Tiger, injured caddie likely to face rain test

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

Everybody has to have a hobby but, this week especially, Tiger Woods would probably prefer that his caddie had less adventurous tastes in his.

Steve Williams is part psychologist, part strategist and part pit bull and a very large part of Woods' successes over the past six years.

That doesn't stop the New Zealander from racing Sprint cars back home in the off-season. About a month ago, he injured his left hand in a racing accident, needing 48 stitches to close a gash. It doesn't much bother him in his daily duties as a caddie to the most famous golfer on the planet, as long as the sun shines.

"Probably the only problem is when it rains," Woods said. "You are always looking for more hands when it rains. You wish you had an octopus out there."

Instead, he's left with a one-armed paper hanger here in Los Angeles this week. Woods dodged a bullet yesterday, finishing his opening round at the Nissan Open before the skies opened up but he won't be so lucky today. Rain is in the forecast all day.

"It will be a challenging week for both of us," he said, "and one that we will have to get through and figure out a way."

A good, resourceful caddie is worth his weight in birdies on the PGA Tour, but never so much as when the weather turns ugly.

With so much riding on every shot, a pro cannot afford to have unbidden thoughts or worries creep into his head on the course. He must have total confidence that his caddie has everything under control. That's easier said than done. When rain starts to fall, a caddie's responsibilities are nearly doubled.

In addition to all the normal functions -- providing precise yardages, club-cleaning, bunker-raking, etc. -- he has to make sure his player and his clubs are warm and dry.

"If keeping you dry was all he had to worry about, then it wouldn't be a big problem," said Tom Watson last year, talking about his late caddie, Bruce Edwards. "I've played some of my greatest rounds in lousy weather and Bruce's ability to cope under those conditions was a key part of it. He was able to juggle all those duties, all the while holding the umbrella over my head until the last second before I would address the ball.

"He'd come off the course totally soaked, his arms burning with fatigue from holding that darned umbrella, proud as heck that he had 'taken one for the team.' "

On a day like yesterday and, more than likely, today and tomorrow, when the rain comes down in buckets, the PGA Tour caddies will be under the gun. Their jobs become infinitely more complicated. In an impossible situation, they must try to control their player's environments and keep things as normal as possible, while still keeping their heads in the game, ready to offer strong advice when required.

A slippery grip that causes an errant shot can be disastrous, not only for the player but for the caddie who failed to make sure it was dry.

"There's an element of trust you have to have," said Mike Weir, who played in the worst of the weather yesterday, yet maintained his composure, largely because of Brennan Little's skill on the bag. "You can't be distracted from what you have to do out there, no matter what the conditions. A good caddie can make you feel like everything that needs to be taken care of, is taken care of."

Woods and Williams have the track record that says they will manage, no matter the conditions or challenges this weekend.

They caught a break yesterday with their early tee time and Woods was bemoaning the fact he didn't take full advantage.

"I played like a fool (yesterday)," Woods said. "I felt like I should have taken advantage of the conditions a little more. It looks like the guys who played late got the worst end of the draw (yesterday)."

Woods likely will get some of that today in the wind and rain, playing short-handed, so to speak.


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