MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — You know the names headlining the Ryder Cup: Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy.

Some of the names we are not as familiar with are on the course with the golfers, and their job is just as important.

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Phil Mickelson once told WCCO that picking a caddy is the biggest decision next to who you decide to marry. He and Bones have been together for more than 20 years, and it is that relationship that is central to success.

In what’s largely considered an individual sport, a golfer is never quite alone.

Henrik Stenson and caddie Gareth Lord (credit: David Cannon/Getty Images)

Henrik Stenson and caddie Gareth Lord (credit: David Cannon/Getty Images)

“We’ve been together like five years, so longer than most marriages,” said Team Europe’s Andy Sullivan.

While carrying the bag and handing a player a club may be the most visible part of a caddy’s job, the relationship between golfer and caddy goes way deeper.

“My caddy, he’s my brother-in-law, so I have to like him,” Patrick Reed said.

Golfer and Team USA Vice Captain Jim Furyk says the foundation begins with trust.

“Some are friendships, some are working relationships, but you definitely have to have a trust,” Furyk said. “You’re relying on them, depending on them, and I like to say Fluff and I some weeks spend more time than I do with my wife.”

Jordan Spieth calls it a partnership.

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“You’re trusting them with potentially the biggest decision of the tournament and potentially the outcome of the tournament,” Spieth said.

A good caddy knows the course, is aware of obstacles and has a shot strategy.

“You put a lot of faith in them, they do a lot of hard work, research, walking the golf course before you play, do things like that,” Brooks Koepka said.

But the game is not all about golf.

“You’re just keeping your mind off whatever the task at hand is and try to have fun, lighten the mood,” Koepka said.

When you see a team walking the course during a tournament, the conversation is often about anything but the sport.

“He’s a big movie guy so we talk about movies,” Reed said.

And when it is time to grind it out, the focus returns.

“Normally just about the shot, where the miss is, and kind of how to leave yourself in the best spot to execute and to get yourself into contention,” Spieth said. “Yeah, I’ve got a good partnership with Mike.”

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The pros officially tee off at Hazeltine National Golf Club Friday morning.

Jennifer Mayerle