen without too many complications. But sometimes it takes less experienced players a while to figure out that perhaps it’s not the caddie who is the reason for the lack of form. The chances are, if it is not simply a temporary lack of form, then it is the way the player is using his caddie or the unrealistic expectations he has for his bagman that is the problem.

I have frequently suggested the caddie is only as good as the guy who is hitting the shots. A good caddie is not going to make a bad player talented, but he can limit his inefficient ways. A good player can make any caddie look good as long as he doesn’t trip over his player’s ball and generally keeps out of his way.

Naturally at the high standard that the professional game has reached today, players are constantly looking for the edge. Golf is a game of very narrow margins, something small can make a big difference to a player’s performance.

Three weeks after I picked up Edoardo’s bag, he won. The win resulted in his selection for the Ryder Cup team and I am sure a Molinari dream was realised. I had been vaulted back into a winning situation with a player on a mission. He was extremely complimentary about my contribution after our Johnnie Walker Championship victory at Gleneagles.

Our Ryder Cup experience was a unique thrill for me. It was my first Ryder Cup after a long time caddying and to be part of a team success like that was particularly special.

Edoardo had put so much effort into making the team, by his admission he was burnt out for the rest of the season and his performances reflected this. With his elevated status on the world rankings he was able to take advantage by giving himself a taste of the upper echelons of the US Tour from February to June this year. He gave himself every chance of playing well over there by basing himself in Florida for the four months. It has been an invaluable learning curve for him.

It was a pleasure to be by the side of such a fast-improving player. He was a gentleman to work for; he has great respect for his personnel. He is eager to learn and I really felt like he listened to what I had to say about golfing matters.

When you are treading water, such as we were in our working relationship, it is important to recognise when neither party is doing the other any favours. I think Edoardo recognised this and so the required conversation ensued.

It is the nature of a player-caddie relationship that as soon as it begins it is also the beginning of the end, unless it is sustained by success. It is best for both parties to move on and try something new. It is the beauty of this rather bizarre caddying life that seems even more ephemeral than it ever was.

Good luck Edoardo, I enjoyed our brief journey together.