Golfer and Caddie—it's a relationship. You hope it works out, but you never know. This has been the best year of my 15-year career, with a win at Milwaukee and more than $1.1 million in earnings, and I've used six caddies. Five were pros. One was my next-door neighbor. The win came with my neighbor on my bag.
I had asked around for a caddie before the Milwaukee Open, but nobody was available. Rather than grab someone in the parking lot, I gave Rick Bruder, a Chicago options trader and my neighbor, a crash course on tending pins and raking traps. Rick was a nervous wreck all week. When I chipped in twice on Sunday to take the lead, I thought he'd hyperventilate. I told a doctor friend of ours in the gallery, "Be ready. Rick might not make it." Keeping Rick calm helped me stay loose, and we hung on for my third Tour win.
The key to my season, though, was Tony Navarro. After caddying for Raymond Floyd and Ben Crenshaw, Tony worked for me from 1990 through '92. Then Greg Norman let his caddie go, and I recommended Tony. It was a huge opportunity for Tony, but he said, "No, no, Jeff, I can't. You and I are friends." I practically had to push him toward Greg, but he went, and they clicked.
When Greg hurt his shoulder this year, Tony came back to me for nine weeks. On the first day, he assessed my game. "You need to work on your chipping and pitching," he said. I took Tony's advice and haven't missed a cut since.
With Tony rejoining Greg for '99, I looked up Mark Chaney (on the bag, above), Curtis Strange's former caddie. First, of course, we asked Curtis. He was great about it. "I'm doing a lot of TV and not playing much," he said. "Go ahead—I wish you both the best."
Mark is an experienced winner. He's relaxed and quiet and has a good sense of humor. I have never seen him hyperventilate. Maybe this is the start of a good run for both of us.