For Joe Skovron, this year’s Presidents Cup will mark a return to Royal Melbourne. Obviously he didn’t caddie for his player Rickie Fowler during the 2011 Presidents Cup because Fowler wasn’t on the team, but Skovron went to the matches anyway.
As a spectator.
Fowler was qualified for the Australian PGA Championship the following week, so Skovron decided to go down to Australia the week before and enjoyed exploring Melbourne with his good friends and fellow loopers Matt Kelly and Matthew Tritton (aka ‘Bussy’). Kelly and Skovron had the idea to go out to the matches on Friday for the event’s second day.
“It was different for me, it was roasting hot (100 degrees) and windy, so it was a little different,” Skovron said.
Funny that a guy from the desert of Southern California would see that as different, but to his credit it was the month of December during Australia’s summer.
“I didn’t really let any of the (caddies in the event) know that I went. So we just were normal spectators, walked around and got to see some of the action. We were just experiencing Melbourne, so we figured we’d go out there and see the course. It was a lot of fun. It was an amazing venue for golf.”
After Wednesday’s announcement from captain Tiger Woods that he would be replacing an injured Brooks Koepka on the U.S. Presidents Cup team with Fowler, Skovron had a chance to look forward to going back to that memorable venue.
“It will be really cool, not that I’m competing, but to caddie for Rick on that golf course and that style of golf, I think it will be a lot of fun,” Skovron said. “Hopefully we’ll get some good fan support out there for both teams. I think it will be really fun.”
For a caddie and golfer who loves the nuances of links golf, Skovron thinks that will be a fun dynamic to also look forward to even if it may add to his preparation.
“I’m definitely looking forward to caddying (at Royal Melbourne) this time,” he said. “Usually those kind of golf courses take a little more work, so we’ll get all the prep in as usual the few days before and hopefully be ready by the time we tee it up.”
The 38-year-old first put on a team USA caddie bib in these team events at the 2010 Ryder Cup in Wales. Understandably, that sticks out as one of his fondest memories in six of these appearances for his player, Fowler.
“There are so many good (memories),” he said. “You get so many memories within the team room and the bonds you form, guys you become friends with that maybe you didn’t know as well before. Rickie’s Ryder Cup singles match that first team appearance in 2010 against [Edoardo] Molinari was awesome. He made four straight birdies to end it in a halve. That was pretty special.”
Unfortunately, though Fowler’s late heroics kept them in it, that Corey Pavin-led team ultimately lost a tight one, 14 1/2-13 1/2.
The wins, of course, stick out as well.
“Hazeltine, winning that first Ryder Cup was awesome,” Skovron said. “The 2017 Presidents Cup in New York was a lot of fun. Rickie and Justin going undefeated, the whole vibe of the team and how good a week that was and spending it in NYC. Just some [memories] off the top of my head.”
With memories comes the realization that he’s no longer a spring chicken looping these events.
“I guess I’m kind of becoming one of the old guys in there now,” Skovron laughed. “It’s kind of funny because I was the young guy in 2010 and now I’m becoming one of the older guys in there.”
It’s not lost on Skovron how unique this team event will be this year, especially with one of the all-time greats manning the ship.
“I think a special part of this one is Tiger Woods as a captain,” he said. “You grew up watching Tiger Woods and everything else, we’ve been in team rooms with him. Now that it’s his team, I think that will be a very cool experience and someday I’ll look back on it and be glad I was a part of it.”
This year’s Presidents Cup also gains added significance for Skovron because of two of the caddies on the opposing International team
“My two best friends out on Tour (Sam Pinfold and Matt Kelly) work for Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman and we’ve known each other since we’ve been all caddying on what was then the Nationwide Tour in 2008, so it will be pretty cool to be able to work an event like this together, whether it was on different teams or not,” Skovron said. “It’s just kind of cool that we’ve all gotten to this point in our careers.”
This will be memorable for all three caddies to be sure, but Skovron doesn’t worry too much that they’ll be on opposing sides here.
“You just get out there and hope you win the matches and help the team win, but you’re still going to be friends at the end of the day, so you try to get some of the experience in with them, but you’re going to be with your team more than them, obviously. It’d be different than a normal week with them. But it’ll be fun to be around them and to all be there competing.”
When Woods made his four captains picks almost two weeks ago, Skovron wasn’t sure where Fowler would stand should injury require another pick.
“It was hard to tell because I’d heard all kinds of things and I didn’t know what was true and what wasn’t true,” Skovron said. “I figured that Rickie was probably in the mix. I figured he was probably in the mix for the pick and figured he was in the mix for this, but you don’t really know until Tiger makes the decision, so you just kind of go with it and see what happens.”
Skovron was told by his boss they’d be on the team before the announcement was made Wednesday morning.
“Then I didn’t even know they announced it until I started getting texts this morning,” Skovron said. “All of the sudden when I started getting all those texts I thought, ‘oh, they must have announced it.’”
It’s no secret that Fowler gets along with just about anybody who attends a golf tournament: players, caddies, or spectators.
For this Presidents Cup, how does the 30-year-old’s personality and game match up?
“I think for this one in particular, the style of the golf course is going to be great for him. He loves that style of golf at Royal Melbourne,” Skovron said. “And I also think his willingness to be paired with anybody and get along with anybody and be so positive and bring a good energy to the team room, I think he does all of that well. And obviously his golf skills help.”
Fowler’s prowess with the flatstick also figures to be a factor here.
“In matchplay events like this and team events, when you’re a great putter, that’s nice,” Skovron said. “When your partner can trust you rolling in a big putt and feel pretty good when Rickie’s over an important putt in a match that’s good.”
Though Skovron says the week of the matches is a time for all 12 caddies to hang out together and have a good time, he also knows the dynamics of each team is unique. This year doesn’t figure to be any different.
“Every team is a little bit different, who’s there and how it balances (in the team room), you have similar caddies at a lot of events, but then you’ll have one or a couple years where someone’s not there and has been there on previous teams,” Skovron said.
“You know it’s been a bit of a change without Bones in there and it’s going to be a bit different without Michael Greller in there too. I’ve been so used to being on all these teams with him. But you get some new guys in there too.”
New caddies — who have not participated in a Presidents or Ryder Cup on the U.S. side previously — will include Austin Kaiser (Xander Schauffele), Matt Minister (previously caddied on the international team for Sangmoon Bae in 2015, but is now with Patrick Cantlay) and Brennan Little (previously caddied on the international team for Mike Weir, but is now with Gary Woodland).
As far as how many matches Skovron expects Fowler to play, he thinks it’s hard to know for sure at this point.
“It will be a little bit different with us being the add,” Skovron said. “I don’t know how much we’ll play or we won’t play. So it’s kind of unexpected how that will go. You always look forward to the team interaction though.”
Skovron hasn’t looped since August when Fowler finished his season at the Tour Championship. Though it’s been quieter for him the past three months, he’s still enjoyed the time off.
“The time off has been nice,” he said. “I’ve just been doing the usual, playing some golf and getting some time in the gym. Catching up with people, catching up on things that you don’t get to do when you’re on the road.”
It’s a busy time in the sport calendar and Skovron has been all over that.
“I’ve been watching a ton of football.”
It’s fall in America. That sounds just about right.