The Caddie House: Why four top loopers are crashing together at the PGA Championship
John Wood got to pick the house.
“Being the NorCal guy, I was assigned the rental for the week,” he said.
Wood caddies for Matt Kuchar, the No. 22 player in the world. Of the four caddies sharing a roof this week in San Francisco, Wood’s looping for (by far) the least famous player.
“Yeah, I’m definitely the minor leaguer of the group,” he added.
In this case, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. That’s because the loopers’ lair is filled out by three legends of the craft: Joe LaCava, Michael Greller and Jim “Bones” Mackay.
Wood insists that this is nothing unusual during big events.
“It’s honestly not that unique! We’ve stayed together in rental homes at majors a bunch over the years,” he said.
Unique or not, there’s something notable about four men at the absolute peak of the caddying profession settling into the living room to shoot the breeze — and provide off-the-record analysis — after a day’s work.
“Suffice it to say when golf is on and we are all there, it’s like Mystery Science Theater 3000, PGA version,” Wood said.
The house falls somewhat short of the glamorous rentals that have housed gaggles of top pros at the Open Championship in recent years, like the Portrush abode that Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson and Jimmy Walker called home last summer. But it’s a step above the rental that Joel Dahmen’s caddie Geno Bonnalie proposed as a U.S. Open stay to Aaron Flener.
“Lol Geno it’s 100 square feet,” Flener wrote back in a text exchange he posted to Twitter. “I like you but not ‘enclosed in 100 square feet with you‘ like you.”
Wood has been off to a typically busy schedule since the PGA Tour’s restart, as Kuchar has made five cuts in six starts — though he hasn’t finished higher than T25. For a guy who spends that much time on the road, some high-wattage roommates are an exciting change of pace.
The roommate under the most scrutiny, Joe LaCava, has had the lightest schedule of the group. His guy, Tiger Woods, has logged just four competitive rounds in the last six months.
“Everyone always says, ‘How’s Tiger doing? How’s he feeling?’” LaCava told GolfTV at the Memorial. “I say, ‘No idea. They’re like, ‘Seriously?’ I say, ‘Yeah, he’s off the grid. I don’t text him and he doesn’t text me.’
“I think I got one, which was a nice one on Father’s Day and that’s it. Other than that, we didn’t exchange anything.”
So what does a caddie do when his player isn’t playing?
“Good question. Not much,” LaCava said in the same interview. “I did some walking around the track down at the high school, to keep busy more than anything, but not much otherwise.”
While LaCava owns a pair of majors — a Masters with Fred Couples in 1992 and then one you may recall with Woods in 2019 — Roommate No. 3, Michael Greller, has three to his name, each on the bag of Jordan Spieth.
That hardly means things have been easy of late. After a meteoric rise to world No. 1, the tandem has struggled to find form in the last few years. Spieth — and Greller — have arguably the most to gain this week, gunning for a career grand slam (Spieth won the 2015 Masters, 2015 U.S. Open and 2017 Open).
On Tuesday, Spieth talked about golf and how the game has been testing him of late.
“Where I used to hit a tree and go in the fairway, it’ll hit a tree and go off the cart path out-of-bounds,” he said on Tuesday.
He added that he’s been trying to adjust his mental game, shifting away from complaining and being upset to rolling with the punches.
“I’ve done a really good job of that the last really three tournaments that I’ve played as opposed to any previously, and Michael would attest to that, and my attitude has been phenomenal,” he said.
Caddies don’t typically do pre-tournament press conferences, so Greller didn’t have the opportunity to attest to nor dispute Spieth’s account. Still, the duo looked plenty happy alongside Justin Thomas and his caddie during a practice round at Harding Park. On Tuesdays and Wednedsays, optimism reigns supreme.
Speaking of Justin Thomas’ caddie — he’s having a heck of a couple weeks. Jim “Bones” Mackay’s full-time gig these days is working for NBC Sports and Golf Channel as an on-course analyst. But he got forced into action a month ago as a super-looper fill-in for Matt Fitzpatrick, who finished solo 3rd at the Memorial. Then he got an even more last-minute call for the WGC-Memphis last week to tote the bag of Justin Thomas.
When Mackay arrived on the range at TPC Southwind, he ran into Fitzpatrick for the first time since their Memorial finish earned Bones some percentage of Fitzpatrick’s $642,000 third-place check. Nearby pros got a kick out of their reuniting.
“Everyone goes, ‘did the check clear? Did the check clear?'” Mackay said with a laugh on Fred Couples’ SiriusXM radio show after the win.
The exchange with Fitzpatrick was just the beginning of the week’s check-collecting. Whatever Mackay told Thomas (“nothing, really!” he insisted) seemed to work, as he charged from behind to a Sunday 66, a three-shot victory and a $1.82 million first-place check.
“I’d say this if I was commentating or caddying or having a hot dog on the sideline,” Mackay told Couples. “He is a really, really good golfer.”
While a bunch of Tour pros and caddies flew out on a charter flight from Memphis Monday morning, Mackay was able to catch a ride in style.
“A lot of these guys now are in a position to fly privately and so they split planes with each other,” Mackay said. “Justin was one of them. And, you know, I basically said, ‘Hey, man, can I sit in the bathroom in the back?’ And he said, ‘Sure.'”
After the Sunday night flight, Thomas and Mackay were ready to go Monday morning, back in preparation mode. They played nine that afternoon alongside Woods and LaCava, who Mackay said was still smarting from a New York Rangers loss. Tuesday, Thomas and Mackay played with Spieth and Greller.
Kuchar and Wood played some practice holes alongside Patrick Reed and his caddie Kessler Karain.
All four pro bagmen ended up back at the rental eventually. Commence golf commentary.
“It’s unbelievably funny,” Wood said of the living-room banter.
This leads to more questions than answers. Do Joe and Bones talk Tiger and Phil? Do they break down Brandel Chamblee’s Live From breakdowns? When the food order arrives, who pays? But what happens in the caddie chateau stays there, Wood says, by rule.
“I can’t be more specific.”