Colin Byrne looking forward to assisting natural talent Louis Oosthuizen

The Irish caddie is not keen on the PGA of America’s decision to use range finders

The Bagman has a new bag, and Colin Byrne - who has hooked-up with Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion and currently 24th in the official world rankings - is looking forward to assisting the golfing Springbok in his attempts to add further titles to his CV.

"There are different types of players in terms of raw talent and ability and then a lot of players who have worked very hard to get where they are. Louis has that raw, natural class and it is very hard to suppress it. He's very aware of his game, exceptionally good, a great ball-striker," said Byrne, a veteran caddie and Irish Times columnist who most recently worked with Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello and who numbers Ernie Els and Retief Goosen among his previous employers.

Byrne worked with Oosthuizen at the recent Farmers Insurance Open and Phoenix Open on the PGA Tour and will start a busy stint stateside at the upcoming WGC event at the Concession in Florida in a fortnight's time.

“He has shot an awful lot of low rounds and I can see why. I mean, the round we had in the third round in Phoenix was an easy 63. It didn’t look that impressive because it looked so easy. He is the type of player who looks like he can keep it going low when he gets it going,” added the Dubliner, who hasn’t taken long since the mutual split with Cabrera Bello to get looping back onto the fairways and into the bubble that these days are part and parcel of tour life.

Byrne, indeed, has had a couple of what he calls “scares” during his time in tour bubble. Firstly, back in November, when he travelled from the Masters at Augusta to Sea Island for the RSM Classic, where his travel companion, another caddie, tested positive. “I tested negative and continued to test negative. But the doctor was telling me I was high risk so I stayed away. I said, ‘I’m not going to risk going in infecting everyone’.”

The second scare was more recently, when Oosthuizen had a false positive test on the Monday of the Phoenix Open but subsequent tests were negative, although he limited his movements - permitted to playing nine-holes alone on the Tuesday - and was permitted to play in the tournament, where he ultimately finished tied-11th.

“The bubble, they’ve dealt with it very well, (given) the amount of people they are dealing with and the speed which it works. You get your result within two hours, it’s pretty efficient, the test centre is close to the golf course, there’s a great app on your phone, which the results are sent back to, then get back to the test centre and show your negative results and you get a wristband to wear that says you have been tested and you are negative so you can get into the golf course.

“Without that, you don’t get in. The facilities have been better for us caddies since Covid because they have a special room for us, everyone spread out, and a lot of tournaments have done takeaway food at night for us so we are not tempted to go out to a restaurant, they have really made it the way you don’t want to go anywhere else and compromise anyone.”

Byrne's upcoming stint takes in the WGC, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Players - all in Florida - but, further down the road, there will be the US PGA in May where the player-caddie dynamic on tour will see something of a sea-change with the PGA of America allowing the use of range finders during the championship.

“I always thought from years ago as an old fashioned caddie I had a big advantage due to my preparation of making your own yardage book, doing your own work. It made it easier for everyone with the modern yardage book and, now, if they let you use lasers it makes it even more easy and takes away the preparation and the rewards for preparation . . . from a professional point of view, I would prefer if they didn’t do it because it takes away my advantage to my preparations.”