Lydia Ko does not put much stock in the importance of a committed golfer-caddie relationship, so it’s hardly a surprise that the 17-year-old winner of three LPGA Tour events has yet another looper on her bag for this week’s U.S. Women’s Open.
This time, though, it’s clear the arrangement is strictly temporary, as Jim Furyk’s caddie, Mike "Fluff" Cowan, will provide reconnaissance from last week’s men’s U.S. Open to the third-ranked player in women’s golf.
"I think personally he’s more famous than me," Ko said Wednesday about Cowan, who handled the luggage for his regular employer in last week’s contest and will go back-to-back when he traverses the landscape at No. 2 again starting Thursday.
"I was walking down [the range] with [instructor] David Leadbetter, Mike and I, and a lot of people were asking for their autographs," said Ko, who may have something of an advantage over the field, thanks to Cowan’s intimate knowledge of the track.
While Ko appeared unbothered by Cowan’s renown, the celebrity status he attained while working for Tiger Woods between 1996 and 1999 was reportedly a prime reason he no longer has that gig. Word was that Cowan’s growing fame, including TV ads and endorsements, as well as his discussing publicly his salary, were his downfall, but Woods has never publicly offered a reason for the split and Fluff, according to a 2007 Washington Post article, has never asked.
The 60-something veteran of the PGA Tour also caddied once for then 13-year-old Michelle Wie in 2003 while Furyk was sidelined with an injury.
Ko has had her own revolving door when it comes to caddies, with Cowan perhaps the seventh one (if you count her father; we’ve obviously lost track) she will have worked with since she turned pro last year. Indeed, the young South Korean who lives in New Zealand raised the ire of fellow Kiwi and another of Tiger’s former caddies, Steve Williams, when late last year she replaced her long-time coach, Pete Wilson, with Leadbetter.
"I never really hired a caddie saying I wanted to go with that person for a whole year," Ko told SFGate’s Ron Kroichick in April. "I don’t know what it’s like out here and I don’t know the majority of the courses ... I think it’ll take time to find somebody who will suit me."
Her navigation of what Kroichick called the "slippery slope" of caddie changes -- especially, he said, with tongues wagging about "heavy parental involvement" in the looper decisions -- had undergone no changes as of Wednesday.
"If I feel a big connection with a caddie, that's a big thing," Ko said. "And a lot of the things I need to take ownership and do myself. But hopefully I'll be able to find a permanent caddie along the way. And that guy might be the one that I had before."
Ko won the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in April and has five additional top-seven results in 12 starts this season. If she emerges victorious on Sunday, she will become the youngest winner of a major championship in golf history.