Never underestimate the importance of a good caddie.
Last year, Tiger Woods capped his stunning return to elite competitive golf by clinching the Masters.
It was Tiger’s fifth green jacket, and his first in 14 years, taking him to within one of Jack Nicklaus’ record haul of six.
In the end, the former world number one held off a stellar chasing pack including Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Francesco Molinari and Xander Schauffele to secure a one-stroke victory and complete one of the most unlikely comeback stories in sporting history.
However, earlier in the round, it did not look as though it was going to be Tiger’s day.
With overnight leader Molinari seemingly unflappable, Tiger endured a rough patch halfway through his opening nine holes, dropping back-to-back shots on the fourth and fifth holes.
His bogey five at the par-4 fifth left him three strokes adrift of Molinari, who was playing rock-solid par golf.
Tiger did not play the fifth well all week, bogeying it on all four rounds. With his Masters dream in danger of slipping away, Tiger’s caddie decided to step in with some choice words for his employer.
“I’m thinking, ‘What the, what do I gotta do here? Going to 6, I said something briefly, basically saying, ‘You know, it’s one thing if you don’t win this tournament today, but just don’t hand strokes to people,'” Joe LaCava told Golf Digest.
Tiger, knowing that he needed to move up a gear to catch Molinari, absorbed LaCava’s well-timed pep talk.
Not a lot of people can tell Tiger Woods what to do, but LaCava – who has carried his bag since 2011 – has certainly earned the 15-time major champion’s trust.
“The talk that Joey and I had off of 5—I just listened,” said Woods.
“He was saying some things that I can’t really repeat here.
“Then I went into the restroom and proceeded to say the same things over and over to myself, and then came out, and I felt a lot better.”
LaCava’s intervention produced the desired result. After securing a steady par at the sixth, Tiger birdied seven and eight, bringing him to within one of Molinari.
Tiger did drop a shot at the par-4 10th, but crucially survived the treacherous par-3 12th, Augusta’s make-or-break signature hole.
But whereas he avoided Rae’s Creek, Molinari and Tony Finau – his two playing partners – did not, both falling to a damaging double bogey.
From there, Tiger birdied 13, 15 and 16 grab the green jacket by the collar, and while he dropped a shot at 18, it was still enough to finish a shot ahead of Johnson, Koepka and Schauffele and slip into golf’s most famous garment for the fifth time.