DEREK LAWRENSON: It’s wrong to tee off about Rory McIlroy’s caddie despite the poor showing at the Masters – having someone less ‘qualified’ has worked for Stewart Cink and Lee Westwood
- Current world No 13 McIlroy’s current caddie is close friend Harry Diamond
- Northern Irishman has been criticised for not using someone more experienced
- But it is a more nuanced question than simply hiring the most seasoned caddie
- For players in their 30s and older, interpersonal chemistry is also a huge factor
- And Diamond is as dedicated as they come and he is a fine golfer in his own right
Barely a week goes by without an email landing at this address ‘advising’ Rory McIlroy to ditch the close friend who is his caddie and hire someone more qualified for the job.
But is there another role in sport where lines are so blurred as to what constitutes someone supposedly qualified? It is getting more blurry all the time, too. Back in the day, caddies fitted a stereotype and lived by the motto: ‘Show up, put up, shut up.’
Now, with the help of wall-to-wall coverage and on-course mics, we can see and hear how the role is evolving and the requirements differ radically from player to player.
Rory McIlroy (right) has been criticised for using his friend Harry Diamond (left) as his caddie
But close friends can help golfers with an equable temperament like Tommy Fleetwood (right)
‘It was not the most intelligent thing to do, even if I can say for certain that it was without malice.
‘It was clearly wrong, though, and now he must accept whatever punishment that Augusta National considers most fitting.
‘If they want to bar him from attending the Masters in future, then that is what they have to do.’
Gary Player responds on American website The Morning Read to the furore regarding son Wayne and his crass gesture at the Masters opening ceremony of holding up a sleeve of golf balls behind Lee Elder, to show off the brand.
Take 47-year-old Stewart Cink, who was ranked outside the top 300 when he ditched Kip Henley, widely acknowledged as one of the best caddies in the game. When he gave the job to 24-year-old son Reagan, you can imagine what people were thinking.
That was seven months ago. Since then, Cink’s career has undergone an astonishing renaissance. After finishing tied 12th at the Masters, the 2009 Open champion claimed his second PGA Tour win of the season following a masterclass in front-running at the Heritage Classic in South Carolina.
He is now one place above Sergio Garcia in the world’s top 50 and being talked about for a Ryder Cup berth. Leading for the final three rounds is the hardest way to win a tournament but Reagan proved the perfect foil because it became less like a cut-throat business and more like a family outing.
One of the key reasons behind Lee Westwood’s resurgence over the past 18 months is the fact fiancee Helen Storey is doing a similarly admirable job of lowering the stress levels.
What is right caddie-wise for a player in his mid-forties, however, is clearly different to someone just starting out on tour. It still makes perfect sense for a young golfer to employ one of the hired hands who have seen and done it and continue to have desire and ambition.
For a player in their thirties, however, when the wiles of course management have hopefully been learned, it becomes more about the chemistry. With excitable golfers like Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Wallace, it is plainly advisable to stick to strictly business arrangements.
Lee Westwood and Stewart Cink (second right) have had success with less seasoned caddies
When you are blessed with an equable temperament like McIlroy or Tommy Fleetwood, though, it is understandable why you would want a close friend by your side, although it should be added that Harry Diamond and Ian Finnis, the two mates in question, are both as dedicated as they come and fine golfers in their own right.
As for those at the Cink-Westwood time of life, when you have seen so much of golf, the main qualification, ironically enough, seems to be someone who has not.
What makes a great caddie? If you are one of those who likes to dash off a line in this direction regarding Diamond, feel free. But it is a question that is a little more nuanced than it looks.
Ex-young guns Lydia Ko and Jordan Spieth back in form
How fascinating that Jordan Spieth’s revival in the men’s game should be mirrored by Lydia Ko’s in the women’s.
Two weeks after the Texan won for the first time in 1,351 days, it was the turn of the New Zealander to prevail on Saturday for her first victory in 1,084 days. They were the untouchables in setting all sorts of age records before falling from grace at the same time.
One of my favourite statistics remains the fact that Ko, with 12 wins, achieved almost as many victories before her 19th birthday as every other female player all-time, combined (13).
Now, just a week before her 24th birthday, she has claimed her 16th following a memorable finish at the Lotte Championship in Hawaii that saw Leona Maguire, from Ireland, finish tied second alongside Nelly Korda.
Like Spieth, it was clearly a triumph that had been coming for Ko, who admitted she had taken inspiration from his victory in the Valero Texas Open. Who will be first to make it all the way back to the major winner’s circle?
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