SAN MARTIN, Calif. — Tiger Woods offered Joe LaCava the job as his caddie, and it wasn’t a difficult decision for him.
“Why? Because he’s Tiger Woods,” LaCava said Wednesday, offering very little by way of elaboration. “Enough said. It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? That’s my thought. It’s Tiger Woods.”
Tiger Woods lines up a putt on Saturday, June 1, 1996, during the final round of the NCAA Men’s Golf Championships at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn. Woods went on to win the individual title. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
This Nov. 10, 2010, file photo shows Tiger Woods at a news conference after his round at the Australian Masters Pro-Am event at Victoria Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia. Woods believes he finally is ready to move on after a self-destructive year that cost him his marriage, his mystique, millions in endorsements and, lastly, his No. 1 ranking. What remains are relationships to repair, along with his golf game.
Tiger Woods shakes hands with Jack Nicklaus after receiving the Jack Nicklaus College Player of the Year award in ceremonies at the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, Sunday, June 2, 1996.
Tiger Woods holds his trophy aloft after winning the Las Vegas Invitational in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was the first win of his pro career.
Masters champion Tiger Woods holds a replica of the Masters Trophy after winning the tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 13, 1997.
Tiger Woods celebrates as he wins the 1997 Masters with a record-breaking 18-under-par performance at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 13, 1997. (AP Photo/Curtis Compton)
Tiger Woods celebrates after winning the 100th U.S. Open Golf Championship at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif., Sunday, June 18, 2000. Finishing at 12 under par, Woods topped second-place Ernie Els by a remarkable 15 shots.
Tiger Woods waves to fans after he won the 81st PGA Championship at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill., on Sunday, Aug. 15, 1999. Woods shot an 11-under 277, beating Sergio Garcia, of Spain, by one stroke. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser)
Tiger Woods, right, of the United States, holds the trophy as he makes his winner’s speech outside the clubhouse at the end of the final day of the British Open Golf championship on the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, Sunday, July 23, 2000. At center is South Africa’s Ernie Els and at left Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn the joint second-place finishers. (AP Photo/Adam Butler)
In this Aug. 20, 2000 photo, Tiger Woods points to his ball as it drops for birdie on the first hole of a three-hole playoff against Bob May at the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)
Tiger Woods reacts on the 18th hole after winning the 2001 Masters by two strokes over David Duval at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. The win was Woods’ fourth straight major title, completing what many would call the “Tiger Slam.”
Tiger Woods, left, receives the 2002 Masters Green Jacket from Augusta National Golf Club chairman William W. “Hootie” Johnson. The win was Woods’ third Masters title and second in a row.
Tiger Woods gestures as he watches his shot to the 13th hole Sunday, June 16, 2002 at the U.S. Open Golf Championship at the Black Course of Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y. Woods went on to win by three shots over Phil Mickelson.
Tiger Woods, center, sits with his fiancee Elin Nordegren, left, and his friend Jerry Chang, right, during Stanford’s basketball game against Arizona in this Feb. 7, 2004.
Tiger Woods reacts to winning the 2005 Masters in a playoff with Chris DiMarco on the 18th hole during final-round play at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.
Tiger Woods speaks at a press conference with the trophy after winning the 2005 British Open on the Old Course at St. Andrews. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Tiger Woods, right, reacts as he walks off the 18th green with his caddie Steve Williams after winning the British Open Golf Championship at the Royal Liverpool Golf Course in Hoylake, England Sunday July 23, 2006. The win was Woods’ first major title since the death of his father, Earl.
Tiger Woods holds up the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the 89th PGA Golf Championship at the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., Sunday, Aug. 12, 2007. The win was Tiger’s 13th major title.
Tiger Woods holds his left knee after teeing off on the second hole during the fourth round of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. Woods had reconstructive surgery on his left knee Tuesday, June 24, 2008, in Utah to repair a torn ligament. Woods went on to win in a playoff over Rocco Mediate.
Tiger Woods reacts after sinking a birdie putt on the 18th green, forcing a playoff against Rocco Mediate during the final round of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego.
Phil Mickelson, left, winner of the Tour Championship and Tiger Woods, right, winner of the Fed Ex Cup, pose at East Lake Country Club.
Tiger Woods during his statement at the Sawgrass Players Club, Friday, Feb. 19, 2010, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Media outlets, such as CNN with reporter Susan Candiotti (far right), conduct live shows outside the Sawgrass Marriott in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., prior to Tiger Woods’ statement.
Tiger Woods answered questions in a press conference Monday for the first time since his Thanksgiving night accident that led to revelations of multiple extramarital affairs.
Tiger Woods during the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. On a Firestone Country Club course that he has dominated in the past, Woods posted his highest 72-hole score as a professional, including a closing 77 that left him in a tie for 78th place in the 79-man field.
Caddie Steve Williams holds a club as Tiger Woods hits on the driving range during a practice round for the PGA Championship.
Tiger Woods and swing coach Sean Foley watch Tiger’s swing video at the 2010 BMW Championship on Sept. 8, 2010.
