The nature of an elite professional golfer is that every move, word you say and every action you take is scrutinized. The messy complexities of everyday life can often lose their nuances as golf fans thirst for the juiciest bite of the latest breaking story.
When news surfaced last week that World Number 6 Bryson DeChambeau and his six-year-old caddy, Tim Tucker, split the day before the Rocket Mortgage Classic was due to start, speculation raged on social media.
What happened? Why now? Where was the failure?
In an exclusive interview with GOLF.com, DeChambeau, GOLF’s gaming editor and former Caddy Tucker, shared their side of the story.
The couple opened up the strange point in time of separation, the pressures of public life and Tucker’s next move. They also announced Tucker’s successor: Brian Zeigler, a rising star in the world of golf teaching who will take over as DeChambeau’s full-time looper at the Open Championship next week.
The split during the week
The only starting point is the obvious question: what was the reason Tucker and DeChambeau broke up the day before the first round of the Detroit event?
“There really aren’t any, to be honest,” says Tucker.
Instead, he said, the separation is the result of a meeting of factors.
DeChambeau’s long hours on the driving range and his intense itinerary took their toll, both physically and emotionally. When Tucker wasn’t in DeChambeau’s pocket, the former Bandon Dunes caddy was working on a new luxury bus transportation company called Loop in Bandon Dunes, due to launch in August.
“We were really tired. The season; the tour plan crunched on us, crunched on me. I knew I was working on this business on the side; We had a very intense relationship where he worked long hours, ”he said. “It was a bit like I wasn’t 100 percent healthy and happy … we made the best decision for both of us.”
In late 2020, Tucker had spoken openly with DeChambeau about making a plan for the day Tucker could no longer do caddy. There wasn’t a set schedule, but both DeChambeau and Tucker prepared for the transition by preparing Zeigler for the role. On Tuesday night of Rocket Mortgage Week, the schedule suddenly became clear. DeChambeau described it as a “curve ball”.
“But that’s life,” said DeChambeau. “The guy helped me win a major and eight more times. I will forever be so grateful for everything he has done for me and what he has helped me. I’ll always have amazing things to say about Tim. “
Tucker said he just regretted the time it happened.
“I wish we’d ended the week,” he said. “[Bryson] He was probably not as focused on golfing as he should have been, and for that I bear a great debt. “
DeChambeau on his relationship with Tucker
DeChambeau’s week in defense of his Rocket Mortgage Classic title didn’t go as planned. Even before the caddy drama, he went to the event tired from seven starts in nine weeks. Then, with a new face on his pocket – Ben Schomin, Cobra-Puma’s touring director – and speculation suddenly raging around him, DeChambeau missed the cut for the second time since last August. When he drove home to Dallas for a few days before taking on Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson in The Match, DeChambeau said he kept hearing rumors of a rift in his relationship with Tucker, which he says never existed .
“Everyone always thinks there was some kind of argument, but it wasn’t. This has been in the works for a while, ”DeChambeau said. “Tim is a really, really great friend of mine. He is someone who was and is still important to me and who will be important to me for the rest of my life. “
Now, DeChambeau says he’s looking forward to the next phase of their relationship and plans to give Tucker a try during this off-season helicopter pig hunting.
Everyone always thinks there was some kind of argument, but it wasn’t. This has been in the works for a while.
“We’re still friends, I’ll still talk to him, still call him, hang out,” DeChambeau said. “I think from my point of view this is a great thing for both of us.”
A week later, says DeChambeau, the moment served as a reminder of the intense media monitoring that all top athletes are exposed to. He says, like so many in the spotlight, he’s learning how to use it – and says he’s even asked Tiger Woods for advice in the past – but it’s a learning curve he’s still getting used to.
“People have to realize that I am human before I am a golfer,” he said. “I love giving everyone what they want. But only then did I realize: ‘Wow, I can’t give it my all’ because I can also have a bit of privacy in my own situation. “
Tucker on what the people at DeChambeau are doing wrong
Tucker said he also wanted to dispel any notion that there are bad feelings between the two.
Tucker met DeChambeau at the age of 15 and had no idea how much a child who was fascinated by the technical details of the golf swing would change their life.
“I didn’t make a lot of money,” said Tucker, who served in the military for a while before switching to golf. “I earned well, but then Bryson suddenly becomes a superstar. I was grateful to be part of this success, and the result of our hard work gave me the opportunity to bring my children to college. What more do you want as a father? I owe a lot to Bryson. “
As Tucker prepares to start his new business, the lasting lesson he learns from his time with DeChambeau’s pocket is the 2020 US Open champion’s work ethic. It’s this hard work and intensity, Tucker said, that often goes to it causes people to misunderstand DeChambeau.
“One of the things that people misunderstand about Bryson is that he’s asking so much of himself,” he said. “The kid works so hard. He’s the hardest working guy I’ve ever seen. He didn’t go on dates in high school. He didn’t go to parties. He went to the golf course and worked on his game. Same in college. Just grind, grind, grind to be where it is today. “
Zeigler on his new role
Every player-caddy relationship is different, but the days of “show up, keep up and shut up” are over. Although the player still hits the shots, the modern tour professional sees his caddy as an integral member of the team. Knowing Tucker wouldn’t be on the wall for the rest of Bryson’s career, DeChambeau reached out to Zeigler late last year to discuss the takeover when the time came.
Zeigler is the senior instructor at DeChambeau’s Home Course, Dallas National, and serves as the right-hand man to Trainer Chris Como. His role was particularly prominent during DeChambeau’s speed training at Como’s house: it was Zeigler in the room who urged DeChambeau to swing faster – and taunted him if he didn’t.
“Brian has been a huge part of my life for a while,” DeChambeau said. “We did a lot of speed training together. He was the motivator and the hype man. He helped me achieve new things [personal records] I would never have believed that I would make it. “
Caddy for DeChambeau is one of the most unique jobs in golf. DeChambeau says he and his caddy calculate the effects of air density before each full shot. It’s a system he and Tucker came up with that at one point resulted in the couple measuring the effects of golf balls that had spent hours in a freezer. Understanding the nuances of this system, DeChambeau said, along with an excellent green reader are the two most important technical qualities of a good caddy.
Zeigler has worked with Tim for the past six months to understand these technical details – “He’s been a huge help,” Zeigler said – and said that when combined with his teaching background, it is a challenge he is ready for.
According to Zeigler, one of the key tasks is “to manage a player on the pitch; let a player run when they want to run; Develop strategy, implement strategy. ”
“From the teaching perspective to the caddy, there is a lot of overlap between the two things,” he added.
With Zeigler slated to dig into his pocket at the Open Championship at Royal St. George’s next week, it’s not the complex details of DeChambeau’s airtight system that scares him most about his new appearance. Instead, it’s the basics.
“The typical, tiny stuff, that [caddies] already know, ”says Zeigler. “This is the stuff that will take me some time to learn.”
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