Player-caddie relationships always seem to us, the viewers, as strong and happy ones, but that isn’t always the case, and breakups between Tour players and their right-hand men aren’t just normal; they are common.
Two prominent on-course partnerships came to an end last week, with Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson splitting with their long-time caddies. Although neither pairing was as well-known and successful as Tiger and Mike ‘Fluff’ Cowan or Phil Mickelson and Jim ‘Bones’ McKay, both break-ups made headlines throughout the golf world. Both pairings had high levels of on-course success, and both seem to be amicable. We will have a look at the end of both partnerships and some of the other high-profile player-caddie splits of recent times.
Justin Thomas and Jimmy Johnson
Justin Thomas has had Jimmy Johnson (above) on his bag for the six years he has been a PGA professional. The pair enjoyed 14 tour victories together, and in a statement released this week announcing their parting of ways, Thomas was evident that the separation was not of his choosing. “I 100 percent did not fire him,” Thomas wrote, before adding ‘Jimmy came to me after the Ryder Cup and told me he has decided to pursue other opportunities.”
Not long after that announcement came, a second one followed that Jim ‘Bones’ McKay would be taking Johnson’s place. McKay has never ruled out caddying again for another player after splitting with Phil Mickelson several years ago and working as an on-course reporter for the Golf Channel and NBC since. The appointment makes perfect sense as Bones had caddied for Thomas on two previous occasions as a temporary replacement when Johnson was injured, including at WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in the summer of 2020, which Thomas won.
Bubba Watson and Ted Scott
Bubba Watson and Ted Scott had some fantastic times together in the 15 years they worked together. They won twelve times together on tour before parting company this week, including two green jackets. Watson released a statement reading, ‘After 15 incredible years together, Teddy and I have decided to end our on course partnership. We recently came to the decision after some deep talks, not only about golf but life. When we met, I don’t think we ever imagined how much we would experience together.’
It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, though, with Watson loudly berating Scott on more than one occasion in full earshot of microphones and cameras. In the aftermath of their split this week, Watson said that Scott deserves way more credit than he ever got, and the pair will remain close friends.
Tiger Woods and Steve Williams
Steve Williams instantly became the most recognisable caddie in the world of golf after replacing Mike Cowan on Tiger’s bag. Williams and Tiger enjoyed incredible levels of success together, winning 62 Tour events together, 13 of those majors. The partnership came to an end in 2011, however, when Woods was injured, and Williams caddied for Adam Scott at the U.S Open and the Open Championship. Woods fired Williams shortly after that, and Williams continued to caddie for the Australian while Tiger moved forward following his return to the course with Joe LaCava.
Bryson DeChambeau and Tim Tucker
DeChambeau and Tucker were together for all of the man from Modesto’s eight tour victories, including DeChambeau’s sole major. In July of this year, their split was an odd one, despite DeChambeau claiming the split had been on the cards for some time. Tucker quit on DeChambeau on the eve of the Rocket Mortgage Classic despite completing the practice rounds together that week in Detroit – timing he later said he regretted. He also said he was fortunate to work with DeChambeau for as long as he did. DeChambeau replaced Tucker with Bryan Ziegler, a former instructor at the club in Dallas where DeChambeau is a member.
Zach Johnson and Damon Green
Very few golfers retain the same caddie for as long as Zach Johnson did Damon Green. The pair spent 15 successful years together after Green opted to quit on previous employer Scott Hoch in 2004 to work for rookie Johnson. A decision that, over time, proved to be very wise and profitable. They won 12 times together on tour, including both of Johnson’s majors, the 2007 Masters and the 2015 Open Championship. Johnson told Green just before the start of the 2019 season, however, that they needed to take a break, and not long afterwards, that break turned into an official and a permanent amicable parting of the ways.
More to come!