Anyone who knows pro golf will tell you that the player-caddie relationship is an important one. The best caddies offer a calming presence in addition to accurate yardages and advice.
While some players have been known to seek out bagmen with great track records or reputations (like Justin Thomas and Jim “Bones” Mackay, or Scottie Scheffler and Ted Scott), it turns out that experienced caddies also have a preference on qualities they like to see in potential players.
On this week’s episode of Off Course with Claude Harmon, former longtime Tour caddie turned NBC broadcaster John Wood (who had successful stints with Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar, among others) explained what he liked to see in a player’s game.
“What I look for is physical talent that you look at and go, why isn’t this guy shooing better scores?” Wood said. “Because that’s when I think a caddie can really help. A caddie’s a jockey, basically. You can be the greatest jockey in the world, but if you’re on a donkey, you’re not gonna do a thing. That’s just the bottom line.”
Wood said that Hunter Mahan had plenty of physical talent and ability, but wasn’t having the finishes that he should have had.
“That’s what kind of piqued my interest,” Wood said. “Maybe I have something that I could add to his game that would really help him out.”
Wood and Mahan worked together for nine years before splitting in 2015. Mahan won six times on Tour between 2007 and 2014.
“Early on, looking for players, I think you look for that physical gift, or that they’re not getting anything out of their game,” Wood said. “If you look at a guy and you think, boy, I can’t do anything for him, he’s getting every stroke out of every round. But a guy like Hunter, who hit it so great and just wasn’t putting up the finishes he should, that really piqued my interest.”
Another important factor? Compatible personalities.
“I think that’s a huge thing that people overlook a lot,” Wood said. “You can have the numbers, you can have the right advice, the great green-reading. But if you don’t have that personality mix — which [Austin and Dustin Johnson] have, obviously, being brothers — it’s not gonna work. Because you’re together six, seven hours a day, four to six days a week. And if you don’t have other stuff to talk about other than golf, you’re not gonna last.”
For more from Wood, including the qualities that make the caddies for the world’s top 10 players so great and what Wood notices now more than ever when he’s inside the ropes, check out the full interview below.