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Posted April 14, 2019, 8:18 pm
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Tiger's win first major with LaCava as caddie

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    Masters champion Tiger Woods and his caddie Joe LaCava playfully push each other as they celebrate on the 18th green Sunday afternoon. [ANDREW DAVIS TUCKER/FOR THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE]

Joe LaCava has seen Tiger Woods smile plenty of times.

That’s certainly going to happen when you have been Tiger’s caddie since 2011.

But Tiger’s smile on Sunday, wider than a putting green at Augusta National after dropping his final putt on No. 18 and winning the 83rd Masters Tournament, was one LaCava will never forget.

“That was a pretty good smile, right?” LaCava said, while sitting in the trunk area of Woods’ car in the parking lot behind Augusta National. “I’d say he was pretty satisfied. That was good stuff.”

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Woods’ win Sunday was his fifth Masters Tournament victory and 15th major championship in his storied career. However, it was the first major with LaCava on his bag, one the veteran caddie saw coming.

“I think you saw flashes of it last year with him winning the Tour Championship and playing well at the PGA and British Open, you know what I mean,” LaCava said. “Even though he didn’t win the two tournaments, he played well both weeks. So you have seen signs of it.”

LaCava said even walking up the 18th fairway with a two-shot lead there was no time to enjoy the patrons going crazy over Woods.

“We still had a lot of work to do there,” LaCava said. “For Tiger, making a five there is a no-brainer. If he had hit the green it might have been a different story. I’m thinking we still have work to do. It would have been more fun if he hit the green but he didn’t.”

LaCava said the strategy throughout Sunday was for Woods to stay intense, but don’t be uptight.

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“We just talked about to never lose intenseness but always be loose,” LaCava said. “And don’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Not smell the roses and enjoy this kind of thing, but just be a little loose and never lose the intensity. I thought he played loose.”

So what did Tiger say on the 18th green after the final putt?

“He said the typical, ‘We did it,’ and I said, ‘All the work paid off,’ ” LaCava said. “There was not much conversation. Neither one of us talk a lot.”

This was LaCava’s second time to caddie for a Masters champion, the first for Fred Couples in 1992.

LaCava, who caddied for Couples for 20 years, was asked to pick which win was his favorite.

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“This one is very exciting, but Fred is like my best buddy, so equal,” LaCava said.

LaCava, who wore a Saquon Barkley jersey under his Masters white bib to honor his beloved New York Giants, said Tiger is a different player from his previous four Masters win.

“You guys can see it,” LaCava said. “He’s high-fiving people. He’s talking to people. He signing some autographs and I think he is enjoying playing golf and being around people again.

“For awhile he didn’t know what he going to do. He’s much more fan-friendly and he’s great with the kids. And he’s talking more with the guys in the groups, which is nice. Everybody is out there pulling for him. How many guys you see waiting for him on 18? That was a nice touch.”

With that comment, LaCava smiled. Not as large as Tiger’s on the 18th green, but still a smile of joy.