DORAL, Fla. -- Nick Watney wandered up to the final green Sunday, a packed crowd raining down peals of applause, just a putt or two away from his biggest professional win.
Caddie Chad Reynolds decided the time again was right to let some steam out of the pressure cooker.
"Look at all these people, man," Reynolds said, pointing to the animated throng in the skyboxes and grandstands. "They think you actually care."
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As is always the case whenever Reynolds drops the familiar, deadpan line on his star employee, Watney laughed.
This time, he also delivered.
Leading by a thin stroke on the final green, Watney shook off the nerves and coolly rolled in a 13-foot birdie for a two-shot victory over Dustin Johnson at the Cadillac Championship at Doral Golf Resort & Spa.
Sometimes a caddie is little more than a luggage handler, a porter, an errand boy or a pack mule. Occasionally, when the pressure causes steam to emanate from every player orifice, caddies tense up and contribute to the suffocation, too.
Not Reynolds, who knew exactly when to pull back the reins and when to kick the spurs to get Watney, a highly talented 29-year-old, across the finish line. Their joke about giving a darn is rolled out frequently and sounds a bit like a Martin and Lewis routine.
"We kind of have a running joke when I'll get in there [before a shot], he'll look at me or I’ll look at him and he'll say, 'Do you care?'" Reynolds said.
"I'll say, 'No, do you care?' He'll say no."
So, with Dustin Johnson stationed in the 18th fairway behind him on Sunday, one shot out of the lead, Watney ambled up to the green after hitting a perfect draw into the middle of the green. Reynolds dusted off the line.
"Tension relief," Watney said.
Watney rolled home the putt to finish 16 under, claiming the World Golf Championship title and $1.4 million prize, representing easily his biggest day as a professional. Interestingly, Johnson and Watney played together in the last group of the final round at the PGA Championship last fall when Watney shot 81 and skidded from the 54-hole lead to a T18 finish.
In the third round at Doral, Watney was all set for a spot in the final group on Sunday when he yanked his tee shot into the water on the 18th hole, another sign Reynolds interpreted as the jangling nerves he had seen at the PGA.
This is when it's good to be part caddie, comedian and father confessor.
|Nick Watney and caddie Chad Reynolds line up a critical 13-foot birdie on the 18th at Doral. (Getty Images)|
Reynolds ought to know plenty about dealing with tension. Before he was hired by Watney last June, he worked the previous 4½ years for Vijay Singh, one of the most demanding bosses in the sport and a guy who has performed a million times in the cauldron of pressure.
This time, Reynolds popped the pressure valve.
"That's kind of our process," he said. "We've put a lot of time into it and it's nice to see it pay off."
As if the back-and-forth banter isn’t enough, Reynolds authored another running joke that began in January, when he tried to get a haircut during the Torrey Pines event. When he arrived at the shop, he learned the wait would be 45 minutes, so he bailed. When he arrived at the course the next day, Watney asked why he wasn't shorn.
"He said, 'That's good because I need some volume this year,'" Reynolds said. "Volume? 'Yeah, I need some volume this year.'"
Maybe this is a shampoo joke. I have no idea. Not sure Reynolds does, either.
To make his boss happy, and give them something else to joke about, Reynolds said he'd hold off on the haircut if Watney finished in the top 10. A mile off the lead through 54 holes, Watney shot 63 in the final round at Torrey and finished in the top-10.
"So it's kind of been a running joke," Reynolds said, running his fingers through five-inch-long tresses. "He finished in a tie for sixth and the ball's kind kept rolling."
Indeed, with the victory, the third of his career, Watney has finished T9 or better in all five starts in 2010, and dating to late last fall in official PGA Tour starts, the streak extends to seven consecutive starts.
About the only thing Reynolds misplayed Sunday was the traditional capture of the final flag on the 18th green, which caddies typically claim as their own trophy when their bosses win.
Since Luke Donald and Dustin Johnson still had to play the 18th and Reynolds was in the scoring area with Watney.
"I think you forgot something," Donald said.
Not to worry. John McLaren, Donald's caddie, stormed into the scoring area waving around the flagstick like a bayonet, generating plenty of laughs, and handed it to Reynolds.
"I wish it was mine," McLaren said, shaking Reynolds' hand and forking over the prize. "But this is yours."
With his third win, Watney is expected to crack the top 15 in the world ranking, and after the way he played Sunday, more wins soon could be in store.
If you care.
"He's come a long way," Reynolds said. "I expect big things from this kid."