I wish Steve Williams would just tell us how he feels already. I can’t take much more of not knowing his thoughts on his departure from Tiger Woods. On the one hand Williams did moonlight with Adam Scott, which is an absolute no-no in almost every player’s books. On the other hand, Tiger didn’t have the common decency to tell Williams he wasn’t playing in the US Open in June. Stevie flew around the world from New Zealand to find out his services weren’t required. What’s wrong with helping out a buddy like Adam Scott for a week?
There are two things that don’t last long on the PGA Tour: pros who putt for pars and caddies who think they are stars.* But what if the caddie actually is a star? Someone who was the big story line before the Bridgestone Invitational even started? And then his pro plays out of his mind and wins the event? And then CBS sticks a microphone in his face moments after the final putt was holed? What did we expect we would see and hear late Sunday afternoon?
* I am sure this saying has been around longer than I have. I first heard it after Tiger fired his former caddie, Fluff Cowan, after Fluff starting giving interviews. I think he might have got an endorsement deal as well. Moustache crumb comb or something.
The whole Tiger Woods vs. Steve Williams drama is something that is rarely seen in golf, which is what makes it so compelling. In a world mostly filled with political correctness and etiquette protocols, golf has long led the way. It is a gentlemens game, played on exclusive real estate by exclusive folks. Of course the game has long available to the masses, but the traditions of etiquette and sportsmanship remain. In what other sport do you see a competitor call a penalty on themselves? The rest of the sporting world is too busy trying to cheat and not get caught. Golf is a refreshing throwback to honest competition and sportsmanship.
But we as a society have learned to love our drama and conflict over the past ten years. MTV has long given up on showing music videos and instead scrapes the bottom of the barrel of society to find people willing to let go of their integrity and self worth in the interest of fame. It is a big barrel with no shortage of volunteers.
That type of conflict just isn’t possible in golf, at least in theory. Tiger has had more than his fair share of drama the past couple of years, but it has largely been a battle over his health and his golf game. The integrity and tradition of the sport precludes a catfight between players.
Golf has long held informal rules about caddies, which essentially puts them in their place as a relative non-entity. I think Ian Baker Finch referred to Williams as a piece of equipment during yesterday’s telecast.* They pull the clubs, give the yardages and help keep the player level headed. A great caddie can sometimes save the player a shot or two in a round. That doesn’t mean that the public should know who they are.
*And Williams used to caddie for Finch back in the day. Imagine how he would describe a caddie he didn’t respect.
Steve Williams thinks he is a star and he might be right. The fans were chanting his name down the 18th yesterday and the public all know him from his twelve years caddying for Tiger. He has his own website and a foundation. I think CBS did the right thing in terms of following the story yesterday. I certainly wanted to hear Williams’ thoughts and was thoroughly entertained by what came out of his mouth. I am pretty sure his claim that the win was part of the greatest week of his life was in-the-moment WWE hyperbole. He wanted to give it to Tiger and he did. That is what made the week so satisfying to Williams. He is competitive as hell and won. The chance to puff his chest on camera was an added bonus.
It will be interesting to see the resulting fallout, if any, between Williams and Adam Scott. Scott strikes me as the typical PGA pro, who is not looking to rock any boats. He works hard at his game and finally is rewarded with his biggest win since the Players Championship back in 2004. And he is left as a footnote in the latest bit of Tiger drama.
Golf tradition suggests that Steve Williams be dropped like a sack of potatoes. If it were any other caddie in the world other than Williams, I would be willing to bet he would be off the bag by the end of the year. But Steve Williams is not like any other caddie; he has been on the bag for 145 wins and has pulled clubs for both Tiger Woods and Greg Norman, who happens to be Scott’s golfing hero. I think Scott keeps him and I don’t think Scott quiets Williams down. Ask me again when Scott misses a few cuts in a row a couple of years from now and my answer may change.
I am not sure what to predict in this case other than some more drama. The biggest question is whether or not Tiger will take the bait and fire back during his press conference on Wednesday. Golf tradition suggests that Tiger will take the high road and say little of substance. I have a sneaking suspicion Tiger might ignore the high road this time. And what fun that would be to watch.