“We did it!!!!” Tiger cried ecstatically, pushing both hands into LaCava’s chest.
LaCava, grinning, pushed back, as if to say you did it, but they both knew the truth.
The fact was, Southbury’s Joe LaCava had helped orchestrate one of the most amazing comebacks in sports history not only with his caddying but with his loyalty. When no one else believed, Joe did. And Tiger’s gleeful push on Masters Sunday was the thank you every lineman, every sixth man, every unsung teammate lives for. We did it.
LaCava, who, after a family Easter off will spend this week preparing for the next major, the fast-approaching PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in mid-May, had more than a small hand in that final round a week ago, too.
“On the first tee I told him, intense but loose,” LaCava told Golf Digest. “‘Don’t carry the weight of the world.’ It’s a delicate balance, to make sure you’re fired up enough to hit the big shots, but you don’t want to be so overwhelmed by the moment that you tighten up and lose the ability to swing the golf club as you know it.”
“I think he did that.” LaCava said. “I thought he was pretty loose. But I didn’t want him to lose that intensity. At the same time, this isn’t the end all. Not, ‘Let’s just have fun no matter what happens.” Don’t get me wrong. But be loose.”
When Tiger made bogeys at Nos. 4 and 5, the latter thanks to a three-putt, LaCava reinforced the message
“Intense but loose,” along with Tiger’s patient, Nicklausian plotting of that final round, waiting for others to make mistakes, brought them home, with LaCava on call to the final putt.
“He said, ‘Take a look.’ I said, ‘Take a look? It’s a foot and a half,’” said LaCava laughing about Tiger’s 275th shot. “He said, ‘ 'Left center,’ I said, ‘Go for it.’”
The 55-year-old LaCava, who caddied for Fred Couples 27 years before when he won the Green Jacket, made a ton a great calls last week, pulling precise yardages at times from spots, as with the famous shot on No. 14 on Saturday, in the middle of the trees where the yardage books don’t go.
But his best call was sticking with Tiger when most of the golf world, and even, at times, Tiger himself, thought injuries had brought him down. LaCava got other offers. Tiger even gave his blessing. But the father of four stayed, like a loyal teammate, like a member of the family.
“I don’t know if I dreamt about it, but I pictured it, you know? “I wouldn’t have stuck around if I didn’t think he was capable of pulling something like this off. He is Tiger Woods after all, right?”
For the LaCavas the victory was a family affair, shared with wife Megan when she and Joe joined a clubhouse party Sunday afternoon that began in Butler Cabin with the Woods family. Family is big to Joe, the thing that seems to keep him grounded. And humble.
“Hey, I didn’t put in all the hard work. I didn’t have all the surgeries. I wasn’t down in Florida grinding,” he said. “So for me, it’s easy. I just show up, try to do a halfway decent job, and he has to do all the tough work.”
Maybe so, but on the 18th green last week the world heard another view, something Tiger reiterated a couple of hours later in a text, LaCava told the Caddie Network in an exclusive interview. He said, ‘Appreciate you hanging in there with me, I love you like a brother.’”
The message began: “We did it.”