Lee Westwood fires caddie Billy Foster

English: Lee Westwood makes a bunker shot at t...

English: Lee Westwood makes a bunker shot at the 2008 Open Camera: Canon EOS 350D Digital License on Flickr (2011-01-27): CC-BY-2.0 Flickr tags: Lee Westwood, Royal Birkdale, Open Championship, 2008, British Open, The Open (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The relationship between a golfer and his caddie is one of the more interesting dynamics in professional sports. A few years ago, you never would have expected the amount of vitriol between Tiger Woods and Steve Williams, and despite what they say publicly right now, they wouldn’t be caught dead around each other. If you believe Woods, the two were never overly close, despite seeing each other away from the course all the time, and even showing up at each others weddings. The role of a caddie isn’t just about picking the correct clubs and giving out yardages. It’s about knowing the player you work for inside and out, and dealing with any problem that your occasionally petulant, millionaire boss will throw at you. Sometimes a player and a caddie work together for years. Jim Furyk and Mike “Fluff” Cowan have been together since 1999, while Jim Mackay has seen every peak and valley of Phil Mickelson’s career since first being on his bag in 1993. Other players, like Sergio Garcia, change caddies as often as their shoes.
 
So, I’m never surprised when I see that another caddie has been let go by a top player. According to Derek Lawrenson of the Daily Mail, Lee Westwood has decided to part ways with his longtime caddie, and good friend Billy Foster. Let’s make something clear about Foster: he’s not your average, run of the mill caddie. He was on the bag of Seve Ballesteros for nearly five years, winning eight times in that span near the end of the Spaniard’s incredible career. Ballesteros once went through a stretch of ten caddies in ten years, so you know that Foster must have been doing something right. (Editor’s Note: Seve may have been a little crazy.)
 
Where it gets interesting with Foster is that he’s been unable to perform his usual duties for Westwood since injuring his knee in April while playing in a soccer game. For Westwood to drop Foster at this point in his recovery seems a bit harsh considering he was expected to be healthy for the upcoming season. Factor in the close knit relationship between the two men, and the success they have enjoyed together on the course, and it’s a curious decision by the world’s fourth ranked golfer. In talking to Lawrenson, Foster referenced how difficult the last few months have been, saying:

“I’ve been in a dark tunnel. I’ve only started walking again these last two weeks, so to get the call from Lee just as I was starting to see the light again was unbelievably disappointing and made it harder to take.”

It’s the latest in a series of changes for Westwood, who turns 40 in a few months. He’s recently moved to the U.S., and earlier this year, he dismissed long-time coach Pete Cowen. His much ballyhooed move of bringing on short-game wiz Tony Johnstone didn’t work out either, and he has also apparently been shown the door.
 

The reason for the timing of all of this is obvious. Westwood, widely considered as the best player in the world without a major championship on his resume, is running out of time to grab that victory. Historically, golf has not been kind to those after the age of 40, and Westwood obviously felt that he needed to make a move to try and get that major before it’s too late. Complicating the whole thing was Foster’s interim replacement Mike Kerr, who had been offered the full time position on Garcia’s bag for the coming season. Westwood obviously liked what he was getting from Kerr, and he has had a decent run at the end of the season, so this could be a perfect fit.

 

Once he’s healthy, Foster will have no problem landing a job with any player who needs a caddie, but for Westwood, he’s at a crucial point in his career. If he struggles to start the season, his instability in recent months will be what people focus on. Of course, he could put some of those fears to bed with a couple of good finishes, but as always, the real barometer with him will be how he does in the majors. Until he wins one of those, the questions will continue to linger for Westwood, who seems more confused than ever about his current place in the game of golf.
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5 Comments on “Lee Westwood fires caddie Billy Foster

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