With Ian Woosnam, starts are everything. The wee Welshman began
his Sunday round at Royal Lytham by stiffing a six-iron to within
a pint glass of the hole. Take that, you damn par-3 1st. He
kicked in his birdie putt and stood at seven under par. No score
was lower. David Duval was standing on Royal Lytham's secluded
1st tee, cooling his heels, fixing his shades, trailing by one.
Woosie, 43, had won a major, the Masters, a decade ago. He had
made his millions. The only really important thing left for him
to do in golf was win his national championship. That, and play
one more Ryder Cup at home. Then he could just about retire.
The hour before his tee time was frenzied. On the practice tee he
was still experimenting with drivers, undecided about which one
to use. The reps were fussing over him. Finally, he settled on a
club, went to the practice green, removed the headcover from his
42-inch putter and stroked putts. Peter Coleman, Bernhard
Langer's caddie, was standing beside him.
"What time are you?" Coleman asked Woosnam.
July 29, 2001
"Two twenty-five," Woosnam replied.
"No you're not," Coleman said. "We're off at 2:25." Langer and
Duval were the last twosome. Woosnam was playing with Germany's
Alex Cejka in the penultimate pairing.
Woosnam looked at his caddie of the last 10 weeks, Myles Byrne,
and asked, "What time are we?"
There are certain caddie essentials. Knowing a player's tee time
is an essential. So is counting your player's clubs on the 1st
tee. A caddie must be able to count to 14. It's a job
Woosnam made it to the 1st tee with three minutes to spare.
Byrne, 25, got around to counting the clubs on the 2nd. "You're
going to go ballistic," Byrne said to Woosnam as he prepared to
tee off on number 2. "We have two drivers in the bag." Fifteen
clubs, one over the limit.
That birdie on the 1st? It was now a bogey, with the automatic
two-shot penalty. Niclas Fasth had birdied the 7th, so Woosnam
now trailed by two. In Oswestry, Wales, Harold Woosnam, Ian's
father, watching on television, suddenly felt ill. At the
Woodbrook Golf Club, on the south side of Dublin, where Byrne and
his two older brothers, both European tour caddies, got their
training, the head pro, Billy Kinsella, felt ill. All over the
world, people felt ill. "I felt like I had been kicked in the
teeth," Woosnam said. "I felt like picking it up and walking in."
He played on, but in a daze. He bogeyed the 3rd hole and the 4th.
It was an uphill climb from there. Although he got within two
strokes of the lead with a birdie at the 13th, Woosnam trailed by
three or four shots for most of the back nine and finished in a
tie for third place, four shots behind.
You may say it is the golfer's responsibility to know how many
clubs he has. It is not, not with tour caddies earning $1,000 a
week plus 5% of their players' hefty pay. Caddying is a
profession. "That's what you pay a caddie for," Woosnam said, and
he is correct. The golfer has other things to think about.
For 14 years Woosnam had the same caddie, Phill (Wobbly) Morbey,
who counted his man's clubs on the 1st tee before every round. In
March the two parted ways, amicably. Wobbly went to work for Jose
Maria Olazabal, and Byrne, an experienced tour caddie, went to
work for Woosnam.
"He's a good caddie; I'm not going to sack him," Woosie said on
Sunday evening. That's what Jean Van de Velde said about his
looper, Christophe Angiolini, following their triple-bogey
debacle on the 72nd hole in the British Open at Carnoustie two
years ago. By the PGA Championship four weeks later, Angiolini
Byrne took all the blame at Royal Lytham. "The buck stops with
me," he said. That's the correct thing to say, but it won't be
enough. Woosman will probably be on the European Ryder Cup team
come September. The odds on poor Byrne making it are long. A man
had a chance to win his national championship, and now that
chance is gone.