This was later, when all the minicams were packed away and the azaleas were tucked in for the night but the green jacket was still on the size-42 shoulders of Tiger Woods. His mother, Tida, had the floor at their rented house in Augusta still full of giddy friends and relatives. She pointed to each one of them in turn. "You make a toast," she would say, and Tiger's father or friend or agent would make a grand toast about the way Tiger had eaten the Masters whole, and the 21-year-old Mozart would take another gulp of amaretto on ice and grin. Finally Tida said, "Now you, Tiger. You toast."
Tiger turned and faced a frumpy 49-year-old white man wearing a faded Grateful Dead T-shirt and a giant Wilford Brimley mustache. The Masters champion raised his glass and said, "Here's to you, Fluff. You were strong for me, and you were calm for me. I couldn't have done it without you. And I want to thank you."
Not bad for a guy who started as a PGA Tour caddie sleeping in his car and spent a lifetime of nights on the floors of Red Roof Inns and was thinking about retiring a while back, before he was thrown into the middle of golf's traveling mosh pit. "What Tiger said gave me chills all over my body," Fluff says. "My eyes went all watery. I'll never forget it."
Life is so strange. For two decades you are just a guy leaning against a wall, waiting for your man to come out of the locker room so you can do your job, nothing fancy. Then suddenly you are the fifth Beatle, and everybody wants to know how you lean against the wall, why you lean against the wall, and can we get a picture of you and the wall together? VH-1 wants to interview Fluff about the Grateful Dead, and he is about to sign a huge sunglasses deal, and he has offers to write a book. (CHAPTER 14. The Divot: Friend or Foe?)
Three weeks ago, the organizers of the Houston Open were trying to find a big-gun pro to fill a spot in their pro-am. Tour player John Cook asked, "Why don't you get Fluff? He's the second-biggest celebrity out here." (And, with $125,601 in pay and cuts of Tiger's winnings so far this year—including another W last week at the Byron Nelson Classic in Las Colinas, Texas—he's No. 84 on the money list, just ahead of Bernhard Langer.)
Talk about your odd couples. Tiger has been alive 21 years, which is exactly how long Fluff has been a caddie on the Tour. Tiger is from California. Fluff is from Maine. Tiger likes Boyz II Men. Fluff is a tie-dyed-in-the-wool Deadhead. Fluff has flashbacks that are older than Tiger. Tiger is like a red Testarossa, the shiniest and smoothest thing on the showroom floor. Fluff is like a 1967 VW van with a dragging muffler and a LEGALIZE HEMP bumper sticker. Tiger works out. Fluff is a walking duffel bag, a pack-a-day smoker. Tiger plays Mortal Kombat. Fluff protested the Vietnam War. Yet their partnership works.
"I think Fluff's the best caddie in the world," says Woods, who picked up Fluff last August for his first pro tournament and hasn't let him go. They have 10 top 10s, including five wins, in 16 starts. "He's a great caddie and a great friend," Woods says.
"I'm just enjoying the ride," says Fluff. You figure his 15 minutes of fame should be up by now, but he is a lovable character people want to touch, sort of like Snuffleupagus, only hairier. Fluff constantly stops to sign autographs, which is not easy when you have a 40-pound bag hanging from your shoulders and a cigarette in your left hand and you would like nothing more than to set down your nearly half-century-old body and have a seizure. Fame has not changed Fluff. Fame has changed everybody around Fluff. He can afford the Hyatt, but he and his longtime caddie pal Gypsy Joe Grillo, bagman for Steve Elkington, still stay at places with a Denny's attached to them. Fluff eats at the same dives where they knew him before he started carrying Siddhārtha's bag. We offered Fluff a clubhouse parking pass one day at the Byron Nelson, and he refused it, choosing to park half a mile away and shuttle in with everybody else. "That's all I need, people thinking I'm special," he says. "I just want to be a caddie."
That's all Fluff has wanted since he was 25. Before that, he says, he wanted to be a Tour player. He was the star of the 1969 golf team at William Penn College in Oskaloosa, Iowa, where he was known as Mike Cowan. He was the holder of the record (29-33-62) at the Edmundson course in Oskaloosa and was a two handicapper. But after leaving school, the guy his friends called Hairy hitchhiked around the country, then returned to his home state and became the assistant pro at Martindale Country Club in Auburn, Maine. One day in 1976, when he got lost on the way to a pro-am and decided to fit in 36 somewhere else, the club fired him. That's when he decided to do what he'd been talking about doing for years: caddying on the Tour.
His first bag, David Smith, missed qualifying at the Greater Hartford Open. Fluff got $20 and 3% of Smith's winnings, which worked out to a total of, well, $20. Fluff's first full-time bag was Ed Sabo, who made a whopping $60,045 in his five years on the Tour. One day Tour player Jay Haas gave Fluff a lift somewhere and asked him how things were going with Sabo. "Well," said Fluff, trying to be diplomatic, "it gets kind of hard to go out there every day and work for a guy you're pretty sure you could beat two days out of three."