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Meet the caddie who gambled on Tiger Woods at his lowest point

As Dustin Johnson was on the rise, Joe LaCava was on the move.

JOE LACAVA MIGHT BE the smartest man in golf.

In May 2011 LaCava was hired by 25-year-old Dustin Johnson. Johnson was widely regarded as America’s Next Great Golfer, and it seemed like an ideal gig for the veteran caddie.

That summer Johnson won the Barclays and finished in the top 10 three times (including a second-place finish at The Open), and was seemingly on his way to the upper-echelon of world golf.

But in October 2011, LaCava abruptly jumped ship, leaving Johnson and going to work with Tiger Woods. It was a huge gamble that took two years to pay off.

In October 2011, Woods was at rock bottom. He had just finished a brutal summer, missing the cut in the PGA Championship, and he hadn’t won a tournament since his mistress scandal exploded two years earlier.

In addition, he had just had a very public breakup with long-time caddie Steve Williams.

So basically, LaCava ditched one of the most promising young players in the sport and hitched his wagon to an aging, perpetually-injured fallen star who hadn’t won anything in years.

He said at the time: ”Johnson is a great player and a great kid. He was fantastic to me. He couldn’t have been any nicer. He played great. The guy won a tournament, finished second, finished fourth in four months. The kid can play. There’s no comparison between the two as far as that, it’s just that it’s Tiger Woods.”

LaCava walks on as Darren Clarke claims The Open Championship. Peter Morrison/AP/Press Association Images

LaCava’s faith that Tiger Woods would once again be Tiger Woods paid off. Now Tiger is the No. 1 player in the world again. He has six wins in 2012-13, while Johnson has two.

By all accounts, LaCava is a laid-back, professional guy. He worked for Fred Couples for years, and you rarely seem him make any news whatsoever (unlikely Williams).

But he made a big professional gamble by picking Woods over Johnson, and now he’s looking mighty smart. Caddies get 10% of their boss’ prize money if they win, 8% if they come in the top 10, and 6% if they make the cut. Tiger finished 2nd in winnings last year with $6.1 million (Johnson made $3.3 million), and he’s 2nd in winnings this year with $2.6 million (Johnson has made $1.3 million).

KA-CHING.

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