18 things about defending Vaslpar champ Paul Casey
March 20, 2019
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Paul Casey and caddie John McLaren ended a nine-year PGA TOUR victory drought last year at the Valspar Championship. (Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
On paper, John McLaren knows that he and his boss, Paul Casey, probably couldn’t be more different.
“Paul is very creative and artsy and left brain,” the veteran caddie explains. “I studied math and chemistry and geology so I’m the analytical type.”
Together, though, the two disparate halves have come together and made a whole. A player who is focused on returning to the kind of form that once allowed him to reach No. 3 in the world. A player who ended a nine-year PGA TOUR victory drought last year at the Valspar Championship.
That win -- which came in Casey’s 151st start since that victory at the 2009 Shell Houston Open – wasn’t easy, either. He started the final round tied for 11th and fired a 65 that included a career-low 21 putts. He then had to anxiously wait about 90 minutes to see if his score would hold up.
“It was really one of the highlights of my career in caddying,” McLaren says. “I was delighted for him and for myself and for (instructor) Peter Kostis, as well.”
Since the two teamed up in January of 2016, Casey has finished in the top 30 of the FedExCup each year. In addition to last year’s victory at the Copperhead Course, Casey has 22 more top-10 finishes, including six top-threes, two of which have come in just seven starts this season.
McLaren says the right- and left-brain configuration may be the key to the duo’s success.
“It kind of covers one,” he says. “Paul is quite a volatile character. I’m a very logical, very calm person. I suppose. So that combination, I guess it could backfire, but between us it seems to fit nicely.”
McLaren says mutual respect is also key in their partnership.
“When I look at the long term, Phil Mickelson with Bones; Phil thought as much of Jim as Jim did of Phil,” he says. “And I know Paul and I -- we've got each other's back equally.”
McLaren, who is known for the colorful socks he wears – in fact, his alter ego, Johnny Long Socks, even has its own Instagram account, started his life in golf as a pro, playing on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa, as well as in Australia, during the early 1990s with limited success.
A friend asked McLaren to caddy for him one summer. After their second stint together, this time for a year, McLaren says he “lost my desire to play.” So, he decided to concentrate on caddying, working for, among others Scott Dunlap and Duffy Waldorf.
Prior to signing on with Casey, McLaren caddied for Luke Donald for six years, during which time the Englishman was ranked as high as No. 1 in the world. But the relationship reached a low point in 2015, and McLauren decided to leave Donald.
“I think we'd probably run our course,” he says.
Once people found out that McLaren was available, he began to get feelers from various players. McLaren had several tryouts, so to speak, the first with Francesco Molinari, who offered him the job -- starting immediately. At that point, though, McLaren had already agreed to caddy for Kevin Chappell for two weeks and another for Casey.
“I just said I'm a man of my word and I won't do that without at least fulfilling them,” McLaren told Molinari. “So, I couldn't join him straightaway.”
Chappell offered McLaren a job, as well. But he still had to fulfill the commitment to Casey, so the two got together at the 2015 Hero World Challenge and finished fifth. Again, another job offer -- but McLaren didn’t accept until the two sat down in London for a heart-to-heart.
“My interview with Paul was goal-orientated really,” said the left brain of the duo. “I said why haven't you achieved what I think you should have done? What are your goals, getting them all out and they were reasonably lofty."
“And then I was, I was like, oh, they're fantastic, but what have you done to even consider making them come true?”
The more the two talked, the more the analytical McLaren was interested. He’s a big proponent of David Alred’s performance-based coaching style, working with him when he caddied for Luke Donald, and McLaren felt like he could help Casey. He made suggestions, and the pro was all in.
“Paul’s ball-striking is just naturally so impressive,” McLaren says. “So, when you've got that in a player, you look at all the other things and just see the other things as great opportunities, you know."
“When you come from a player like Luke, he was as good a pitcher and chipper and putter as you'll ever see. You think, well, if I can blend some of that to a great hitter, I'm going to have a great player.”
The on-course results speak for themselves. Casey ranks 16th in the FedExCup with a runner-up finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am – where he and his partner, Don Colleran, EVP and CSO of FedEx won the team title – and third at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship.
Off the golf course, the two men have found a variety of common interests. For one, both are wine aficionados: McLaren saying he learned a lot from Waldorf in that regard.
“The ability of someone to grow fruit and turn it into wine, I think is amazing,” he says.
Casey and McLaren also share a love of cycling. In fact, two years ago when McLaren turned 50, Casey took his caddy on a Tour de France-type of trip, complete with a team of riders, into the Dolomites, a mountain range in northeast Italy.
The ride lasted a week and covered about 500 kilometers, or more than 300 miles. That wasn’t the biggest challenge, though.
“It was more the ups and downs to be honest,” McLaren says. “We did about, I want to say, 35,000 feet of climbing during the week.”
Carrying a 50-pound golf bag over four or five miles each day now must seem like a breeze.
18 things on Paul Casey
Few people know a PGA TOUR pro better than his caddie. So here are 18 things John McLaren thinks you don’t know about his boss, Paul Casey.
1. Paul met his wife Polly at charity function during the 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. They were set up by Formula One legend Eddie Jordan.
2. He loves fast, exotic cars and he is an extremely proficient driver with many hours on the track.
3. Paul used to bite his fingernails until he saw himself in an interview on TV and he's never done it since.
4. He’s an avid cyclist, enjoying both mountain and road biking.
5. He went to Hampton Wick Boys School, which is near Hampton Court Palace, one of the homes of Henry VIII.
6. He has a passion for watches.
7. He has two kids named Lex and Astaria. Lex is 4 and he’s just starting to get interested in golf.
8. Paul loves coffee. He even travels with his own coffee machine. When he’s at home, he grinds his own coffee beans and measures it all out meticulously. He's actually going for a barista course pretty soon. He just loves it.
9. He has a brother who lives in New York and works in finance.
10. Paul went to Arizona State University where he won three Pac-12 titles in a row.
11. He won back-to-back English Amateur titles, too.
12. He has 17 professional victories around the world, including two on the PGA TOUR.
13. He was a supporter of the Wimbledon football club. But his dad used to dress him up in Tottenham Hotspur football club colors, which really incensed Paul.
14. Paul’s favorite meal is chicken tikka masala.
15. He has a couple of nicknames. One is Space Man – that goes back to his English days with Justin Rose. I think he used to call him Spacey Casey. The other is Popeye because of his forearms.
16. He prefers mountains to beaches.
17. Peter Kostis, the CBS announcer, is and has been his only instructor.
18. Paul has been to the moon -- all you have to do is ask Bryson DeChambeau.