Leading coach Kevin Craggs makes his PGA Tour Champions caddying debut this weekend, looping for his boss Colin Montgomerie.
Monty, 57, is pegging it up in the Chubb Classic in Naples in a field that includes Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer, Darren Clarke, Ernie Els, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal, who recently made the cut at the Masters.
Craggs’ day job involves overseeing all aspects of the vast golf program at IMG Academy in Florida as Director of Golf – but his primary student this weekend is the former Ryder Cup star.
And he joked he’s already being thrown under the bus by the Scot.
“I offered to do the numbers and Monty said, ‘Don’t bother, I’ll do my numbers,’” Craggs tells bunkered.co.uk. “There he is in practice - armed with his Leeds Utd yardage book - and we get to the third hole and that was it, the numbers were suddenly my responsibility. But, in all seriousness, I’m excited about the weekend and what lies ahead.”
Armed with seven wins on the tour, including three senior majors, Craggs says Monty is still a force to be reckoned with.
“He’s probably hitting the ball better than I’ve seen him in the last six years. The course is quite short and tight, a great Champions Tour course, and you’ve got to thread it around onto super slick greens. He’s in great spirits right now.”
The duo have been doing their coaching sessions remotely due to Covid, and the opportunity to carry the bag came due to Monty's regular caddie, Alistair McLean, being busy moving house this weekend to Connecticut.
Asked whether he was concerned about flipping the tables and now having Monty call the shots, Craggs says he knows where he stands.
“We have a good coaching relationship and a good friendship as well. We get on so well and I tell him as it is,” says Craggs. “And the thing is, he listens. You wouldn't believe it, but considering all that he has achieved in the game, he lacks confidence sometimes.
“But we’re in a good place. I’ve got my yardage book, which is an idiot’s guide, and my job is to know where the pin positions are and keep him in check.
“He’s hitting his irons so well. His distance control is beyond good, and that’s a problem for me, because when I say a number, that’s what he’ll hit. Pressure for me, yes, but it’s a beautiful asset to have.”
The US-based over-50s circuit has never had such a depth of quality and star power – yet, apparently, there’s no danger of anybody stepping out of line.
“It’s the best tour I’ve worked on” says Craggs. “It’s just so different to every other tour. There's no egos. Everybody on the tour has ‘achieved’. Nobody has anything to prove.
“What I’ve found interesting is that the guys who worked hard in their heyday still work hard today. I watched Jose Maria Olazabal the other day spend about 45 minutes in the bunker. I watched Langer on the putting green for ages. They work exceptionally hard. It’s a very competitive tour and what you see is guys who are relaxed, yes, but when it comes down the stretch on the Sunday, you start to see the real animal in them, and I really like that. They want to win and Monty is the same. His passion to contend is still there. He’s still hungry to learn and win.”
With players on the tour being more physically challenged due to age, Craggs says it’s only natural the swings get shorter. But it's something Monty has managed to avoid that thus far.
“What’s unique about him is that, for a guy that’s never been in the gym or spent years working out, his mobility is incredible. He still swings it beautifully.”
Asked whether he’s expecting to get paid his 10% cut, Craggs replied: “I better be, otherwise he’s not getting his clubs back.”
Monty tees off at 3.19pm UK time in the company of Kirk Triplett and Woody Austin.