Everyone likes a great story told out loud.
Let’s face it, even in this social media culture of Instagram and Facebook stories, don’t we just enjoy a fun story told to a group that builds and gives us all a chance to laugh… sometimes even at ourselves?
Such is the case for 20-year veteran caddie Paul Tesori, who is about to caddie in his eighth Presidents Cup this week at Royal Melbourne.
“The storytelling is (one of the best things) for me about the week,” Tesori said of both the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup team events.
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The looper’s all-time favorite team event was the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah. Yes, the U.S. went on to lose a 10-6 lead that Sunday, but Tesori says he felt such a strong camaraderie about the U.S. team players and caddies.
That’s also the event where he first told his now infamous ‘Tiger Who?’ story.
We all remember that 2000 Presidents Cup singles match between Woods and Tesori’s boss at the time ,Vijay Singh. Tesori wore a hat that said “Tiger Who?” on the back because both he and Singh thought it would be funny.
Tiger was not humored.
But today, he can’t hear Paul tell it enough.
“He just loves that story,” Tesori laughs. “Tiger makes me tell that story every single team event. He laughs and enjoys every aspect of it.
“Each year he’s like ‘Paulie, Paulie, come on, let’s hear it! Let’s hear the story!’ And I’m like ‘Here we go again,’” Tesori said.
And all bets are off as to where Woods might ask Tesori to tell it.
Sometimes it’s in the team rooms, sometimes it’s on the team bus. But it could be anywhere.
As you’ll hear in Michael Collins’s interview with Tesori, Woods asked the veteran caddie to share the story for U.S. Captain Jim Furyk on the team bus last year in Paris.
This year, Woods is the playing captain and Tesori’s expecting a request from the skipper.
“Tiger will probably have it told again this year,” he said.
It’s entertaining that a story about Woods’ matchplay intensity and desire to smash doubters has led to so much laughter.
But it’s not surprising given the elements involved.
Woods was paired with his best friend, Notah Begay, for four straight matches against Singh and one of his teammates that week.
“Tiger had played poorly all (Presidents Cup), Notah Begay had carried him the entire week,” Tesori said.
READ: Matt Kelly ready to caddie at Royal Melbourne — 3 hours from childhood home — after watching 2011 Presidents Cup as a spectator
And it’s at this early point in Paul’s telling of the narrative that Tiger usually starts chuckling.
“Yeah, he even likes the part where Notah was carrying him in the team matches,” Tesori laughed.
Mind you, this is a Woods who had won three straight majors and was about to complete the Tiger Slam six months later.
So, in the singles match against Singh, Tesori and his boss first realized Woods had noticed the hat when Singh had a ‘one millimeter’ tap-in on the fourth hole.
And didn’t get a concession.
“We look over and Tiger’s got his hands crossed and a scowl on his face,” Tesori laughed. “His favorite part when I tell it is the scowl on his face. He goes, ‘show me the scowl, what do I look like again?’ and I’m like, ‘this,’ and I do a nice scowl.”
Woods proceeded to play the next 13 holes in 7-under par to beat Singh in an ultimately meaningless match, 2&1, as the Cup was won by the U.S. while their singles match was on No. 15.
“We’re not done, we’re playing this out,” Woods made sure to tell Singh and Tesori when they all heard the U.S. cheers echoing through Robert Trent Jones Golf Club’s trees.
The match ultimately did end on the 17th.
“I don’t think there was a lot of love lost between Tiger and Vijay already,” Matt Kuchar’s caddie, John Wood, said, “and this just stirred the pot a bit more. I know Paul meant no harm and it was all in good fun, but it just turned the boiler up in Tiger’s head, and you never want do that.”
Tesori admits it was awkward for him to smooth things over with Tiger after the match. But ultimately, he cleared the air at Valderrama the next week and said he didn’t mean any disrespect.
Woods understood, but did say it made him want to beat them even more. Then they virtually didn’t talk about it. Even through sharing a team room together like in the 2011 Presidents Cup.
