How Caddies Win Major Championships

Jim 'Bones' Mackay and Justin Thomas, TOUR Championship,Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports
Jim 'Bones' Mackay and Justin Thomas, TOUR Championship,Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports /

You will often hear players say phrases like “we played well today”, or “we left a few shots out there today”. This is because most players know the significance of having a great caddie and why they consider them to be a vital part of their game, and for good reason.

The fine margin between winning and losing is so small that absolutely everything needs to be finely tuned to be producing results.

For example, Jon Rahm’s scoring average of 68.2 across his first 8 tournaments this season resulted in 3 wins. Conversely, Rahm’s scoring average of 69.7 across his last 8 tournaments last season resulted in 0 wins.

The difference in just 1.5 shots per round is vast, and a good caddie could save you much more than that.

No player knows the significance of this more than Adam Scott. In 2011 Scott was on the verge of greatness but wasn’t quite able to make the jump to being a major championship winner.

Steve Williams was still caddying for Tiger Woods at the time, having been on the bag for 13 of his major wins. An injury-filled season for Tiger meant that Williams was able to caddie for Scott part-time, starting with the US Open and Open Championship in 2011.

Needless to say, Williams elected to be Scott’s permanent caddie. The effect was immediate with Scott finishing in the top 10 in half of the majors in 2011 and 2012.

The next year at the Masters, Williams was able to guide Scott with the expertise he learned when helping Tiger to 3 of his wins at Augusta National.

Williams famously overruled Scott on the second playoff hole over a disagreement about how much the tournament-winning putt would break. Williams was right and Scott won the Masters less than two years after the caddie change.

Another beneficiary of a caddie change is world number one Scottie Scheffler.

Before Scheffler’s win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in 2022, he was a regular PGA Tour player with 70 starts without a win under his belt.

When Scheffler learned that Bubba Watson was parting ways with his long-term caddie Ted Scott, Scheffler quickly picked up the phone and talked Scott into giving him a chance.

Scott carried Scheffler’s bag for the first time at The RSM Classic in November 2021 and then agreed to take the caddie job permanently. Fast forward to present day and Scott has presided over 6 wins in just over a year, turning Scheffler into a serial champion.

The highlight of those 6 wins was earning a green jacket at the Masters last year. Notably, Scott was on the bag for both of Bubba Watson’s Masters victories in 2010 and 2012. Like Williams was able to bring out a new level in Adam Scott, Ted Scott was able to unleash a champion in Scheffler.

Perhaps the latest player to benefit from a caddie change is Kurt Kitayama. Despite turning professional in 2015 and having 47 PGA Tour starts under his belt, Kitayama had been unable to register a win.

Kitayama parted ways with his caddie of four years after this year’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. By chance, Kitayama came across Bryson DeChambeau’s former caddie, Tim Tucker.

Tucker had been without a permanent caddie appointment since firing his boss DeChambeau the day before the Rocket Mortgage Classic in 2021.

Tucker’s presided over 8 wins in his time on the bag for DeChambeau, most notably the 2020 US Open.

With Tucker on the bag, it took just 3 starts for Kitayama to secure his first PGA Tour win in his 50th PGA Tour start at this year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. Ironically, the same event Tucker won with DeChambeau in 2021.

These patterns demonstrate the value that having a knowledgeable caddie can have. A player hoping for this pattern to continue is Justin Thomas who has had veteran Jim “Bones” Mackay on the bag since 2021.

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Bones has already helped Thomas pick up his second major victory at last year’s PGA Championship.

Justin Thomas will now be hoping that Bones’ three Masters wins with Phil Mickelson will give him an advantage at Augusta National next week.