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Huggan: Caddie insight for coach McCormick

Cameron McCormick and Jordan Spieth
Cameron McCormick on the bag for Jordan Spieth at the 2017 Emirates Australian Open.

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Funnier things have happened in golf - and a repeat of the closing 63 he shot en route to his maiden Australian Open victory in 2014 would surely see him well in contention for a third - but it doesn’t look as if “Jordan Spieth" is going to be etched on the Stonehaven Cup this time round. Two-under par for 54-holes, the 24-year old Texan is barely inside the top-20. Too many bodies look to be between him and the lead with only one round to play over the Australian course. 

Still, this fourth consecutive visit to the 114-year old event might just turn out to be one of the most significant events in Spieth’s already storied career. At least in the long-term. With regular caddie Michael Greller at home in the States, the three-time major champion has employed his swing coach, Cameron McCormick, on the bag this week. And, as things have turned out, it has been an invaluable experience for the Melbourne-born McCormick, who admits to working out - “It’s a big bag and I’m not the biggest guy” - in preparation for this week.

“I’ve seen a lot that is going to help me as a coach,” said McCormick, minutes after Spieth holed out for a morale-boosting birdie on the 18th and a one-under par round of 70. “I’m not going to give any examples, but there are three bullet points I can think of right now that will really help us moving forward. Jordan is already aware of what they are. I think that’s the difference between me being on the bag and Michael being on the bag. He wouldn’t be thinking about those things and trying to implement them. Why would he be?

“Jordan is very wise on the golf course, something I have known for a long time. It is interesting how he frames things and performs out there, whether things are going well or things are going poorly. But he definitely asked me some questions during the round that he would never have asked Michael. They might talk about those things, but actually asking and answering the questions was not something they would have done.

“Having said that, I can’t say I’ve done a whole lot of coaching that has been hugely or immediately beneficial over the last three days. If I had, I’m sure we would have seen a big difference in Jordan’s scores. Maybe the biggest thing I got from being on the bag were the ‘in the moments’ experience he and Michael have week-to-week. It was a bit like riding shotgun for me.”

There was a bit of relief in McCormick’s voice too. A big part of being a good caddie is knowing what to say and what not to say. Knowing when to speak up - and when not to - is also a vital part of the delicate relationship that exists inside the ropes. Even knowing his player so well, McCormick was well aware of the potential verbal pitfalls. Which is not to say he has been perfect in that regard.

“Michael’s golf IQ has grown substantially in the last four years,” he said. “He fully understands what to say and when to say it. Which is a huge part of being a good caddie for anyone. So yes, while I bring a bit of golf IQ that I know Michael does not have, far more important is the on-board coach - the on-board sports psychologist - role that he plays. 

“I feel like I can’t do that to the same extent. I haven’t had the same successes - or learned from the same mistakes - on Jordan’s bag. I’m not completely sure that I have said the right things at the right times. Which is the hardest part of caddying. I don’t think I’ve been too much of a hindrance, but there was one shot out there today where I talked him into the wrong choice of club. I cost him at least an opportunity for birdie on the par-5 5th hole. I gave him the 3-wood for his second shot when there was really no need to hit that club. 

“Thankfully, he didn’t point the finger. He never does that. But I owned up to the fact that the mistake was on me. We moved on. You live and learn. You’re not learning unless you are making mistakes. And yes, it’s been fun. I’ve enjoyed my deeper look behind the competitive curtain.”

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