In 2025, when some scribe sits down to write the definitive Tiger Woods biography, I know who the main source will be: Woods’s caddie Steve Williams.
Articles and TV pieces about Woods understandably tend toward mythology and hagiography. For example, a recent magazine profile of Woods contains this quote: “The best golfer ever, for sure. One of the greatest athletes in any game, ever. One of the great humans at anything, ever.” That’s why hearing Williams talk about his boss is a great corrective. Woods, as Williams tells it, is a great golfer and tremendously dedicated, sure, but also funny and a little profane, in short, a real person.
On hiatus since Woods’s knee surgery in June, Williams has been in his native New Zealand, spending time with his family, racing cars and raising money for his charity. Reporter Murray Hills of New Zealand's The Taranaki Daily News caught up with Williams at a charity event and heard some great stories about Woods’s U.S. Open win at Torrey Pines and the famously frosty relationship between Woods and Phil Mickelson."Tiger had no right to win at Torrey Pines. He was told not to play. He had only two words to say about that f... y.., I'm winning that tournament."It was a phenomenal feat to get around in the condition he was in and win. Every day, he would get back to the motel and just collapse. He really wanted to win that tournament. I knew if he teed up on the first hole, he would get to 18." Williams’s story about Mickelson is even better. The pair were duelling for the lead in the third round. Tiger waved to a packed grandstand seating 5,000 people that bordered the 17th fairway. The crowd responded.As a hush fell back over the crowd, a fan yelled out "Phil." No response from Mickelson. Again the fan yelled out "Phil." Again no response. The fan changed tack. "Hey, Mr. Mickelson."When Mickelson turned and waved, the fan yelled out "Nice tits." The crowd erupted in laughter; Mickelson went double bogey, bogey and his tournament was over.And Williams on Mickelson?"I wouldn't call Mickelson a great player ... 'cause I hate the prick." We better enjoy all this candor and humor from Williams while we can. Once he rejoins Team Tiger he'll have more important things to do than entertain us.