with Robert Bicknell
One of the biggest dangers when playing for money, whether prize money or a heavy bet, is making sure you know who is on your side and who isn't. Despite what you might think, the one person you are supposed to be able to trust, and the only person allowed in the rules of golf to give you advice during a match, might not be as loyal as you hope.
That's right, your caddie just might be your enemy.
As a golf club manager/director of golf and as an occasional tournament player, I have seen firsthand what can happen when someone "buys" your caddie and I have sacked a few caddies for taking payment to screw up their player.
In 2001, a member who shall not be named at one of my clubs discovered his long time caddie was betting against him. She saw the way he hit the ball at the range and his practice putts and decided he would not win that day, so she bet against him with the other caddies.
The trust they had built over many years was destroyed and she got sacked. Unfortunately, this example was not enough to deter other caddies from doing the same thing later.
It's not difficult for a caddie to kill their own player and it doesn't have to be obvious. In most cases it will be an incorrect read on the green and again, it doesn't have to be a glaring error. Just half a ball off the correct putting line will result in a missed putt and a bogey instead of a par, or a par instead of a birdie.
The closer a player is to his caddie, the more the caddie knows the player's style. His tempo, the way he strokes the putt, so it is quite easy for the caddie to intentionally misread the line just enough so the putt lips the hole instead of dropping into the cup.
There are some players in Viet Nam who bet staggering amounts of money on the game, so they would not necessarily be above ensuring their bet by paying off their opponent's caddie. This has happened more often than people think and it doesn't take much money to pull it off.
If a player normally tips a caddie VND200,000 for 18 holes (standard tip), that caddie would have no problem accepting VND1 million for giving his/her player a few bad reads. Not enough to be obvious, but enough to give the match to the other player.
There are even cases where a caddie who normally receives VND1-2 million tips from their normal player to sell out to the opponent who offers VND5 million.
There have been cases where a group of players have a huge bet and one player is a lot longer off the tee than the others and pays a marshal to move the tee markers back a few yards on each hole to increase his advantage.
Whenever a player is caught cheating, he/she becomes a pariah, an outcast, amongst the club members. This same punishment should be given to caddies and club employees who do the same.
This has happened to me once or twice as well. When a caddie badly misreads two or three putts, I tend to ignore their advice for the rest of the day. Once, in a multi-day tournament, the caddie was razor sharp on her reads during both the practice round and the first day tournament round.
However, during the second tournament round, she seemed very distracted and couldn't look me in the eye. She really didn't want to read the line for me and all day long, her reads were off the mark. I couldn't understand it as the day before she was outstanding. What could possibly have changed between the first round and the second?
It's cannot be proven, but it's a fair bet that she had been bought.
The bottom line is that players should not blindly accept the advice from their caddie if there is an important tournament or match at stake. Look at the putt and if you cannot see the line the caddie recommends, choose your own because the player is ultimately responsible for the score.
Painful lessons learned. — VNS