Characters: On-Course Reporter John Wood

In 20 years caddying on the PGA Tour and now as an on-course reporter, John Wood has been in the right place at the right time

John Wood has been observing greatness in one form or another his entire life.

At six, he talked his parents into taking him to an Elvis Presley concert in Tacoma, Wash. He still has the stub for his $12.50 ticket.

“I remember exactly where we sat, what he was wearing, and sitting in the staircase the whole time and singing every song,” Wood says.

When he isn’t working, he can often be found at Yellowstone National Park watching wolves, marveling at their relationships, how they cooperate when hunting, and their inability to feel sorry for themselves.

“I’m addicted to it,” he says. “I kind of feel like that’s my tribe now. I go there so often that I’ve become part of the community.”

As a caddie, his career began during Tiger Woods’s first full year on the PGA Tour, where he witnessed up close and personal the incredible aura of golf’s version of Elvis.

And now, as an on-course reporter for NBC Sports/Golf Channel, Wood continues his Forrest Gump-like ability of being the man next to the man in the arena at some of golf’s most memorable moments.

john wood
John Wood (photo by Adam Schupak)

Wood, 54, spent more than two decades on the bag for the likes of Kevin Sutherland, Hunter Mahan, and Matt Kuchar. A walk-on to the golf team at Cal Berkeley in 1987, Wood was managing a Tower Books store in Sacramento and practicing at a nearby range, where he befriended Sutherland, who took lessons at the same range. Sutherland had just completed his rookie season on Tour (1996), cycling through a series of caddies. He asked Wood about looping for him the next season. With no illusions about making a career in golf, he took the plunge.

“After that first year, I never really thought of doing anything else,” he says.

Wood was on a winner’s bag at 10 Tour events and caddied in 14 Cups—seven each of the Ryder and Presidents—and was an assistant at the 2018 Ryder Cup. He strategized with Mahan moments before he flubbed a critical chip that sealed Team USA’s defeat at the 2010 Ryder Cup, and was with Kuchar when Jordan Spieth recovered from driving wildly into the range at Royal Birkdale to pip his man and win the 2017 British Open in spectacular fashion.

“If I could change the outcome of those events, I would,” he says, “but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.”

Nothing beat being on the winning side of Ryder Cups in 2008 and 2016, or caddying for Bill Haas as he secured the clinching point at the 2015 Presidents Cup. Wood’s box of chocolates also includes Kuchar capturing a bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio then presenting his caddie with the Order of Ikkos medallion, an award medal winners can give to someone who helped them reach the podium.

Trading the bag for a microphone, he’s still inside the ropes, quickly becoming one of the best foot soldiers in his new line of work. Wood joined NBC/Golf Channel in 2021, saying, “It was time for a new challenge,” but says he still experiences the same adrenaline rush on the back nine on Sunday.

He was there describing Jon Rahm’s birdie-birdie heroics to win the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines and watching Rory McIlroy play flawlessly from tee to green at St. Andrews but fail to make a single putt and get passed by Cameron Smith at the 150th Open Championship in 2022. Wood has lived the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat without ever hitting a golf shot in the professional ranks.

“It’s remarkable what I’ve seen out here,” Wood says. “If you’d have told me at the beginning of this what I would have seen, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

Thank you for supporting our journalism. If you prefer to read in print, you can also find this article in the Spring 2024 issue of LINKS Magazine. Click here for more information.

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