Tiger Woods chats with the media after shooting 65 in the first round of The Barclays.
Tiger Woods doffs his cap after holing out for eagle on the 12th hole during Ryder Cup singles. In arguably his most dominant round of 2010, Woods claimed a 4-and-3 win over Francesco Molinari.
Tiger Woods of the U.S. and Steve Williams, caddie to Adam Scott, shake hands on the first tee during the Day 1 Foursome matches at the 2011 Presidents Cup
Tiger Woods of the U.S. celebrates with fans after the U.S. team defeated the International team on the final day of the Presidents Cup.
Tiger Woods celebrates after his birdie putt on the 18th hole to win the Chevron World Challenge.
Tiger Woods drops on No. 15 at Augusta National during the second round of the 2013 Masters. A day later, he was assessed a two-stroke penalty for an improper drop.
Tiger Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 24 at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Orlando, Fla. Earnings: $1,116,000
Tiger Woods after his seven-shot win in the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio.
Tiger Woods (center right) and Rory McIlroy (centre left) walk side by side during their exhibition at Mission Hills.
Tiger Woods’ injury suffered on this swing Sunday has his PGA Championship and Ryder Cup status up in the air..
Tiger Woods flashes a smile on Sunday during the Hero World Challenge at Isleworth Country Club in Windermere, FL.
LaCava is among the top caddies on the PGA Tour, having spent most of his 25 years with Fred Couples, a former Masters champion and No. 1 player in the world who was the biggest draw during the peak of his career.
So big crowds will be nothing new for LaCava.
He just never imagined working for three players this year, the last one Woods.
Couples was playing less and urged LaCava to work for Dustin Johnson, regarded as the top young American talent. Johnson, who already has five wins and played in the final group at three majors, was runner-up at the British Open and won The Barclays. By then, however, Woods had fired Steve Williams and was looking for a replacement.
LaCava told him he was interested.
“When you say was it a hard decision, it was hard in the fact Dustin was great to me,” LaCava said after his first official day of work for Woods. “Was it hard to tell him I was leaving to go to work for Tiger? Yes. Was it hard to go to work for Tiger? No.”
But the timing made some people question the move.
Johnson already has proven to be a cash machine, with more than $12 million in earnings after four years on the tour, and headed for another top-10 finish on the money list.
Woods is winless over the last two years, and has managed to play a full schedule only once in the last four years because of injuries or chaos in his personal life.
LaCava was asked if he was betting that Woods still had great golf ahead of him. This brought a smile of confidence.
“Of course, no question,” LaCava said. “I know he does. I’m not betting on it.”
LaCava has been around Woods often over the last 15 years, starting with practice rounds that Woods played with Couples at the Masters and U.S. Open as an amateur. LaCava was prepared to work for Woods at the 2005 Presidents Cup when Williams went home to New Zealand for the birth of his son. Couples, however, made the U.S. team and Woods hired Billy Foster for the week.
LaCava broke the news to Johnson after the Tour Championship, then came out to CordeValle for a tournament that was never on his schedule. For Woods, the Frys.com Open is his first tournament in seven weeks, and his last PGA Tour appearance this year.
There will be some adjustments, as always, but not that many.
“He’s trying to envision how far I hit the golf ball and what I would like to hear for certain numbers through bunkers or carries,” Woods said. “So he kind of got all that. And he basically said, ‘OK, just let me know what you want on each hole.’ And that’s how we kind of did it. So he got a feel for what I liked, or would like to think or see, and he’s got a good understanding of it.”
Woods is longer off the tee than Couples, shorter than Johnson.
Then again, caddies go through these adjustments all the time. Jon Yarbrough, for example, went from caddying for Morgan Pressel on the LPGA Tour to working for Gary Woodland on the PGA Tour (with one stop in between).
The attention around Woods will not be that much different for LaCava, either.
“Back in the day, Fred had the biggest crowd,” LaCava said. “Obviously, it’s bigger today because golf is bigger. But back in the day, Fred had just as big a crowd in relation to how many people were out there.”
Woods’ pro-am group had some 300 people at CordeValle. No other group had more than a dozen.
LaCava doesn’t typically stop to give interviews, either, although he understood why all the attention on his first day at work. He is only the third full-time caddie Woods has employed in his 15 years.
“I understand it’s the first week,” LaCava said. “I don’t want to not talk to people anymore just because I work for Tiger. But at the same time, I want to fly under the radar. He’s the one hitting the golf ball. I’m just caddying for him.”
LaCava and Woods will have plenty in common when it comes to sports. LaCava is friends with Ernie Accorsi, the former general manager of the New York Giants. He still lives in Connecticut and loves all things New York — Knicks, Rangers and Yankees.
Woods is a Californian and leans toward the Lakers and Oakland Raiders, who were in Los Angeles when he was a kid.
“I’ve got a better team,” LaCava said, referring to the Giants. “I root for the Raiders now. I’ve got to have an AFC team, right?”