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Tiger's Return

Tiger Woods has confidant as caddie at Hero, but who'll carry his bag in the future?

November 28, 2023
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Rob McNamara, the executive vice president at TGR, will caddie for friend and business partner Tiger Woods in the Hero World Challenge.

Douglas P. DeFelice

NASSAU, Bahamas — Tiger Woods is turning to longtime friend and confidant Rob McNamara to serve as his caddie this week at the Hero World Challenge.

Going forward, he hasn’t given much thought to whom he might recruit to carry his bag if he should make the handful of starts he hopes for in 2024. He just knows his first choice probably isn’t available.

“I've got Rob this week; he's seen me hit a few shots,” Woods said Tuesday as he prepares to make his first competitive start since withdrawing from the Masters in April. “As far as next year, I don't know yet. I don't think [son] Charlie's going to be able to caddie. Can't play hooky that often.”

Woods is enlisting the help of McNamara, a trusted adviser who serves as vice president of Woods’ TGR Ventures, after releasing his longtime caddie Joe LaCava so that he could take the bag of Patrick Cantlay. LaCava was with Woods for 12 years, and together they won a number of times, including the 2019 Masters. However, when Woods opted to undergo ankle surgery, LaCava was given the OK to take another bag.

“Tiger’s not going to play much going forward," LaCava said at Quail Hollow Club in May. "Obviously he’s not retiring. But he’s going to play two to six tournaments a year. Tiger and I have talked about if something were to come up, feel free to do something. 'I know how much you miss it, how much you love caddying.’ And when this opportunity arose, I checked with Tiger. And he said, 'You’re crazy not to take the job, go forward, go win some tournaments, go have a great time.'”

Cantlay has yet to win with LaCava, who ended up the center of controversy when he got into a verbal exchange with Rory McIlroy at the Ryder Cup in Rome.

Whoever Woods selects will have big shoes to fill. Only three men have worked on a full-time basis for the 15-time major winner—Mike “Fluff” Cowan, Steve Williams and LaCava. Woods hasn’t thought that far ahead on a replacement. “Honestly, I really don't know,” he said. “I was just looking forward to this week and seeing how things turned out. I'm curious to see what 72 holes looks like on the body and my game and then try and set a schedule going forward into next year.”

Ranked 1,328th in the world after another extended absence from competition, Woods said Tuesday that he hopes to play once a month, depending on how well he fares physically in the $4.5 million Hero World Challenge. He begins the tournament at 11:52 a.m. ET paired with close friend Justin Thomas, who played the first round with Tiger this fall in Jupiter, Fla., following his surgery and lengthy rehabilitation.

“I happened to play with him the first time he played after Augusta, which was pretty wild to hear and think,” Thomas said on Tuesday. “It was good. Obviously, he's never going to be as sharp as he wants given the amount of … that he's gone through with his body and whatnot. But at the same time, I'm sure he said it earlier and he's always going to say it—he's not going to tee it up if he thinks he's going to come out here and embarrass himself. He wants to play well.”