Tiger Woods’ new caddie? The relationship started with fun moment in 2013

Lance Bennett, Tiger Woods

Lance Bennett, left, and Tiger Woods on Wednesday at Riviera Country Club.

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Tiger Woods, forever the assassin, was maybe his most amiable at the 2013 Presidents Cup. After all, who could forget his 4-1 record at Muirfield Village? Or that Team USA was your winner?

Or The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air-looking hand slap? 

Or the prank?

Not Woods apparently. He wants to run it back. In the background of all that was Lance Bennett, and Bennett’s now in the spotlight, as the caddie for golf’s most well-known bag. He loops for the 15-time major winner for the first time starting Thursday, during the first round of the Genesis Invitational

The relationship seemingly came together quickly, after Woods amicably split with longtime caddie Joe LaCava, following a Woods right ankle procedure last April. In Woods’ return last December at the Hero World Challenge, longtime confidante Rob McNamara carried his bag, and Woods’ daughter, Sam, looped two weeks later at the PNC Championship, though at the Hero, Woods said he wasn’t sure who’d caddie next. 

But there was a connection with Bennett, who’s been caddying this year for Adrien Dumont de Chassart. (Notably, according to the PGA Tour’s website, the rookie has yet to qualify for the majors or the Tour’s Signature Events, tournaments Woods would likely only play in.) A caddie since 2003, Bennett has also worked for Sungjae Im and Davis Riley on the PGA Tour, and Juli Inkster, Paula Creamer and Lorena Ochoa on the LPGA.

“Very down to earth, very loyal and how he conversated through the years, I’ve also taken notice of that,” Woods said Wednesday, in his Genesis pre-tournament press conference. “We’ve had the same type of feels in how we look at the golf course and how we read putts; they’re very similar. 

“I think it’s a great — we’re going to be a great team and really looking forward to the challenge.”

But how did the Woods-Bennett relationship start?

Back to that 2013 Presidents Cup. There, Bennett caddied for Matt Kuchar — who’d hit it off with Woods. They teamed for three of Woods’ wins. And a couple stories. 

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There was a celebration, where after a made putt, the two met, hand-slapped, then quickly pulled their hands and heads away. It’d been inspired by the Will Smith-led, 1990s sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (and you can have a look here). There was also a prank. Kuchar shared it in 2014 to analyst David Feherty, according to CBS’ Kyle Porter

At a dinner party, Kuchar had grabbed the nameplate of teammate Zach Johnson, stuck it to Woods’ back, and Woods wore it until a member of the opposing International team took it off.   

“As far as Lance is concerned,” Woods said Wednesday, “I’ve had a great relationship with him over the years going back to when he caddied for Kooch and when we played at the Presidents Cup together back in, what, Muirfield Village.”

So what can Bennett expect? Over Woods’ career, he’s had three full-time caddies, starting with Mike “Fluff” Cowan, Steve Williams and LaCava, and others have filled in on occasion. 

It’s here, then, where will turn it over to GOLF’s Sean Zak, who, as part of Q&A with LaCava last year, had this exchange:

SZ: What’s something no one would understand about caddying for arguably the greatest player who ever lived?

JL: What I found so fascinating about Tiger was how low maintenance he is. He doesn’t need a lot, but he likes a lot of information. He likes to decipher that information. He likes to think about it. He’s 24-7 thinking about golf, the swing, etc. I was getting texts at 2 or 3 in the morning about a certain hole having a different wind the next day. Maybe it’s a 3-wood instead of a driver. I’m also not a very good sleeper, so I would occasionally text back and say, “I agree with you, but I’d rather you turn the phone off, go to sleep and get some rest.” The other thing that separates Tiger is he takes ownership of everything on the golf course. He’s not looking for anyone or anything to blame. I worked probably 110 tournaments with him, and never once did he come back and say “Bad read” or “The wind wasn’t there” or “Bad club.” He takes ownership of everything he does, which is incredible to me.

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SZ: The transition from one bag to another — what is difficult about it?

JL: Most player-caddie relationships aren’t in writing. Most of it is verbal. When I went to work for Fred [Couples], he said, “Let’s try four weeks on the West Coast and see how it goes.” Hopefully he plays well. I got fortunate he played very well in all of them, happened to win one. That makes life a lot easier, but the difficult part is the unknown. You’re taking a chance. You have to hope you blend well. I think the caddie part of it is actually pretty easy. It’s the fact that you have to get along with a guy for anywhere from five to eight or nine hours a day, seven days a week, maybe for 28 straight days. That’s a long time. You better be able to get along and have things in common to talk about, and you have to be able to have a little fun too.

SZ: In what way can a caddie elevate a good player into a great player?

JL: Sometimes the player might lack a little bit of confidence. A perfect example: I see Joe Greiner doing a great job for Max Homa. And Austin Kaiser — I call him “Big Money” — does the same for Xander Schauffele. They’re very confident not only in their ability but in their player’s ability, and I think that rubs off on those guys and gives them more confidence. Have they gotten to the next level yet? Probably not. But I think they both will. And I think their caddies will have a lot to do with that. When you have a friend on the bag, I think that goes a long way on the golf course. That happened with Fred and me. I’m not the reason he won the Masters or the Players or had a very good career. We got along well, and he knew I’d do anything for him. I think I took the near misses and the losses tougher than he did. I think Tiger’s the same way. They see that in you, and I think they appreciate that.

Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.

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