Luck of the draw

Caddy Sean Russell on one of the great talking points on tour – to tee off early then late or late then early – and the luck (or bad luck) of the draw

You’ll hear commentators talk about the luck of the draw, and the pitfalls of early-late tee times – particularly at The Open – but what does this mean and how much does it affect a tournament? 

Its meaning is simple – in the first two rounds of a 72-hole event you’ll either tee off early Thursday and late on Friday, or vice-versa.

Every player and caddy have a preference – mine is always late-early as you keep the momentum going and don’t have time to dwell on your first round score – good or bad. It also makes it a lot easier to get a Friday flight home if you fail to make the cut, and it’s a godsend if your caddy is thrown in jail after a flight to Qatar (a story for another column).

When there’s changeable weather, you’ll often hear chat about being “screwed by the draw” or getting the bad weather for both your rounds. This has happened a few times in my career. In one of my first tournaments caddying for Diana Luna, we played in flat calm on Friday morning when only six people from the other side of the draw made the cut due to the wind. Meanwhile, out in Dubai on the DP World Tour, we were early-late and they called play because of the strong winds after four holes of our second round. Chris [Paisley] played the last 14 holes in flat calm on Saturday morning and ended up with a top-15 finish. I’ve never whinged about being screwed by the draw since!

One of the hardest parts of being on tour is filling the time between rounds – particularly on early-lates. You’ll do anything to pass the time – watch TV, review the yardage books… again, update the leaderboard repeatedly to work out the cut mark – anything! What you must not do is have a snooze, which turns into a mid-morning sleep and a missed tee time (another story for another day).

Players, and an increasing number of caddies, are more athletic these days so the gym on Friday morning is likely to be full of guys with early-late tee times making the most of their morning.

 Time in your own head can be destructive for golfers, so distraction techniques are really important skills. I don’t think Scottie Scheffler would have “cried like a baby” before his Sunday round at Augusta had he been playing at 7am that day – just one example of how time can be your enemy, even at the top.

While this won’t necessarily help amateurs directly, it shows how the best players in the world think about everything in the process of professional golf. Routine and understanding how and when to switch of your golfing mind are essential skills for all golfers – whether it’s a five-minute delay on a tee box in the monthly medal or an 18-hour wait to play the final round of The Masters.