Lynch: New clubs, new caddie bring same old success for Justin Rose at Farmers

Jan 26, 2019; San Diego, CA, USA; Justin Rose (right) and caddie Gareth Lord shake hands after completing the third round of the Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament at Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course - South Course. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports Orlando Ramirez/USA TODAY Sports

Lynch: New clubs, new caddie bring same old success for Justin Rose at Farmers

PGA Tour

Lynch: New clubs, new caddie bring same old success for Justin Rose at Farmers

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SAN DIEGO — There’s much that feels familiar to Justin Rose at this week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. He’s No. 1 in the world again, having summited the rankings on Monday for the third time since September. He also holds a three-shot lead heading into the final round Sunday after finishing 54 holes at 18-under par.

Less familiar are his clubs and the man carrying them.

Rose’s caddie for the last decade, Mark ‘Fooch’ Fulcher, underwent heart surgery on Jan. 17 in New York City. While Fooch recovers, Rose’s new Honma equipment will be hauled by his friend Gareth ‘Lordy’ Lord, an Englishman who spent six years working for Henrik Stenson until their November split.

Lordy and Fooch. It sounds like a vaudeville comedy act. Two globetrotting English bagmen—both of whom caddied for FedEx Cup winners and earned million-dollar bonuses as a result—surely enjoyed life along the way, I suggested.

“We’ve shared the odd vodka cranberry, truth be known,” Lordy answered dryly. “Lashings of red and a decent steak. No wonder he had a (expletive)  heart problem. I must be next.”

Lordy talks to Fooch, his friend of a dozen years, every day. “I said to him, ‘Are you trying to tell me vodka cranberry, red wine and loads of steak isn’t good for the heart?’ He said it would appear not.”

Lordy himself is among the walking wounded: The 45-year-old had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder on Nov. 9 and is not supposed to be back on the course for months. “The doctor signed me off for nine months but realistically we were looking at the end of March, early April,” he said.

That was the plan. Until Jan. 8, when the phone rang at Lordy’s home in Monte Carlo. It was Fooch with the news that he was headed in for a heart valve replacement procedure. He asked his pal to sub for a spell. Despite still nursing his own aches, Lordy agreed. He worked last week’s Desert Classic and will carry next week at the European Tour’s controversial stop in Saudi Arabia.

“I’m doing three,” Lordy said. “If Fooch is back, Fooch is back and that’s the end of it.”

Lordy is no stranger to the third Englishman in this triangle. He and Rose played together in an amateur tournament more than a quarter-century ago. “I think he was 14 and I was 20. We played the last round together. He only just beat me. He was third and I was fifth,” Lordy remembered with a laugh. “We’ve been in the last three Ryder Cups. Henrik and him played together. We’ve been in battle.”

Rose’s sublime play in recent years—10 wins and an Olympic gold medal since 2014—makes it easy to forget that he began his professional career with 21 consecutive missed cuts. Lordy was on the bag for some of the teenage rookie’s early disappointments.

“At the start of his career I had six of his 21 missed cuts,” Lordy said. “Then I did one at the end of last year. We made the cut. We made the cut last week and we’ve made the cut this week. So we’re 3-for-9. We’re getting there!”

Both have gone on to better things since those initial struggles. Rose has accumulated 23 wins around the world. Lordy, who had stints with Robert Karlsson and Thomas Bjorn, has been on the bag for 22 of his own. A 23rd win wouldn’t be a shock. “He’s the world No 1 and he’s leading. He’s got every chance,” Lordy says.

The pay scale for substitute caddies has been a contentious topic on Tour since Matt Kuchar was alleged to have paid a relative pittance to a Mexican resort worker who caddied him to victory on the PGA Tour last fall. I asked Lordy if a Sunday win will see him earn the standard 10 percent or a more paltry amount.

He laughed loudly. “I’ll get at least $3,000!” he said confidently.

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