Golf Debate: Is caddie abuse getting out of hand on Tour?

Matt Wallace is the latest Tour pro to take things out on his caddie after an errant golf shot - does something need to be done? 

Andy Roberts's picture
Mon, 24 Jun 2019

Matt Wallace has once again come under fire over the treatment of his caddie Dave McNeilly at the BMW International Open, just seven days after Jordan Spieth was caught chastising his bagman Michael Greller at the US Open.

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Wallace, 29, was rightly SLAMMED by golf fans across social media during live coverage of the final round in Germany on Sunday after tossing several clubs into the turf and hurling abuse at his caddie McNeilly, in particular when going long at the par-3 12th and when finding water off the 18th tee to end any hopes he had of defending his title. 

While Sky Sports Golf cameras could not pick up exactly what the current Race to Dubai leader had to say to McNeilly, his choice of words did not look particularly pleasant as he stared angrily into the face of one of the most respected caddies in the game.

That was the final straw for many disgruntled golf fans, who rushed onto their social media platforms to express their disgust at what they were witnessing.


You could possibly excuse Wallace his act of petulance on Sunday had it been a one-off, but unfortunately his on-course behaviour and general poor treatment of his caddie is becoming a recurring theme on Tour this season.

Yes Wallace is playing some of the best golf of any European right now having vaulted his way up into a career-high 24th in the world, but his fiery temperament is unacceptable in a day and age where we are all trying to come together as one to help grow the game and encourage as many new players into our sport. 

At the end of the day, the Tour professional is the one hitting the golf shot and NOT the caddie. 

Wallace reacted a similar way with his caddie McNeilly several weeks ago when throwing away the Betfred British Masters on the closing holes, and he came under yet more criticism from golf fans when thumping his putter into the green after missing his must-make birdie putt on the final hole. 

Hours later, Wallace sat down with the Evening Standard where he writes a regular blog to immediately apologise for his "petulant" actions during the final round. 

"The best players in the world don't do that so why should I," wrote Wallace. "That's not who I am and, in that moment, it was just pure passion to win."

Okay you thought. An apology. Let's all move on.

But then the four-time European Tour winner seemingly went back on his word and was soon caught swearing, striking his bag in frustration and throwing yet more clubs around several weeks later at the US Open. 

The fiery Englishman's outburst at Pebble Beach two weeks ago infuriated Sky Sports Golf commentator and former US PGA champion Rich Beem.

"I'm sorry but I don't enjoy watching that," said Beem. "I know you're intense but get over yourself."

Three-time major winner Spieth was another player to receive heavy criticism at the US Open when verbally abusing his caddie Greller after going long with his approach into the green at the iconic par-4 8th hole at Pebble Beach.

That time around, microphones picked up every single word.

"Two perfect shots, Michael," said a sarcastic Spieth. "You got me in the water on one and over the green on the other."

A day later, Spieth then had another little pop at Greller on the 15th hole, his sixth of the day.

"This won’t go over no matter what, right?" said Spieth, to which Greller promptly responded: "No."

Spieth struck the ball and blurted out a line at Greller we've heard before while the ball is in the air: "Hope you’re right."


While there have been a number of other player-caddie spats in recent years on both the European and PGA Tour, one of the more notable altercations came between Bubba Watson and his caddie Ted Scott at the 2013 Travelers Championship.

With victory in his sights, Watson saw his title hopes sunk when finding water at the par-3 16th en route to a triple-bogey six. But of course, none of it was his own fault. 

"Water. It’s in the water. That club," said Watson, watching his ball trickle into the water. 

Watson then blew his subsequent shot over the green, and once again let Scott have it: "So you’re telling me that’s the right yardage?"

The actions both Wallace and Spieth have portrayed the past two weeks do little to improve the image of our sport, especially when you consider all the other factors that are turning people away from golf right now such as pace of play.

Caddies are there to carry bags, rake bunkers, help read putts, provide correct yardages and offer a second opinion - something Jon Rahm probably wished he had listened to at The Players Championship recently...



In the case of Wallace, you could argue he is still maturing into an all-round golfer. While success on the main circuit has happened very quickly for him with four wins in the space of 12 months last season, he is still learning about himself and acquiring experience every tournament he plays. 

You could say something similar about Rahm and Wallace's compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, both of whom have what it takes to win major titles but one bad shot often ruins their entire tournament.

Ian Poulter was very similar when he first burst onto the scene in 2000. 

But when it comes to getting in the face of your caddie for costing you a shot, that is where things become unacceptable.

At the end of the day, the Tour pro is the one hitting every shot out there and NOT the caddie.

It should always be the player's responsibility to be in complete confidence with the chosen club at address. They must make the final decision because they are the boss of the relationship. 

You will often hear a Tour pro speak after their round of golf and use the word "we" - Danny Willett is World No.1 when it comes to this - but quite frankly golf distinguishes itself from many other sports as being a solitary game.

There are no team wins or bus parades out here. The caddie just picks up 10% and then fades into the background.

Yes golf can be frustrating, especially for these guys playing for hundreds of thousands of pounds each week, but they also have a duty to act accordingly as golf professionals. 

Wallace and Spieth are two of the best golfers in the world right now, both living a life of luxury that many of us could only dream about.

So what if you hit one bad shot or fail to win a golf tournament? There is always the next golf shot, or next tournament to put it right. 

We say start taking responsibility for your own actions out there, stop throwing your toys out the pram, and play with a smile no matter where your ball goes.