Jon Rahm, caddie Adam Hayes share what makes their partnership work so well
One of the most successful player/caddie partnerships began five years ago this week at Silverado Country Club for now world No. 1 Jon Rahm and his caddie, Adam Hayes.
Back in 2016, Rahm was ranked 126th in the world and had played 12 previous Tour events. Five years later, he’s won 13 times worldwide, including his first major at June’s U.S. Open and has become the definition of consistent with 15 top 10s in 2020-21, including in the last five majors.
Rahm would go on to finish tied for 15th that first week with Hayes five years back in Napa and the duo returns this week for what is now called the Fortinet Championship, one last event before next week’s Ryder Cup.
A couple weeks ago during the BMW Championship, Rahm was asked how important Hayes has been to his recent and overall success.
Rahm smiled when he heard the question.
“I think the most important thing to understand with (Adam) is he wants to win as much as I want to win, and that’s the beauty of it.” Rahm said. “Adam is amazing. I think what’s made it work so well is that early on the best way I can say it is we’re both no-BS guys. If you have something to tell me, tell me to my face, and it’s reciprocal. So he will tell me if he has something to tell me, and I will tell him if I have something to tell him. That’s the way things work. We’re not going to shy out when something comes up. I think that’s really important in our case because we know we both have each other’s best interest at heart.”
Hayes is on the same page and understands the importance of talking through decisions.
“The best caddies, in my opinion, are guys that just are almost like chameleons. They can read people’s personalities and learn their tendencies, and they don’t try and change people, and I’ve never tried changing Jon or anybody that I’ve ever worked for,” Hayes told us in a 2020 interview.
“Jon is who Jon is. He’s a very competitive guy on the golf course and a lot of people take that the wrong way when he gets mad, but that’s just something that he’s had to figure out on his own, and I’ve never judged him for it and I never will. So I think that I’ve never tried to coddle or pamper the guys I’ve worked for but you hold guys accountable.”
This accountability is what Rahm also likes to see in the caddie/player relationship.
“Besides the obvious chemistry and friendship that we have, I think the honesty and willingness to work is what makes it work so well and why we’ve made such a good team,” Rahm said.
That honesty has helped both individuals communicate clearly, especially when the stakes are high as they’ve been for Rahm. Hayes is not a fan of being a ‘yes man’ on the course, and he believes that helps their dynamic as a team.
“If you can hold guys accountable and they can hold you accountable it usually works out, but if you tell them everything they want then at the end of the day it might work for a little while, but then they might be like ‘geez man, why didn’t you tell me, what’s going on here?’ and that’s one thing that I feel like in our relationship there’s times I feel like I’ve held him accountable and times he’s certainly held me accountable on things if we made a mistake,” Hayes explained. “At the end of the day we know both of our interests is the betterment of his golf and his results and that doesn’t come if you just kind of pacify things.”
Of course, there will be disagreements at times as well.
“When it’s coming down the stretch, there’s only been once, and we all know the moment (2019 Players Championship where he hit his second shot from the 11th fairway bunker into water), there’s only been once where he disagreed with me. Only once in five years. I’m known to be an aggressive player, and he’s fed into that,” Rahm said.
Rahm points to Sunday of their first win together at Torrey Pines in 2017 to showcase Hayes’ penchant for fueling his aggressiveness.
“When we won at Torrey Pines the first time, I hit it in that right bunker on 13. It’s not the easiest shot in the world, and we were two back at that point. Still very doable on the back nine and playing good golf, and we have a little bit of a wait, and he tells me the number, and I look at him — I’m thinking about going for it,” Rahm said. “You know, I’m standing there with him and I ask him ‘Adam, what do you think?’ And he’s like ‘dude, grab that 4-iron and aim right at the flagstick.’ And I’m like ‘Perfect, that’s all I need to know.’ That was only, I think, his fourth or fifth event with me, and he told me right away, ‘do that.’ You know, it’s one of those things that told me, OK, he’s not kidding, he wants to win. That’s what we’re there for.”
It’s also important to remember where Hayes came from. The current caddie for the world No. 1 began caddying in 1999 on the LPGA where he started out making $400 per week.
“We used to do this thing called ‘scores for floors’ when we had three or four caddies staying in our hotel rooms just to make ends meet and high score that day would sleep on the floor, and the others with lower scores would get the beds,” he said. “We were three and four to a room just to make ends meet.”
But all of this, Hayes says keeps, caddies humble. What a story to look back on now for the 23-year vet.