High Profile Player-Caddie Splits in Golf
JUSTIN THOMAS has surprised the golf world by announcing that he and long-time caddie Jimmy Johnson had split. It came hot on the heels of the news that Bubba Watson and Ted Scott had decided to part company. Jim “Bones” Mackay, long-time caddie for Phil Mickelson, has replaced Johnson. We await news of Watson’s new caddie.
It is not unusual for tour pros to sack their caddies. Here we look back at some high-profile splits:
Bubba Watson and Ted Scott
Watson and Scott spent 15 years together. They won 12 times, including The Masters on two occasions. But Watson openly berated Scott in front of cameras and microphones when things went wrong. But Scott always took it on the chin. They recently parted company but insist they will remain friends.
Justin Thomas and Jimmy Johnson
For his entire PGA Tour career Thomas has had Johnson by his side. But after six years and 14 wins together they have split up. Thomas said: “I 100 percent did not fire him. Jimmy came to me after the Ryder Cup and told me he has decided to pursue other opportunities.” Johnson will be replaced by Jim Mackay, who caddied for him in 2018 at the Sony Open and in the summer of 2020, working for Thomas during his win at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
Colin Montgomerie and Alastair McLean
The pair were together for most of Monty's golden years. McLean required the patience of a saint as he worked for one of the most difficult men ever to grace the European Tour. They actually split up twice but when Monty joined the senior ranks he decided that he couldn't do it without McLean, who has also worked for Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Alvaro Quiros and Simon Dyson, all of whom were rather less demanding.
Darren Clarke and Billy Foster
Foster is one of the most highly rated caddies on the European Tour. He spent many years by the side of Lee Westwood and also carried the bag for Seve Ballesteros. After some time working as a TV analyst he is now striding the fairways with English golfer Matthew Fitzpatrick. But back in the day he worked for Darren Clarke. It is usual for the golfer to tell his bagman that their time together is over but Foster famously sacked Clarke, claiming that the Northern Irishman was wasting his talent. Clarke, of course, had the last laugh when he won The Open at Royal St George’s.
Nick Faldo and Fanny Sunesson
Sunesson was working with Howard Clark when she was approached by Nick Faldo in 1990. They spent nine years together, with Sunesson on his bag for four of his majors. He rewarded her for her loyalty by buying her a motor home. She rewarded him by telling him that she wanted a change. She briefly worked for Sergio Garcia when he was at the height of his petulance - they lasted just eight tournaments before he sacked her. She has also caddied for Fred Funk, Notah Begay, Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson, and coaches Martin Kaymer.
Tiger Woods and Mike “Fluff” Cowan
Most golf fans only associate Mike “Fluff” Cowan with Jim Furyk, who he still caddies for on the PGA Tour Champions, but Cowan was Tiger Woods' first caddie as a pro. In 1996, Fluff's then boss of 19 years, Peter Jacobsen, was on the mend with back issues, and Woods had inquired about Fluff's availability. With Jacobsen's blessing, Cowan began working for Woods and they found immediate success. Woods won eight times with Cowan by his side, including his first major success at The Masters in 1997, when Woods rewrote the Augusta record books. Woods let him go in 1999.
Tiger Woods and Steve Williams
Williams carried the bag for 62 of Tiger's 82 career wins, 13 of them in majors, where Williams was always a prominent figure in some of Woods' most crucial career moments. In 2011, while Woods recovered from one of his myriad injuries, Williams caddied for Adam Scott at the U.S. Open and Open Championship. Soon after, Woods fired Williams, who went on to continue caddie for Scott on a part-time basis until 2017. It is fair to say that their split was fairly acrimonious.
Phil Mickelson and Jim “Bones” Mackay
Until their split in 2017, Mackay had been on Mickelson's bag for all but one PGA Tour win, including five majors. They had a chemistry like few other combinations. And their relationship extended beyond the course. But the end came in June 2017, when they each announced it was time to move on. Mackay then worked as a respected golf analyst. He carried Justin Thomas’ bag when his regular caddie, Jimmy Johnson, was injured and will now work permanently with the American.
Bryson DeChambeau and Tim Tucker
It has to be said that working as DeChambeau’s caddie is a unique challenge. Tucker lasted longer than might have been expected but the partnership finally came to an end on the eve of the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July 2021 when the bagman decided he’d had enough. Tucker, who had caddied for DeChambeau in practice rounds in Detroit that week, later said he regretted the timing of his decision. Tucker had been on the bag for all eight of DeChambeau’s PGA Tour victories, including the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. DeChambeau claimed the split had been in the works for some time.
Rory McIlroy and J.P. Fitzgerald
For nine years, Rory McIlroy and J.P. Fitzgerald were one of the more fruitful player-caddie partnerships on the PGA Tour. The Northern Irishman's first 13 wins came with Fitzgerald, including his four majors. McIlroy stunned the golf world when he sacked Fitzgerald in 2017 and replaced him with close friend Harry Diamond, a man who had never worked as a caddie. McIlroy justified his decision to sack Fitzgerald by saying he was too hard on him while in the midst of a slump. Fitzgerald now works for Victor Perez.
Zach Johnson and Damon Green
Few relationships are quite as enduring as the one between Johnson and Green, who spent 15 years on Johnson’s bag. Their relationship started in 2004 when Green left Scott Hoch for Johnson, who was a rookie at the time. It turned out to be a good decision for Green. Johnson won the 2007 Masters and 2015 Open Championship in addition to ten other tour wins. Just before the 2019 season, though, Johnson told Green they needed to take a break but the two-time major winner’s fortunes have taken a turn for the worse since then.
Justin Rose and Mark Fulcher
Rose was still looking for his first PGA Tour victory when he employed Mark Fulcher in 2008. The former caddie for Laura Davies, Fulcher remained with Rose for 11 years, during which the English golfer won ten PGA Tour titles, including the 2013 U.S. Open and a pair of WGCs, and reached No. 1 in the World Ranking. Fulcher had to take a break for health-related reasons, and while Rose said he'd wait for his return, they split for good in 2019.
Jason Day and Colin Swatton
Day and Swatton first met when Day was 12 years old and attending a boarding school in Australia where Swatton became his swing coach. He became a father figure for the Australian, who had a troubled childhood. They won 12 PGA Tour titles together, including one major, the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. In July 2020, Day announced that it was time for a change. The split was a painful one for both men.
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