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On the bag

Players Championship: At 76, legendary caddie Mike 'Fluff' Cowan is still grinding

March 16, 2024
2087009668

Kevin C. Cox

PONTE VEDRA BEACH — The dumbest question you could ask Mike “Fluff” Cowan, in the moments after the 76-year-old caddie finished his third round with C.T. Pan at the Players Championship on a hot Saturday afternoon, was whether the job had gotten harder with time. So, of course, I asked it.

"That isn't even worth answering," he said, his voice faint with fatigue.

That was the fourth and final response to a series of questions, each one gruffer than the one before, but then, in an act almost resembling charity, he spared a last line:

"I ain't 30 anymore, put it that way."

Cowan, the legendary caddie who was on the bag for Tiger Woods' first four seasons as a pro in between long stints with Peter Jacobsen and Jim Furyk, has landed now with Pan, the one-time PGA Tour winner from Taiwan. They started together this year, and after missed cuts at the Sony Open and WM Phoenix Open, they finished third in Mexico, which allowed Pan to secure full status for the rest of the season.

Three tournaments later, here at TPC Sawgrass, Pan is just outside the top 10 at nine under par through 54 holes.

On the 18th, as Pan scrambled for par to close out a two-under 70 , Cowan lumbered up the fairway, the familiar white mustache thick as ever, stooped under a bag that looked larger on his back than any other caddie. But though he looks at least most of his 76 years at rest, he has the muscular legs of a much younger man, and as he caught the ball tossed his way by Pan on the green and crouched to read his putt, he looked positively limber. He told Sports Illustrated in Phoenix that he might retire when his daughter finishes college later this year, but on Saturday, he wasn't in the mood for light chit-chat.

How did you and CT get together?

"I needed a player, he needed a caddie."

Did someone reach out to you?

"They did."

How does it feel to be grinding out here still?

"It's what I do for a living."

No plans to retire, huh?

"Someday."

No time soon?

"No idea."

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Cowan connected with CT Pan earlier this year, their best finish being a third-place showing at at the Mexico Open.

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And then, of course, the dumbest question imaginable; the one not worth answering.

As he peeled away with his bag, likely grateful to get away from this inane line of questioning, Cowan began the usual post-round rituals he's been performing since the mid-1970s. This is the 50th anniversary of the Players Championship, but Fluff Cowan isn't far behind; his first bag, with Ed Sabo, came in 1976.

Cowan is an institution unto himself, and as he marched uphill behind the 18th green, a few fans shouted his name. Even as the bags get heavier, and time marches faster, he remains fundamentally himself—unpretentious, wise, and steady.