Tiger Woods may have won 13 of his 14 majors with Steve Williams handing him his clubs, but his new caddie, Joe LaCava, is working out pretty well.
After winning the Players Championship on Sunday, Woods credited LaCava with convincing him he could conquer the challenging TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course, a layout that had bedeviled the world's No. 1 golfer since he earned his first Players title in 2001.
"I told you you could get this track," LaCava said to a triumphant Woods, who hugged his caddie after clinching the victory when 54-hole co-leader David Lingmerth missed a long birdie putt on 18.
"How about that, huh?" responded a grinning Woods, who touted the know-how and calming influence of LaCava, a 27-year veteran who has looped for Tiger pal Fred Couples and Dustin Johnson.
LaCava signed on with his current boss in October 2011 when Woods was struggling to come back from injuries and his sex scandal, just months after his acrimonious breakup with Steve Williams. LaCava had observers scratching their heads after he ditched Johnson, an up-and-coming young player, and teamed up with the once and future No. 1 shortly after Woods missed the cut in the PGA Championship and in the thick of his interminable winless drought.
In explaining his reason for the switch from DJ, a guy with tremendous upside, to the then-toxic Tiger, LaCava told ESPN simply, "Because he's Tiger Woods."
"It's a no-brainer," LaCava said. "That's my thought, it's Tiger Woods, right?"
The "no-brainer" gamble has paid off for golfer and caddie, as Woods got back on the winning track at last year's Arnold Palmer Invitational after topping the leaderboard at the unofficial 2011 Chevron World Challenge prior to that.
The pair has won six times in his last 22 PGA Tour events dating back to Bay Hill in 2012, including four out of seven contests this season -- the earliest he has ever won four events in a campaign. But for that flagstick ricochet and ball-drop fiasco at the Masters, Woods and LaCava could well have put Tiger's 15th major in the books.
The future looks bright for Tiger, who could set all sorts of records in a season in which he is healthy, in control of his game, and -- thanks to his new relationship with skier Lindsey Vonn -- seemingly happier than he has been in years, according to those in the know.
Add in a trusted man handling the luggage, and Woods may well be in the midst of a historic year that could be better than most.
"I've known [Joe] a very long time, had a very nice comfort level," Woods told ESPN. "I like the way he worked, and it's just one of those decisions where my gut said it was the right thing to do.''