R.I.P. Rodney "Mucker" Wooler
All golf writers quickly discover that sometimes it’s not the player who’s the more interesting character of any golfer/caddie duo. Often the person carrying the player’s golf bag is far more entertaining to talk to.
That was certainly true of Rodney “Mucker” Wooler, who has departed to that great caddie yard in the sky. And Mucker worked for some interesting characters.
Mucker, who would have been 60 in June, was a perennial, much-loved figure on the European and European Senior Tours for nearly 40 years. The tributes on social media prove just how much he'll be missed. Graeme Storm, whom Mucker counted as one of his bosses, summed up the feelings of most who knew Mucker in the following tweet:
I’ll certainly missed his wit and his friendship, but not his horse racing tips.
I first met Mucker in the early 1990s when he was caddying for David Feherty. Mucker was on the Northern Irishman's bag when he finished fourth in the 1994 Open Championship. As Feherty has gone on to prove, he’s not slow at being quick witted. He met his match in Mucker. They were a good double act, always entertaining to listen to.
Mucker caddied for Ken Brown in the 1983 Ryder Cup at Palm Beach Gardens. Brown defeated Ray Floyd 4&3 in singles, and Mucker always said his superior caddie skills was the reason Brown beat Floyd. Brown took to twitter to acknowledge Mucker's claim.
It's debatable whether golf or horse racing was Mucker's first love. His love for the sport of kings was such that he was on a first name basis with as many jockeys, race horse owners and trainers as he was with star golfers. Mucker was always looking for horse racing tips, and always willing to share them. He didn't always back a winner. As I found out.
At one Open Championship he asked if he could use my laptop to place a bet on his online account. I gladly obliged. Of course, when he gave me the horse's name and the time of the race, I just had to place my own bet too. The horse came in last.
On another occasion he told me he had a certain winner in such and such race at such and such track. I duly placed the bet. The horse didn't even make it to the starting line. That was the end of my horse racing wagers.
I wasn't the only one to waste money on Mucker's "sure-fire" tips. Scotland's Gary Orr employed Mucker for a few seasons and also fell foul of Mucker's crystal ball:
“I’ve backed some of his tips before and I think the horses are still running,” Orr once quipped.
Mucker's success with players was much better. He was on the winner's bag quite a few times in his career. My favourite story is when he caddied for Malcolm Mackenzie in the 2002 French Open at Le Golf National. Mackenzie had never won on tour in 508 previous tournaments. Standing on the par-5, 18th fairway, Mackenzie was tied with Trevor Immelman. He had 205 yards to the flag on the 18th, but asked Mucker if he should lay up: Mucker replied:
"It's only 205 to the pin and all you've got to do is hit it 200. You're a tour pro. You can hit a 2-iron 200 yards can't you? Are you a man or a mouse?"
Mackenzie pulled 2-iron, hit his ball to 15 feet and two putted for a one-shot victory to end a 20-year winless streak. Mucker claimed that victory too, as Mackenzie acknowledged in his tributary tweet:
Mucker came close to being on the winning bag for the 1986 Open Championship even though he wasn't anywhere near Turnberry. Mucker was working for Gordon J Brand at the time, but Brand decided he wanted his sponsor to caddie for him and gave Mucker the week off. Mucker wasn’t pleased. Brand mollified him by promising he would be paid for the week, and get his percentage, too.
Brand finished second to Greg Norman, so Mucker got a fairly healthy check. The money got even better when Mucker cashed in after backing his man at 40/1 to be the top British player.
Not all Mucker's tips were non-runners. R.I.P. Mucker.
#JustSaying: "A good caddie is more than a mere assistant. He is guide, philosopher and friend."