Sports Outside the Beltway

Michelle Wie Fires Caddie via Agent

Michelle Wie had her longtime caddie, Greg Johnson, fired.

Photo Michelle Wie Fires Caddie Greg Johnson Greg Johnston, who has caddied for Michelle Wie since she turned professional last October, was fired the day after the 16-year-old phenom finished T-26 in the Weetabix Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham and St. Annes, has learned.

According to sources, Johnston, who won four major championships with Juli Inkster in their 12 years together, found out he had been dismissed in a phone call from Wie’s agent while at the gate at Manchester airport Monday on his way home. Reached by phone Tuesday, Johnston confirmed the details of the situation. “I was shocked and surprised, I thought we had a successful year,” Johnston told “And I was extremely disappointed that no one named Wie gave me the news.”

Damn, that’s harsh. I’m not sure why he was fired–after all, Tiger Woods fired “Fluff” after years of faithful service–but you’d think he’d earned a phone call from Wie.

August 9th Update(Florida Masochosit)- Michelle’s spokesman has come out with a statement.

“Greg Johnston’s hard work and dedication made him a great partner for Michelle, as he would be for any other golfer,” Wie’s spokesperson Jesse Derris of the Ken Sunshine agency said in a statement released on Tuesday. “His departure comes as part of Michelle’s maturation as a golfer, part of which is learning from many different bright golf minds. We wish Greg the best, and are sure he will have a long and successful career.”

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but Michelle sounds like a politician with statements like this. Why not just come out and say she fired Johnston? Caddies are independent contractors, hired and fired at will.

Then I just found this. EM Swift at has his own take on Johnston’s firing. Apparently Juli Inkster wasn’t happy when Johnston was hired away from her by Michelle.

“It would have been nice to get a phone call from the [Wie] family, saying this is what we’re thinking of doing,” Inkster told me after she took the first-round lead at the Women’s British Open last week with a 66. “I’d had Greg for 11 years. It’s not like I was some rookie.

“But that’s not the way they [the Wies] do things. Instead they gave him a take-it-or-leave-it in the middle of my season, right before the Solheim Cup. I don’t blame him. He’s got kids to think about. But that didn’t sit well.”

Caddies can work for whomever they want. Players can fire them at any time also. Player-caddy relationships are always changing. That said it would have been polite for Michelle to have said something to Juli.

Here is a version of what led up to Michelle being penalized for two strokes during last Friday’s 2nd round at the British Open.

That hasn’t changed. I was outside the scorer’s trailer at Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s last week when Wie got word that she’d been penalized two strokes for grounding her club in a sand trap during the second round. She had accidentally brushed away a clump of moss that was resting behind her ball during her backswing, a transgression that TV cameras clearly showed.

Johnston had told her she couldn’t move the impediment, but Wie’s parents, father B.J. and mother Bo, were visibly angry as they pulled their 16-year-old daughter aside to get her version of what had happened.

It was a tense scene. Wie’s two bodyguards, dressed in Nike golf shirts, were rude and aggressive while keeping photographers and TV cameramen from filming the meeting — never mind that it was taking place in a mixed zone where interviews routinely were conducted. Michelle was near tears. She hadn’t known the rule. She thought if she just continued her swing, there was no violation.

Johnston should have known then and there that his days were numbered.

Maybe or maybe not. Based on all this, I stick to what I said before. It is quite possible what happened at the WBO caused Johnston’s firing however it is a player’s responsibility to know the rules. Blaming the caddy comes off as an excuse to me.

I don’t remember either Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer ever getting this kind of scrutiny when they hired or fired a caddy.

Like I said above, Caddies come and go on both the PGA and LPGA tours. Most relationships are short-term not long-term. Go and check this guy out. His blog is 3 years old and I make a bet he’s gone through 10 players a year on average.

Larry may or may not be symptomatic of caddy-player relationships. In 28 years of caddying he has had three wining bags. Only one of which came in the last twenty years, and Larry got fired almost immediately afterwards. If you read deeper into Larry’s blog however, you’ll see many of his fellow workers changing players on a frequent basis.

Relationships like Tiger Woods with Steve Williams(1999 to present), Peter Jacobsen with Mike ‘Fluff’ Cowan(78 to 96 before Fluff worked for Tiger) or Jim Furyk and Fluff(99 to present) are the exception not the rule.

The Ladies world golf rankings have also been adjusted. Michelle Wie has dropped from 3rd to 7th.(According to ESPN. I haven’t been able to find a corroborating source) That’s more realistic for a player who has yet to win. However I still think these rankings are flawed and not indicative of the true strength of some players on tour.

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Brandon: It varies from player to player, I’m sure, but caddies are essentially coaches on the course. Most players rely on them for club advice, estimates of the range to the hole, and things of that nature. They help allow the golfer to relax because they’ve got a sounding board and don’t have the pressure of keeping up with everything at once.

Posted by James Joyner | August 11, 2006 | 11:37 am | Permalink

Thing is, Wie needs to quit blaming everything and everyone for her lack of winning. She can never admit that she played poorly or she can’t understand the rules of golf (nor will she learn according to one interview). It’s always “I played great out there” or it’s bees in the bushes or it’s her caddy. This is exactly why she doesn’t belong on ANY professional tour. The word is “professional”. She is not. Wie, step aside and let the poor guy or girl that’s been working their butts off into your slot.

Posted by Karen Xander | August 29, 2006 | 02:02 pm | Permalink

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