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Caddie confidential - a day in the life of a Masters looper

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Rob Hodgetts | 15:55 UK time, Saturday, 10 April 2010

White boiler suit, green cap, golf bag over the shoulder? One of the most recognisable sights in golf is the Augusta caddie.

In the old days players used a local man, but nowadays they bring their own trusted lieutenant. But what's the Masters like for a 'looper'?

On Friday evening I caught up with Graeme McDowell's bagman Ken Comboy to find out about his day. Disappointing, mainly, as they had just missed the cut.

But Ken's a good man and he slumped down for a chat in the shade of the Augusta National clubhouse.

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Here's Ken:

"We had a lateish tee time (1141) so I got up about 8am and arrived at the course about 9am. Jumped straight into the boiler suit, grabbed a banana for breakfast and headed out onto the course. We get a pretty good pin sheet with plenty of information but it's good to check out the pins for yourself. So a quick scoot around all the greens, just to get a bit more confidence to see where we want to be and what we should be doing out there.

Back in to meet Graeme on the range about an hour and 20 minutes before we play. His pre-round routine is always the same: putts for about 20 minutes then hits balls for half an hour.

His coach Pete Cowen is often there but I'll also be having a look at his swing to check what's going on and I might suggest he practices a certain shot we might need that day, or, say, if it's windy I might suggest he hits a few knockdown shots.

Then it's 15 minutes of chipping before we go to the putting green next to the first tee for some more putting just before the off.

We played poorly on Thursday, getting off to a terrible start, but we were three under for the last seven holes for a 75 to give ourselves a chance.

Today we played lovely for nine holes then made a poor double on 10, chipping through the back from the front of the green.

My job is to remain very positive, but not over enthusiastic to make him excitable. It's important they treat each shot equally. When they start playing well they get a buzz and get into a rhythm and it keeps itself going. But when things are going south you've got to try to treat it ordinarily and then get on with next shot. I try to keep Graeme on an even keel the whole way around, whether he makes birdie or bogey.

I said to him as we walked off 10, 'We can still pick up a couple coming in. I want you to play the next seven holes like you are leading the tournament'. It's good to keep reminding them that with a couple of good holes things can change quickly. It's easy for these guys to get down on themselves, especially on a course like Augusta. But Graeme has a pretty good head on his shoulders so I don't have to work too hard.

We made good pars on 11 and 12 and birdied 13. Then the wind dropped as we hit our second shot into 14. The ball came back down off the front and we took bogey.
But at 15 he pitched it through the back and we made double and that was end of our chance. It's very disappointing - we only needed to shoot level par today to make the cut - do that here and you can still do pretty well. Anything can happen.

If we had made the weekend we would go back to the range and go through a warm-down routine. He'll hit balls for half an hour just to get a good feeling for his swing for the next day. On Wednesday we went straight to the Caddyshack to watch the Manchester United v Bayern Munich game on the TV. There's only one screen, but a group of us took the place over. Then we hit balls after.

While Graeme's hitting I'll get the bag ready, making sure the balls are marked up - he likes a straight line down the side which he uses to line up off the tee, and he puts a "G" on the maker's logo. Graeme likes protein bars to take on the course and has a protein shake, too. I'll grab fruit on the way to the tee the next day.

comboy_getty595.jpg

Daylight usually dictates how long you spend at the golf course. We get there early in the morning and leave late at night. When you're at these events you're not there to see the city, you're there to try to win a golf tournament. So you spend a full day at the course, go for some dinner, go to bed. It's not as glamorous a lifestyle as you might think.

The majors are a long slog as you have to walk around the course a couple of times each day. And this is a hilly golf course. It's tiring. There are a few walks that get your attention - the last is straight uphill and even the downhills aren't comfortable as they are steep. Augusta takes a lot out of you as you have got to be on your game constantly, from the minute you tee off to when you walk off the 18th.

In a normal European Tour event you might say "good shot" while the ball is in the air. You don't say anything until it has stopped at Augusta because you don't know what's going to happen. The ball can run forever. It's a difficult place and a tough week. The guys who do well will be exhausted by Sunday night.

And wearing that suit, too - it's horrendous. Another one of the great traditions of Augusta. But they're not going to change that any time soon so there's no point in moaning about it.

Unfortunately I won't be one of those exhausted on Sunday, so I'll go for a few beers tonight. TBonz Steakhouse is probably the number one caddie hangout in Augusta. The guy gives us preferential treatment and always has a table for us. But that's not every night. We had a takeaway pizza and were all in bed by 930pm on Wednesday before the tournament.

I'm staying in a house nearby that we rent every year from an old lady - this is my eighth Masters, two with Paul Casey, four with Thomas Bjorn and two with Graeme. I'm sharing the house with Billy Foster, Lee Westwood's caddie, and JP, who works for Rory McIlroy. So mixed fortunes as McIlroy also missed the cut, while Lee's flying high.

Graeme's in a separate house with his family. I might stay with him two or three times a year, but we spend so much time together it's nice to do different things in the evening to give us something to talk about the next day. But we'll go out for dinner two or three times a week.

We'll now fly to China earlier than planned - on Sunday instead of Monday - so we won't actually get to watch the final round.

It's disappointing to be leaving, you look forward to the Masters all year. But Graeme's short game let him down a bit this week. It's back to the drawing board, but we know what we've got to work on."

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