At eight o'clock last Wednesday morning, Hal Sutton strode onto
the 17th tee at the TPC at Sawgrass, peeled two crisp $100 bills
from his money clip and dropped them into an empty, jumbo-sized
pretzel jug. He then instructed his caddie, Brian Emanuel, to pull
the eight-iron. Still half asleep, Emanuel grabbed the club,
dropped a ball, reared back and sent a big ugly hook long and left
of the infamous island green. Ker-plunk.
"Too much club," said Sutton, feigning concern.
"Yeah, thanks," Emanuel muttered.
So began the 2004 Caddie Closest to the Pin Contest, an 11-year
staple of Players Championship week. At stake were a pro-funded
purse and a Tour-donated wristwatch. More important, though, are
the bragging rights as best stick among the caddies. This year
Robert Ames, the brother-caddie of Stephen Ames, won the pot by
dropping a wedge to within 4'8" of the cup.
The contest's entertainment value comes more from the bad shots
than the good ones. This year 55 of the 112 balls hit by the
caddies now sleep with the fishes, largely because the loopers
don't stand a chance. They are confronted with a shot that requires
a 129-yard carry over the Tour's scariest water hazard after
lugging a 40-pound bag for 16 holes. "You see guys cracking their
necks and taking practice swings as early as the 15th fairway,
trying to get loose," says Joe LaCava, Fred Couples's longtime
It's not always the labored swings that produce the laughs. In 1993
Jim (Bones) McKay, in his first year with Phil Mickelson, sent a
screamer straight at the flag, which was being tended, as a joke,
by Larry Mize. Mize's jaw dropped as the ball whizzed toward him,
and he ducked for cover an instant before it slammed into the stick
and then dropped straight down into the cup.
Two years ago an elaborate prank highlighted the contest.
Conspiring with Craig (Woody) Cimarelli, Dudley Hart's caddie, Jeff
Sluman had the guys in the Titleist van duplicate Hart's
eight-iron. Using the counterfeit, Cimarelli intentionally shanked
his shot into the water and, pretending to be angry, helicoptered
the eight-iron into the drink after it. "Dudley was shocked,"
Sluman says, "but then he realized what was up. Woody's grade B
acting killed us."
This year the group of Mickelson, J.P. Hayes and Tiger Woods had
some fun when Mickelson said, "Hey, Tiger, why don't you and J.P.
hit one lefty, and I'll hit one righty?" Tiger looked like a
20-handicapper from the port side, slicing his shot left of the
green. Hayes nearly whiffed. Mickelson's ball barely reached the
island, ricocheting off the pilings and into the water.
As a tribute to Bruce Edwards, the caddies limited this year's
winner's share to $1,000 (plus the watch), with the rest donated to
ALS research. Inspired, the pros ponied up $8,120. (The Tour
matched the first $5,000.) Most of the players concealed their
contributions. Woods clenched a fist around his bills while shoving
them deep into the nest. The donation made by John Daly (who, with
Fuzzy Zoeller and Hubert Green, was one of the contest's
originators) was at first also difficult to gauge. At day's end
marshal Becky Harvey counted the bills left in the jug. "This would
be Daly's," she said, extracting an inch-thick roll. Counting out
10 hundreds and an equal number of 20s, she said, "That's $1,200.
That guy has a big heart." --Chris Lewis