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Sunday 11 December 2016

Johnson left jilted by Tiger's pulling power

Caddie LaCava leaves world No 5 for 'unique opportunity'

Kevin Garside

Published 27/09/2011 | 05:00

Tiger Woods chats with Dustin Johnson (R) during a practice round prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort
Tiger Woods chats with Dustin Johnson (R) during a practice round prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort
Golfer Tiger Woods. Photo: Getty Images

Dustin Johnson arrives at the Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland this week the unwitting victim of the Tiger Woods effect.

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Despite his world No 5 ranking, Johnson is no match for Woods in a golfing beauty contest and is looking for a new caddie after Joe LaCava ditched him following the FedEx Cup finale in Atlanta.

LaCava had been with Johnson less than a year and, according to Woods, made the first move. Johnson, who will have his brother on his bag at the Dunhill, claimed the £1m first prize at the Barclays last month in the first leg of the FedEx play-offs. He was also second at the Cadillac, the lucrative World Golf Championship at Doral in March.

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Woods, in contrast, has not banked a winner's cheque for almost two years and steps down to the B-list Fall Series at the Frys.com Open in California next week in a desperate search for form. None of that has had any bearing on the thinking of LaCava, the long-time servant of Fred Couples, who sees in Woods the opportunity of a lifetime.

"I'm excited to be working with Tiger," LaCava said. "I contacted Tiger and his agent, Mark Steinberg, because this is a unique opportunity to be part of something very special.

"Tiger and I have been friends for a very long time, and I know what he can do. I want to thank Dustin for the opportunity to work with him and I wish him nothing but the best."

Woods had been without a caddie since parting company with Steve Williams in July. The ugly fallout that ensued persuaded Woods to keep the appointment of LaCava quiet until the FedEx Series had concluded. That plan was scuppered by Johnson's coach, Butch Harmon, critic and former aide to Woods, who let the secret out during the TV commentary on Sunday night, declaring himself "shocked".

"The thing that bothered me the most was TW not calling Dustin and asking if he could talk to Joe," Harmon said. "That's the way it's done. I'm a little disappointed with the way Tiger handled it but I'm not surprised."

Harmon was speaking from bitter experience, of course. Woods gave him the elbow after an association that yielded eight Majors.

LaCava apparently delivered the 'Dear John' message in the East Lake locker room after Johnson's final round at the Tour Championship. The pair came together after Couples decided he could no longer complete a full schedule.

Though surprised, Johnson accepted LaCava's resignation without fuss. Johnson's agent, David Winkle, said: "We think highly of Joe, both as a caddie and a person, which is why he was hired in the first place. We wish him nothing but the best."

Woods has only four events in his diary for the remainder of the year, beginning next week in California. He missed his third Major cut as a pro at the US PGA last month, underlining the parlous state of his game. Yet the Woods brand retains sufficient value to persuade a top caddie to walk away from a bag that stands comparison to any. And, despite the evidence to the contrary, Woods shares LaCava's belief that his winning days are not yet done.

"This was an important decision, and I wanted to think about it carefully," Woods said. "Out of deference for the FedEx Cup, I decided to wait until they were concluding to have substantive talks. We then spoke to Joe and came to an agreement. Joe is an outstanding caddie. I'm anxious for us to be working together." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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