When it comes to Ryder Cups, there are few caddies who have been exposed to the highs and lows of a Europe vs USA matchup than Phil Morbey.
Known as “Wobbly” among his peers, the 53-year-old from Selby, North Yorkshire, has caddied in eight Ryder Cups between 1987 and 2010, including stints behind the scenes at the likes of Brookline in 1999 and Hazeltine in 2016. Currently in his 37th year on Tour, Morbey boasts 41 wins with nine different golfers, which includes a win at The Masters in 1991 when on the bag for Ian Woosnam.
And it would be alongside Woosnam where Morbey would get his first taste of Ryder Cup action some 31 years ago, in quite fortunate circumstances. We sat down with Phil to get a caddie's point of view ahead of this year’s matches.
What were your first memories of the Ryder Cup?
"I started caddying in 1981, but I never really watched much of The Ryder Cup to be honest,” Morbey said. “Then in 1985, I watched it when it took place at The Belfry when we beat America when they were well on top. That was the first Ryder Cup I really watched and it was great. I remember watching the celebrations afterwards with Woosie and Sam (Torrance) jumping all over the place.
What about your first time working at the Ryder Cup?
"It was 1987 and I was fortunate enough to be working for Woosie by then. I wasn't supposed to go to the Ryder Cup, actually, because I was with Howard Clarke at the time and he'd already qualified for the Ryder Cup.
"Woosie approached me earlier on in that year and ask if I wanted to start working for him and I turned him down because I said ‘well I'm in the Ryder Cup with Howard Clarke’. And at that stage Woosie wasn't so I knocked him back. In the end me and Howard fell out so Woosie came back in and approached me just before the Ryder Cup. It was a good case of being in the right place at the right time.
"The team was fantastic. So many great players and stories being told all week. I have so many great memories from the week, especially seeing Ollie dancing on the green afterwards. It really was was unbelievable to be there."
What about inside the team room, what’s that atmosphere like?
“Billy Foster and myself are really vocal in that we tend to get everyone singing and dancing in the locker room and banging and crashing around. At Celtic Manor, Billy and myself were singing a few songs and all the players were getting stuck in as well, which shows the good relationship caddies have with players, especially at a Ryder Cup.
"I think the two of us are the ones out of all the caddies who, if we're down or getting beat, we'll try and say a few positive things to the caddies and players. Because obviously it hurts to lose, so you just try and emphasise that any point gained is for the team.
"We used to all travel together, players and caddies. We would all stick together and the team bonding was brilliant. Obviously, you will get clashes on personalities in any team but that's just wiped out in The Ryder Cup. There are a lot of players who are true champion golfers and obviously they're used to playing for themselves but when it comes to The Ryder Cup it's a little bit different. You've just got to try and get on and forget all your differences, forget who you are and become a team player.
"Europe have done great over the past 25 years and that is, in part, down to the great camaraderie and team spirit.
"I think camaraderie is where America have really only just cottoned on. I can't remember what year it was, but I remember we got told that the 12 American players had all come in separate private planes. They didn't want to know each other at times. They were self-components really.
"Now, you've got Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth and that gang of friends coming along. They're all good friends and I think they've finally worked out that friendship and camaraderie can really help in a Ryder Cup team room and on the course as well.”
What are your favourite moments from inside the ropes at a Ryder Cup?
“I think back to 2006 when Woosie was captain and I was caddying for Ollie. That was a special week because I'd done six Ryder Cups with Woosie and now he was leading the team. In six appearances with Ian, we never won a singles match. He halved two or three times, but never won. On Sunday with Ollie, we were on the 14th hole, two up, and he hit it to about 35 feet against Phil Mickelson, who had pulled his shot left.
"Ollie hit a great putt and was conceded his par. Mickelson chipped it to three feet or so and Ollie said to me “What do you think? Should we give him the putt?” I remember saying “Give him the putt?!” Ollie mentioned a putt on the second hole that Phil had conceded but I said to him “You know my singles record, if you give him that putt and we don’t win, I’ll never speak to you again.” Ollie gave him the putt, turned to me and said “Trust me” and went on to not miss a shot the rest of the round and win 2&1.
"It was an emotional day for me, getting that feeling of winning our match and winning the event on Sunday. I was really emotional. "
What about on-course decisions, any specific ones come to mind?
"Absolutely. One of my finest hours was at Valderrama in 1997. I'm caddying for Woosie who was playing with Thomas Bjorn and I think we're one up on the 17th hole. Thomas is there, it's his first Ryder Cup and I've done about four Ryder Cups before that. His caddy, Martin Gray, and Thomas are not quite sure whether to hit a three iron and go for it or layup. I went over and said: ‘Thomas, how far have you got?’ And he said about 200 metres to the flag. I said: ‘It's a three iron all day.’
"Martin, his caddy, stood back a bit nervous because it's his first Ryder Cup, as well. I said: ‘Thomas, that's your club, three iron, now hit it.’ He went to the ball, pulled the three iron, swung it perfectly and hit it on the green. Great shot, pin high about 30ft away and two putted. I worked for Thomas on three or four different occasions and he still says to this day “that was the finest club you ever gave to me and you weren't even working for me!”
One of the best parts of a Ryder Cup is the celebrations after? You had several, which was the best?
"2006. No doubt. It was a fantastic atmosphere. The Irish spectators are brilliant. Safe to say there were several pints of Guinness drank that night by the players and the caddies. We ended up going down to the tented village at The K Club - a few of the players and a few of the caddies. I remember David Howell trying to be the incredible hulk, tensing his muscles in his chest as he ripped off his shirt and all these buttons and the shirt ended up in the crowd. They had players up over their heads walking round and everyone was on the tables drinking pints of Guinness. It was brilliant.
"I’ve had lots of special memories like that but it's not often the spectators can enjoy the success with the players. There was only five or six of us down there but there was Guinness going everywhere, it was flowing.
What about this year and Le Golf National, how do you see the matches playing out?
“It's going to be some atmosphere! It’s a great, great golf course. Anything can happen, especially in foursomes and singles on those last four holes, as it showed at the HNA Open de France this year. I was caddying for Chris Wood that week and there was about four or five of us there who could have won going into that last four holes. Imagine what that will be like with four or twelve match-play matches heading to those holes. It's going to be really good. It's a cool spectator wise - it's a stadium course so you get good vantage points wherever you go. I think it’ll be the best spectacle of Ryder Cup we’ve ever seen. And it looks like we’re in for two really strong sides now as well.”
Stay tuned for more inside access pieces on RyderCup.com over the next few weeks.