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'You're Crazy Not to Take the Job': Joe LaCava, Tiger Woods's Longtime Caddie, Has a New Bag

Patrick Cantlay, the No. 4 player in the world, will now have LaCava as his full-time caddie.
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Joe LaCava is moving on. After 12 years working for Tiger Woods, a good bit of it waiting on the sideline for him to return from various injuries, LaCava has taken a full-time job caddying for Patrick Cantlay.

The two decided to work together last week after Cantlay had parted ways with his long-time caddie Matt Minister following the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. And after LaCava called Woods to explain his decision.

The move also appears to be permanent, pending a good working relationship going forward with Cantlay. LaCava said it is not likely he’d caddie for Woods if he were to return at the Masters next year.

"That’s my intention. As long as Patrick will have me going forward," LaCava said Tuesday after a practice round at Quail Hollow, site of this week’s Wells Fargo Championship. "I’m saying this kiddingly, if (Woods) could physically carry his own bag, he could win. I think he’s fine without me. We’ll miss each other with the friendship and not seeing each other as we normally would."

LaCava said it was a matter of timing, with Woods announcing two weeks ago that he had a fusion surgery to merge two bones in his foot and ankle, one that experts expect to keep him from playing golf for several months.

RELATED: Cantlay Has Lofty Spot in Latest SI World Golf Rankings

Cantlay, who is ranked fourth in the world, recently parted ways with his long-time caddie Matt Minister.

"Tiger’s not going to play much going forward," LaCava said. "Obviously he’s not retiring. But he’s going to play two to six tournaments a year.

"Tiger and I have talked about if something were to come up, feel free to do something. 'I know how much you miss it, how much you love caddying.' And when this opportunity arose, I checked with Tiger. And he said you’re crazy not to take the job, go forward, go win some tournaments, go have a great time."

Woods, who made the cut at the Masters for the 23rd consecutive time, had to withdraw prior to the resumption of the third round on April 9. He has fought to return to competition after a February 2021 car crash that severely damaged his right foot, ankle and leg. He’s played in just five official events since the crash and it appears that the majors he had hoped to play this year are out.

LaCava, 59, said it was possible he’d have moved on even if Woods did play, that it was more of a timing issue. And he said the discussion with Woods about it was not easy.

"It was a very tough phone call," he said. "We’re still very tight. It wasn’t like it ended where he’s healthy and going to play a full schedule. It’s a different set of circumstances. It was still a tough call.

"But like Fred (Couples) 10 or 12 years ago, I’d like to think we’re still going to be good friends, text back and forth, whatever."

LaCava has been caddying for nearly 40 years and had a long run with Couples, with whom he won the 1992 Masters. He worked for various players over the years and was with Dustin Johnson in 2011 when Woods called late in the year after having split that summer with his longtime caddie, Steve Williams.

Together, Woods won 12 worldwide tournaments with LaCava, including his 15th major championship, the 2019 Masters. Woods’s last tournament victory came in 2019 at the Zozo Championship, where he tied Sam Snead’s record with 82 career PGA Tour victories.

But Woods has missed considerable time during their tenure. He missed two major championships after his first back surgery in 2014 and then all eight played in 2016 and 2017.

Woods had an amazing return to competition in 2018 following spinal fusion surgery and was ranked as high as No. 6 in the world through 2019. But back issues and then the pandemic slowed him before his 2021 crash.

LaCava caddied for Cantlay at the 2021 Northern Trust playoff event when Minister was ill. Cantlay finished 11th that week, then went on to win the next two tournaments to capture the FedEx Cup title.

Earlier this year, LaCava caddied three times for Couples on the PGA Tour Champions and two weeks ago for Steve Stricker at the Zurich Classic. In all, he’s been a caddie for 31 PGA Tour wins and four more on the PGA Tour Champions.

Ultimately, LaCava said, he missed caddying.

"That’s a lot of it," he said. "I miss being out here, miss the guys. Then obviously you get a bag like this, a guy who can play and is a great kid. That makes it easy as well. But I missed it."

LaCava said he didn’t have much insight on Woods’ surgery.

"We didn’t go into a lot about it," he said. “I know it’s going to relieve some of the pain. Which is good for him. Forget the golf for him. He needs to get healthier so he can enjoy himself on a day to day basis. This wasn’t really surgery related. He was going to play two more tournaments at best.

"I wasn’t actively looking. It was a timing thing. I missed it and I wanted to work more."