By DOUG FERGUSON, Associated Press
ATLANTA -- Tiger Woods has hired Joe LaCava to be his third full-time caddie.
LaCava decided to leave Dustin Johnson, one of the most talented young Americans, to go to work for the former world No. 1 who hasn't won in the last two years.
According to a story posted on Woods' website Sunday night, LaCava approached Woods and his agent, Mark Steinberg, about the job.
"This was an important decision, and I wanted to think about it carefully," Woods said in the story. "Also, out of deference for the FedEx Cup Playoffs, I decided to wait until they were concluding to have substantive talks. We then spoke to Joe and came to an agreement.
"Joe is an outstanding caddie, and I have known him for many years. I've personally seen the great job he did for Freddie (Couples). I'm anxious for us to be working together."
David Winkle, Johnson's agent at Hambric Sports Management, also confirmed LaCava was going to work for Woods and a search for a new caddie would begin immediately.
"Needless to say, Dustin and I were completely surprised, as they have enjoyed a great relationship and have been very successful together," Winkle said. "Nonetheless, we think highly of Joe, both as a caddie and a person, which is why he was hired in the first place. We wish him nothing but the best with his new employer."
LaCava was the longtime caddie for Couples, a relationship that ended in the summer because Johnson was looking for a caddie and Couples' playing schedule was being reduced because of his health.
Swing coach Butch Harmon recommended LaCava to Johnson, and said Sunday night he was "shocked" by the change.
"The thing that bothered me the most was T.W. not calling Dustin and asking if he could talk to Joe," said Harmon, who used to work with Woods. "That's the way it's done. I'm a little disappointed with the way Tiger handled it. But I'm not surprised."
The post on Woods' website said he talked to Johnson after LaCava informed his employer he was leaving to work with Woods. The website story also said Woods spoke to Couples about the decision.
Woods fired Steve Williams after nearly 13 years this summer after Williams worked for Adam Scott while Woods was recovering from a knee injury.
A person familiar with the deal said LaCava informed Johnson of his decision in the locker room after the final round of the Tour Championship. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because neither Woods nor Johnson had spoken publicly about the hire.
LaCava was flying home and could not be immediately reached. Johnson left for a corporate photo shoot in Georgia, then was headed for Scotland for the Dunhill Links Championship.
"I'm excited to be working with Tiger," LaCava said in the story on Woods' website. "I contacted Tiger and Mark because this is a unique opportunity to be part of something very special. Tiger and I have been friends for a very long time, and I know what he can do.
"I want to thank Dustin (Johnson) for the opportunity to work with him, and I wish him nothing but the best."
LaCava waited for Johnson at his courtesy car to load up his clubs, and their farewell in the parking lot was routine. Johnson had planned to take a couple of friends to Scotland to caddie for him and his brother, Austin, his amateur partner.
Johnson won The Barclays last month with LaCava on the bag, and the news was a surprise. However, LaCava has two children, ages 12 and 14, and as long as he has been a caddie, wants to be spending more time at home. Johnson also is leaning toward taking up European Tour membership next year, which would mean about four additional tournaments overseas.
Woods, even when fully healthy, plays a limited schedule.
The question is whether Woods can make this a profitable move for LaCava. Woods hasn't won in more than two years on the PGA Tour, and he did not qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs this year, mainly because he missed nearly four months with an injury.
Woods has said his left leg is stronger than it has been in years. Woods next plays at the Frys.com Open in two weeks at CordeValle, about an hour south of San Francisco. Woods also is playing the Australian Open and the Presidents Cup, a competition that will feature all of his caddies – Mike Cowan (now with Jim Furyk) and Williams, who works for Scott.