Travelers Championship

TPC River Highlands

Temper, temper

Matt Wallace berates his caddie at Valspar, and it's not the first time he's shown hot-headed tendencies

March 18, 2023

Matt Wallace and caddie Sam Bernard walk off the second tee during the third round of the Valspar Championship.

Julio Aguilar

The quirky tradition at Valspar Championship of players and caddies creating their own names and phrases on the back of the looper bibs is well-documented. We had a post earlier this week about Max McGreevy brilliantly roasting himself with “Mr. 89” after he shot 89 in the second round of last week’s Players Championship. Another of our favorites: PLEASEMAKEAPUTT on the back of Rory Sabbatini’s caddie, Dean Elliott.

Englishman Matt Wallace’s man on the bag this week is Sam Bernard, the only Frenchman who caddies on the PGA Tour. Given that, his bib reads FRENCH CADDIE.” Not very creative, to be honest, and given the very heat and public argument that he and Wallace had at the end of the round, maybe he should have chosen C’EST LA VIE.

After a 67 in the second round, Wallace—a 32-year-old four-time winner on the DP World Tour—was high up on the leaderboard and two under for Saturday heading to the 17th hole at Innisbrook. But he bogeyed the penultimate hole and then flared his drive to the right at the par-4 finisher.

The ball ended up on an asphalt cart path, and because Wallace would have to take a drop into pinestraw, he chose to hit an iron off the path. As announcer Paul Azinger said, pros hit these shots for fun in the parking lot, and they’re usually not that hard. But Wallace seemed to catch asphalt a bit on his swing, and the ball only traveled 162 yards—30 short of the green.

Wallace looked at Bernard in disbelief, and then as they walked down the fairway, the caddie must have said something that irked his player. Wallace stopped in his tracks and started jawing at Bernard. Even amateur lip readers could make out, “Shut the f--- up” at some point.

It could have turned into something even juicier if Wallace imploded on the hole, but he hit a good wedge to five feet and made the par putt. Wallace very much has a chance to win Sunday, sitting only three shots off the lead.

Kudos to NBC. Other than Jordan Spieth’s many bounce backs, this was the most exciting thing that happened in the round, so the network and reporter Cara Banks went into full “Breaking News” mode, showing Wallace and Bernard making their way across a bridge and to the scoring trailer. (Wallace had been the broadcast's Mic'd Up tour pro just a few holes earlier.) Banks ended up getting word from Wallace that all had been smoothed over.

“Matt was simply frustrated with his bogey on 17 and the errant drive on 18,” Banks reported. “He was frustrated at Sam questioning whether he should take a drop before the second shot. He felt he should just play it as it lies, as he did. Sam questioning him interfered with his flow.”

Minutes later, NBC again showed the two, this time laughing and hugging it out on the practice green. It was all a bit over the top and silly, but still entertaining.

Wallace will be hoping this caddie spat doesn’t blow up like his last one. (Yes, there is another incident.) Wallace was heavily criticized on social media for berating his then-caddie Dave McNeill after he hit into the water on the 72nd hole while contending in the 2019 BMW International. The two hugged it out that time, too, but soon parted ways.

In the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach that same year, Wallace showed his frustration numerous times, prompting SkySports’ Rich Beem to say, “I know you’re intense, but get over yourself.”

On a Golf Digest podcast in March 2020, Wallace said he was remorseful about the BMW incident. “I should have saved it for after the round,” he said. “My parents told me, ‘You’ve got to remember that you’re in the limelight now. It’s not like you’re playing on the Alps Tour where there are no cameras around and nobody’s watching. You’ve got to control your emotions more and think about what you’re going to say or do on the golf course.’”