Without hitting a shot or making a putt, Eric Larson left the Northern Trust on Sunday as one of the biggest winners.
The longtime PGA Tour caddie, who has worked three-plus years for Harris English, had reason to celebrate after English finished a distant second to Dustin Johnson in the first event of the FedExCup playoffs.
English vaulted from 27th to sixth in the FedEx Cup standings and assures him (and Larson) a spot in the Sept. 4-7 Tour Championship at East Lake.
Never has a second-place finish felt more like a victory for a caddie.
Not only did Larson earn one of the biggest checks of his career – $72,485, 7 percent of English’s $1,035,500 runner-up prize – Larson could be looking at a bigger payday.
The winner of the FedEx Cup earns $15 million – $1.5 million for the caddie if he receives the standard 10 percent winning fee. If English remains No. 6, that’s a $1.9 million bonus, an additional six-figure payday for Larson.
More importantly, by making it to East Lake, English is eligible every PGA Tour event next year, especially the four majors. No more worrying about alternates’ lists.
No wonder Sunday felt like a victory for Larson, even though he didn’t take the 18th hole flag with him.
Harris English and caddie Eric Larson during the 2020 Memorial tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club. (Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)
“I’m just happy to see all the hard work that Harris has done pay off, which obviously helps me tremendously,” Larson said Monday night from Chicago, site of this week’s BMW Championship. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
Larson – who everyone calls “E” on the PGA Tour – is showing the veteran caddie’s humility of crediting his boss. Larson has played a strong role. Consider this: English is the fourth player Larson has caddied for in the Tour Championship, joining buddy Mark Calcavecchia (2007), Anthony Kim (2008) and Jeff Overton (2010).
How many caddies can make that claim?
“I’ve been fortunate to work for a lot of great players,” Larson said.
English has been as consistent as the sun. He has six top-10s and 13 top-25 finishes – six in a row – and just two missed cuts in 18 starts. He missed two more events in late June when he tested positive for COVID-19.
English has earned a career-best $3.265 million – an estimated $200,000 for Larson – and risen to No. 53 in the latest world rankings.
The last year has been another turn in the roller-coaster ride of Larson’s career. He won a PGA Tour event with Calcavecchia, the 1995 BellSouth Classic, before Larson spent a decade in federal prison (1995-2005) for selling cocaine.
“I did it for monetary purposes only,” Larson told The Palm Beach Post 20 years ago. “I didn’t use it, and I never brought it out on Tour. I was not a major drug dealer.”
Larson hasn’t shied away from his past. He recently did a podcast with Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong fame), who Larson met in prison, for the Caddie Network.
While Larson was in jail, Calcavecchia provided financial support and promised he would re-hire Larson when he got out. Calcavecchia did even better, winning the 2007 PODS Championship at Innisbrook with Larson alongside.
With Calcavecchia’s blessing, Larson soon left for Kim, a rising star who won twice with Larson on the bag. Larson guided Kim and Overton to their first – and only – Ryder Cup.
Harris English and caddie Eric Larson during the 2020 Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club. (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)
After Overton lost his status in 2016, Larson was in limbo, working with Henrik Norlander, among others.
“I don’t take anything for granted,” Larson said. “I know this job could end tomorrow.”
Larson heard English was looking for a caddie in 2017, so he contacted his agent. English was struggling, but Larson knew he could regain the form that helped English win two PGA Tour events and a Korn Ferry Tour event as an amateur.
“The thing I liked about Harris was even though he wasn’t playing his best golf, he remained upbeat and wasn’t blaming anyone else,” Larson said.
Their first event was at Colonial and they have been together since. They are a perfect fit on the golf course because of their flat-line personalities.
“We both take our jobs very seriously,” Larson said. “With Harris, less is more. Just give him the right information, and he’ll do the rest.”
Larson, who turns 60 in two weeks, is almost twice the age of English (31), but Larson has a baby face and looks younger than his birth certificate. He feels younger these days.
Life changes quickly on the PGA Tour. A year ago, Larson didn’t know if he would have a full-time job.
Sunday night, Larson flew to Chicago on Johnson’s private charter. Hey, if you can’t beat ‘em, you might as well travel first class with ‘em.
Asked how he has handled the highs and lows of the last 25 years, Larson said, “I’m good at adapting to things.”
The next two weeks will be gravy for Larson. Gravy with whatever steak and lobster Larson wants.
His friends couldn’t be happier. Calcavecchia has already requested – and received – a chance to play a practice round with English (and Larson) at next year’s British Open, Calcavecchia’s last as the 1989 champion.
“Nobody deserves this success more than ‘E’ does,” Calcavecchia said. “He has always remained positive.”
That’s “E” to a tee.