If anyone thought I’d made the biggest mistake of my life by quitting a job with Jose Maria Olazabal so soon after he’d become Masters champion, I’d like to think I proved them wrong.
In fact, I believe that I am the only caddie in the game to win five majors with three different players, having added to that success in 1994 with both Steve Elkington and Vijay Singh.
I was working for South African Fulton Allem at the 1994 Open at Turnberry, won by Nick Price, when the Elk came up and asked for a word with me. He asked if I wanted to go over to America to work for him full-time.
It was only three months after leaving Olazabal and he said: ‘I’ve only made $22,000 this year, but I’m getting healthy and playing good’. He proved that the next couple of years by playing fantastic and getting into the top ten in the world.
We won the 1995 US PGA Championship at Riviera, beating Colin Montgomerie in a play-off. Monty hasn’t shaken my hand to this day, but I can understand that as he was obviously disappointed to come so close to making his breakthrough in a major.
It was my second, of course, and one that I will never forget due to Elkington’s generosity as he gave me $100,000 after that win. He knew that I’d packed in with Olazabal due to money squabbles and promised he’d see me okay if he won something big.
We went up to Seattle for Fred Couples’ pro-am straight after the USPGA. I got a phone call half an hour before we were due to play in the pro-am to go and see him. He said: ‘I’ve just transferred $100,000 into your bank account!’ It was $360,000 to the winner and he paid me about 25 per cent. It was a big whack and I really appreciated it.
I was still working for the Elk when I left my reading glasses on the plane coming home from the 1996 Masters, went to get my eyes tested and discovered that I had a detached retina that meant I couldn’t work for the rest of that year.
They said it was an old injury and the only thing I could think caused it was when I was mugged at a cash machine in Edinburgh one night and got a right doing.
Elkington kept the guy he got to fill in for me and I was on New Zealander Grant Waite’s bag when Vijay Singh’s manager at IMG asked me if I would like to work for the big Fijian full-time.
At that stage, Vijay, who I knew had been a bouncer in one of the Edinburgh nightclubs when he came over to the city for a spell, had played in Europe for a couple of years and was probably close to top ten in the world.
He was by far the hardest worker I’ve come across. The hours he put in on the range were outrageous, but it got its rewards – a US PGA win in 1998 then again in 2004 with a Masters triumph sandwiched in between in 2000.
Off the course, Vijay used to speak to people badly and I’d pull him up all the time. On the golf course, though, he wasn’t bad at all. He never gave you any praise, but never gave you any sh*t. He took responsibility more on the course than Olazabal did.
To me, yardage books make it far too easy for the caddies nowadays. Down the stretch is when a player wants a caddie to show his mettle. You need to be able to stick up for yourself and can’t just be a ‘yes’ man. I never mixed with any of my players off the course. I preferred to go away for a bite to eat and something to drink with the rest of the caddies. It was business on the course.
That’s why I had to speak up after I’d spotted the rules infringement by Rory McIlroy in the third round of the HSBC Golf Championship in Abu Dhabi two years ago, when I was caddying for one of his playing partners, Ricardo Gonzalez.
It was at the second hole in the third round and Rory had taken a drop on a spectator walkway but had one foot still standing on the white line defining that area when he played his next shot and that, of course, is not permitted under the game’s rules.
I would never have stopped thinking about it if I hadn’t said anything, though he hasn’t really spoken to me since. That’s pretty poor, but I have so much respect for him as a player and as soon as we went back and saw where the divot mark was, he knew where he was standing.
Most recently, I was working for KJ Choi out in America but, unfortunately, my caddying days are now at an end due to the fact I have been diagnosed with cancer. I’ve achieved a lot and life has been decent to me thanks to golf and the people I’ve had the pleasure to meet in this great sport.
• As told to Martin Dempster