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Caddie Confidential: Sony Open venue not as simple as it appears

Waialae Country Club certainly resides in paradise, but is it one of the better courses on the PGA Tour? Judge for yourself this week as the tour changes islands in Hawaii. AP Photos/Cal Sport Media

There is a bit of an inside joke for caddies about the first full-field event of 2016 -- and there has been for years. We'll get to that shortly.

This week's caddie has a different opinion than mine about the Sony Open host course, Waialae Country Club, but he's the second looper whom I really respect to say the same thing. Maybe I need to caddie it again or maybe I just need to trust those more experienced than me, like this week's guy who has been on a bag for more than 20 years. You'd never know it by looking at him, though.

In either case, he was gracious enough to give me some time, even with a five-hour time difference, to talk about the week ahead.


Collins: Many tournaments have upped the ante on how they treat the caddies. On the list of great events for caddies, where does this one rank?
Caddie: All right, let's see. I've been coming to this many years. Let's just say that. ... This is the one tournament that there's always been a sign on the locker room door that says "no caddies allowed." So it's become kind of a joke over the last number of years. Guys gather around there to meet their pro outside of the locker room like they're hanging out at the caddie yard working at the country club. So it's fairly humorous.

Now in (the Sony Open's) defense, they don't have much room here to make a caddie area, and the area that they make is pretty laughable.

Collins: What about the tournament?
Caddie: The tournament itself and the golf course is one of the favorites out there, I'd say.

Collins: You're joking?
Caddie: No, I think so. I mean, there's some strategy at this course. It's not just stand up there and bomb it as far as you can. [That's] because of the Bermuda rough and the fairways are all sitting on little angles. That's what makes this course really tough I think. You gotta try and get it in the fairway because you are definitely gonna catch ... fliers here.

If the wind is blowing at all, it makes it really difficult to hit it on the greens. So I think to me, it's one of my favorite courses 'cause it's one of the few courses left where strategy is involved in it. ... The guys who have experience out here have a little bit of an advantage for their player. ...

But as far as the caddie conveniences, not so much! It's always been at the bottom of the list, unfortunately. It's definitely paradise here (in Hawaii), as they like to tout, but it's not paradise in the caddie congregation area.

Collins: Maybe that's the thinking? You're already in paradise. Just be happy you're here?
Caddie: Yeah, last year they upgraded to some cold cuts and some peanut butter and jelly.
Collins: Really?
Caddie: Yeah. [It was] in a tent that was covered with like a mesh on the sides to keep the bugs out. So I don't know, maybe that's their idea of just how it rolls, Hawaiian style. Which is more than it's been over the years, where they used to give us a little ticket to go down to the sub sandwich area and get a sandwich. So that's the upgrade we've gotten. I guess if it's an upgrade.

Collins: And yet you still love the course! What's your favorite hole on the course?
Caddie: Ooh, that's a good one. Let me think. It's hard to pick out one hole when they all seem pretty similar. ... I would say, like a cutesy little hole coming down the stretch is No. 15 and it's just a little dogleg left, but it's imperative that you hit the fairway.

You know a lot of guys can hit a long iron off the tee based on the wind. The green kind of is almost sitting on the road over there to the left. So if you hit it in the right rough, it's really a difficult shot to even hit the green. It's not like if you look at the scorecard or you look at the hole and go, "Man, this is a tough hole." But it plays tough because you know you have to hit it in that fairway ... in order to get it on that green close to the hole somewhere.

To me it's just fun. It's a fun course in that ... there's some strategy involved. It's certainly not one of the best courses on tour, but it's always in good shape and there's strategy. There's a lot of weeks when we just show up and guys are just bombs away. Last week [is] a perfect example [at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions]. Beautiful place, but it's all about putting the greens there.

Here, you gotta do a little bit of everything. You got to drive it pretty good. If you don't drive it pretty good, you gotta manage your ball from the rough. And you know it always comes down to putting. These greens are beautiful. There's some grain in them, so you got to be wary of what's going on.

Collins: Do you think the guys who played last week have an advantage this week?
Caddie: I would say no. I would say the only advantage is they got a week under their belts already. But this course is night and day different from last week.

Collins: Which hole on this course is the toughest to caddie?
Caddie: I like par-3s for whatever reason. I think [No.] 17 coming down the stretch based on the wind ... I mean, the wind is the factor here. And on that hole, you get a lot of crosswinds. If the wind is blowing 15 [mph] or more, that's a tough shot. ... They got the bleachers right on the back of the green, so depth perception is difficult. The green sits at a little bit of a funky angle. And coming down the stretch, it's probably the toughest shot [to] have.

Collins: You mentioned the wind.
Caddie: This course, to me, is all about the wind. This course plays right when the wind's blowing 15 to 20 [mph] ... This is one course that's really about the wind, to make it the course that it needs to be. [Against the best players in the world.]