10 years ago: Tiger Woods' 2013 PLAYERS title fueled by caddie’s words
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Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin
Prior to the 2013 PLAYERS Championship, Tiger Woods was somewhat skeptical of his chances to thrive at TPC Sawgrass’ THE PLAYERS Stadium Course. He had failed to finish better than eighth since his 2001 title – per Woods’ standard, a poor run of form.
So his caddie Joe LaCava felt compelled to provide a pep talk, channeling his past experiences with Fred Couples. LaCava’s words came on good authority: he caddied Couples to a 1996 PLAYERS title.
The advice proved effective. Woods captured his second PLAYERS title with a 13-under total, two strokes clear of Kevin Streelman, David Lingmerth and Jeff Maggert.
After the win was deemed official, Woods made a beeline for LaCava and offered a heartfelt embrace, perhaps a culmination of the pep talk’s impact.
“I basically told him … ‘Listen, Fred owned this golf course and he owned it for one reason. To me, it’s a second-shot golf course,’” LaCava said last week. “Premium on iron shots. You’ve got to hit it to the right spots. A lot of 6-, 7-, 8-irons, that type of thing. And I think Fred back in his day was probably the best iron player I saw during that era. I think Tiger was the best of all time … and I didn’t change his mindset, but I got him thinking a little bit.
“Which is all you need to do with Tiger.”
Couples and LaCava reunited for last week’s Cologuard Classic on PGA TOUR Champions. As the 10-year anniversary of Woods’ second PLAYERS title approached, it marked occasion to reminisce.
10-year anniversary of Tiger Woods’ win at THE PLAYERS Championship 2013
Woods’ first PLAYERS title in 2001 featured the signature “Better than most!” call on a lengthy birdie from the back of the green at the par-3 17th during the third round, delivered by Gary Koch. That year, Woods finished 14 under for a one-stroke win over Vijay Singh.
Not lost on Woods was tying his good friend Couples (1984, 1996) with two PLAYERS titles.
“He can’t make fun of me anymore,” Woods quipped of Couples after securing the 2013 title.
And it all started with a gentle nudge from a veteran caddie.
“I think he gave it some good thought and said, ‘You know what? I think you’re probably right. I should do better there,’” LaCava said. “I don’t think he had a bad attitude going into it; I just think he had a bit of a defeatist attitude. That changed a little bit. He ends up winning in 2013; I think that led to the big hug, and he was just appreciative of the fact that I got his mindset in the right spot for that place.
“I had nothing to do with the win. That’s all on those guys. But an attitude change helped, I think, that week.”
Kevin Prise is an associate editor for the PGA TOUR. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.