by Golf Monthly - Feb 2009
How did you get into the caddying job?
We'd known each other for years - we're friends and our wives are sisters. In 1998 Paddy was changing caddies and asked if I'd do a week for him at the Lancome Trophy. That week turned into four before John O'Reilly came back and finished the year out and Dave McNeilly started. Then in 2004 he asked me the same thing. WouldI do a couple of weeks, possibly the rest of the season? I was working in a Dublin bank, got a career break and went caddying. S ix months was the maximum I thought I'd be doing, but it went well and at the end of the year he said if I was happy to stay he was more than happy for it to keep going. And here we are - I'm still here!
Do you feel the last day pressure as much as Padraig?
I don't have to hit the shots. If I had to hit the shots I'd feel the pressure. For me those three Majors have been really enjoyable. I find it easier and more enjoyable in those high-pressure situations than in weeks where there's nothing really going on. I don't know whether that's good, bad or whatever, but I don't get too caught up in the fact that it's a Major. You're just trying to do your job. It's like walking into a busy bar on a Friday night and the barman is there trying to serve ten people at once. He's happier that way than if there was only one person he had to look after all night. On the back nine in a Major there are actually fewer distractions because you're more clued in to making sure everything is right.
What's going on behind those slightly crazed eyes Padraig sometimes gets?
He talks a lot about his mental focus - it's good one week and not so good another. That look is when it's good. He picks a target, gets into the shot and knows what he's doing. Nothing can distract him then.
Talk us through the 71st hole at Birkdale and that famous 5-wood shot...
At that stage he was two ahead of Poulter who had finished. But Padraig didn't know where he stood. We did the yardage and it was a perfect 5-wood - it would carry the trap short of the green and release up towards the hole. But before he hit it I said, 'look, you can hit an iron down there, lay it up and play for a 5.' He asked me, 'what's the story?' I told him he was two ahead and he said, 'no, I'm happy - 5-wood.' It's probably his favourite club, so I had no problem with him hitting the shot. It was a slightly hanging lie, and with the strong wind he had to start it well down the left. But it was on a slight downslope which meant he was unlikely to really get it up in the air and hit it way right, which was the real danger. If he hit it left into the grandstand he'd be getting a free drop. It was a club we were both happy with, but I just wanted to make sure he knew where he stood so that if he wanted to play for a 5 - hoping to try and make a 4 another way but certainly making a 5 - he could.
Did you know how close it had finished?
We knew from the crowd it was close so to get up and find it practically stone-dead as a huge bonus. But just getting up on the top level was enough, because he was always going to two-putt from there. I was just thinking heís going to make 4 no matter what, and the worst case scenario will be a three-shot lead playing the last.
What are the main things that you have to guard against with Padraig?
I sometimes have to remind him that he doesnít need to over-practice at a tournament if he wants to remain fresh. Throughout his career heís hit a lot of golf balls! On the course, I knew heís getting frustrated when he starts going quiet. And when he gets frustrated he tends to get a bit hard on himself. When he starts doing that I try to pick out something he can laugh about. Thereís a character in Harry Potter called Dobby who irons his hands. Me saying ďyouíre trying too hardĒ doesnít work. But if I say to Padraig, ďdo you want to iron our hands?Ē he knows what Iím saying, and can laugh about it. It helps get him out of it Ė to a degree.
How did you cope with the weather at this yearís Open?
Starting out on Thursday at Birkdale, conditions were probably as bad as Iíve experienced on a golf course. But weíd had similar conditions the week before at The European Club in the Irish PGA so we were already accustomed to the golf ball not going as far and so on. So he was well prepared, he knew what to expect and he knew what he had to do with the ball - keep t on the ground and just try to grind out a score, It wasnít about who could hit the golf ball the best; it was about who could simply get through it.
Has caddying improved your own golf game?
I donít play as much now, but it would make me think more about how Iím playing a hole. Before I might have tried to leave as short a club in as possible, but now, rather than taking on a tee-shot that might bring double or treble into play, I donít mind leaving myself a longer club because if I miss the green Iím happy Iíll still have a chance of chipping and putting. So it helps, but I donít play enough competitively now to really reap the benefits.