ATLANTA - The Steve Williams controversy has sparked a lot of talk about how much a good caddie is responsible for a player's success.
It's a good question: How much is a good caddie worth to a player? Michael Collins of the PGA Tour Network on XM Radio, a former looper on tour, figures Williams was worth four strokes a round to winner Adam Scott at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last weekend.
"I don't mean turning pars into birdies, just helping him avoid mistakes like short-siding himself that could lead to a bogey," Collins said. "Keeping momentum is important, so avoiding that mistake can help a player play the next holes better, too."
So with the Williams situation focusing interest on caddies, who are the best?
After consulting with players, caddies and members of the media, here are the top five caddies:
5. Joe Lecava: The long-time caddie was on the bag of Fred Couples for two decades and also has worked for Davis Love III. Lecava recently was hired to carry for rising star Dustin Johnson after the latter decided to make a change. Johnson and old caddie Bobby Brown didn't realize Johnson was in a bunker on the 72nd hole at last year's PGA Championship, earning Johnson a two-shot penalty and costing him a shot at a playoff.
4. Tony Navarro: Like good coaches, good caddies are hired to be fired. Navarro was let go by Adam Scott, opening the door for Williams, after he was fired by Tiger Woods, to take over lugging Scott's bag. Navarro, who has been working with Angel Cabrera, was the long-time caddie for former world No. 1 Greg Norman. He's viewed by many as the leading candidate to take over Woods' bag on a full-time basis..
3. Jim “Bones” Mackay: He’s been on Phil Mickelson’s bag for more than 15 years and toted for all four of Lefty’s major championships. The lanky looper apparently got his nickname when Fred Couples couldn’t remember his name. He started out in 1990 caddying for Larry Mize. Mickelson hired him in 1992 when he turned pro. Mackay’s wife is one of the best friends of Mickelson’s wife, Amy, so that assures some job security.
2. Billy Foster: The bagman for world No. 2 Lee Westwood, Foster caddied for Woods at the 2005 Presidents Cup when Williams returned to his native New Zealand for the birth of his son. That led to speculation Woods might "steal" Foster from Westwood, but Foster has said he views Westwood as his "best mate," and won't defect.
1. Steve Williams: Even those who are critical of Williams spouting off Sunday moments after Adam Scott had won the Bridgestone grudgingly allow that Williams is as good as there is among the loopers right now. He also has carried for Norman and Raymond Floyd. "He's really passionate and he's into it. He wants to be out there to win and he's a driven guy," Scott said.
It's tough to argue with Williams' 145 wins.