READ: Joe Skovron looks forward to Royal Melbourne return as a caddie after spectating 2011 Presidents Cup
And also in final pairings at Bay Hill in consecutive years while Tesori worked for Sean O’Hair. Woods won on both occasions. Tesori remembers the roars on 18 each time as some of the loudest he’s ever heard when Woods buried clinching putts each year.
At a Tour stop in 2012, Tesori saw Woods on the putting green and called him by that infamous nickname again. “I said, ‘What’s up, Tiger Who?’
“He did not waste a quarter of a second and he said ‘what’s up 2&1?’,” Tesori said of the moment, which his current boss Webb Simpson calls his favorite part of the story. “He walked about another 15 feet and turned around with that big old grin of his and just smiled.”
We remember how quickly Woods disposed of Stephen Ames in the 2006 WGC-Match Play event after Ames questioned Woods’ driving accuracy before their match.
How did Woods respond after getting asked if the comments provided motivation?
“9&8,” Woods deadpanned.
In Tesori’s case, the two parties have turned their moment into a laugh out loud story and something we can all still chuckle about.
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“Those are the good memories that you’re always going to have is these fun stories and I can’t wait to be part of it again (this week),” Tesori said.
Missing team events
Tesori caddied at every Presidents Cup team from 2000 to 2013, then missed the last two (both American wins) in 2015 and 2017.
Is it frustrating that he missed two big wins?
“Not really. When I think of the team events, winning is not what I hold on to,” Tesori said. “The things I hold onto are the camaraderie in the team rooms, the flight over with the guys, breakfast with the guys. Being a lot closer with the guys than any other week of the year.
“There was a time when I wasn’t sure if we were ever going to be on one of these teams again,” Tesori added. “To get to play on the Ryder Cup last year and now we’re back on the Presidents Cup team, I never ever take it for granted.”
2011 Melbourne Memories
Webb Simpson went 3-2 as a Presidents Cup rookie in 2011 in his first team appearance.
“It was a magical week to be honest, a great team atmosphere,” Tesori said. “It was our first team event together. People don’t remember that Webb was the youngest player on team USA. It’s wild to remember now. It was fun. It was great to get really connected with Bubba and Teddy there.
“To be able to play with them, the first hole of the event Webb lipping out a wedge from 80 yards away in the fairway to get it all started.”
Watson has been a regular partner with Simpson in these team events. Unfortunately, he did not make this Presidents Cup team.
“I’ve got to be honest, I’ll miss them, but whoever our teammate is going to be this coming week, we’re going to establish a strong relationship with them as well. We can start these friendships with these guys and always remember going to battle with these guys and giving it everything they’ve got.”
2003 Presidents Cup
In 2003 at Fancourt, Tesori caddied for Jerry Kelly. Though Tiger Woods and Ernie Els would face off in a playoff, there was plenty of drama before they got there.
“There were only two groups left on the entire golf course and we were playing Tim Clark and we had to win our match or the team would lose,” Tesori remembered. “We were 1-up with two to play. Tim made a 40-footer for par on the 17th hole to extend the match, and then Tim birdied 18 and Jerry had to make this 5-footer outside the hole putt and if he misses it, the Presidents Cup is over and we lose. Jerry made it and we ended up getting to go and watch Tiger and Ernie in an unbelievable pressure situation.”
What Webb brings
This Presidents Cup marks the Simpson-Tesori duo’s sixth team in the last nine.
“It means everything for him to be here,” Tesori said. “He sets two goals each year. Of course we want to win, but sometimes you can’t control that. Each year we want to make the Tour Championship and the team event.”
In particular, Tesori appreciates a couple of Simpson’s strengths that he brings to the team.
“He brings so much. He’s one of the best iron players in the world, so strong around the greens and with putting, too,” Tesori said. “You can pretty much match him with everybody. I call him the utility guy, you can play him at any position and you can play him first off or last off. He’s definitely a veteran now which is crazy for me to think about.”