Don't Cry for Stevie; He Had Golf's Best Gig Caddying for Tiger Woods
There are, I presume, a whole bunch of words in Steve Williams's new book, but it only took one to start another wave of negative stories about Tiger Woods:
Perhaps you have read the sentence. It's in Williams’s new book, "Out of the Rough," about his time caddying for Tiger:
"I felt uneasy about bending down to pick up his discarded club—it was like I was his slave."
It’s been a long time since I took a history class, and my grades weren’t the best anyway, so maybe you can help me out: Were slaves paid an enormous sum of money to pick up golf clubs? I don’t remember that.
But that’s it. That’s all it took. Well, that, and a few lines about Williams feeling betrayed by Tiger.
This is how the river flows with too many Tiger Woods stories: Somebody floats or repeats some story about how he treats somebody poorly, or will never win anything again, or is in denial. The media, much of which doesn’t like Woods in the first place, runs with it. And then we wait for the next negative story to rush toward us.
Tiger is the only golfer who consistently generates clicks. You would think that Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth would attract almost as much interest, but right now they don’t. To most of America, McIlroy and Spieth are golfers, and Woods is a celebrity. There is a difference.
That’s life, and Woods has a great life. But sometimes we need to step up and dismiss an absurd accusation, and this is one of those times.
Look: If people don’t like Woods, that’s their right. If Williams looks back and decides he doesn’t like Woods, then that’s his right. But please: Let’s stop with this utterly stupid notion that Tiger Woods mistreated Steve Williams.
On every day that Williams worked for Tiger, he could have quit. He could have caddied for another player—he has since hooked on with the genial and talented Adam Scott, with great success. Nobody forced Williams to caddie for Woods. He kept doing it because Woods was winning a lot more than anybody else, and presumably Woods was paying him more than anybody else would.
Without Woods, you would have no idea who Williams is. Come on, casual golf fans: Who is Ernie Els’s caddie? You probably don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. (One of Els’s caddies, Simon Masilo, once sued the Big Easy for underpayment and reneging on a verbal agreement. They have since both settled and reconciled, without the media outrage that would have accompanied a similar story about Woods.)
Thanks to Woods’s genius, we know all about Williams. We know Williams likes to race cars, which he gets to do because of the money he made with Woods. Nobody forced Williams to ask Woods to be the best man at his wedding, but he did.
Williams was perfectly happy being Woods’s caddie, cashing huge checks and being famous, until Woods decided to fire him. Then it was suddenly unfair.
Like many parts of Woods’s life, Tiger’s relationship with Williams deteriorated when the world found out that Woods, like many athletes, had cheated on his wife.
Williams writes: "I didn't have any sympathy for him over what he'd done. I believe you're in charge of your own actions and I have no sympathy for people who get addicted to drugs or gambling or sex. People make choices in their lives and he had chosen to do this.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hang on.
It is 2015. Steve Williams has no sympathy for people who are addicted to drugs or gambling.
And I’m supposed to think Tiger is the jerk here?
If you followed Tiger at his peak, as I did at quite a few tournaments, you saw his caddie barking at fans, snapping at photographers, and glaring at anybody who dared to think about considering the possibility of moving an inch when Woods addressed his ball. That was the Steve Williams that the world saw. This seemed to be part of his job: Intimidating anybody in Tiger’s way.
And you know what? Maybe that’s what Woods wanted at the time. But nobody made Williams do it. It’s telling that Woods replaced Williams with the amiable Joe LaCava, who seems incapable of acting like Williams routinely acted.
This is all part of a clear, conscious effort by Woods to change how he deals with people. He is much more agreeable, informative and gracious in press conferences. He is more likely to acknowledge fans on the course. Woods will never be Arnold Palmer, hitching his pants and winking at galleries, but he has handled the public nature of his life much better in the last few years.
Williams seems to feel betrayed by Tiger’s infidelities, and his radio silence at the time. Well, guess what? The guy’s life was imploding in front of the world. If you had a friend who was going through the worst time of his life, what would you do? Most of us would offer support, even if the troubles were self-inflicted. Some of us might be angry.
Steve Williams asked: “How does this affect me?”
He was mad that Woods, who was barely saying anything to the public, did not publicly defend him. If he was so offended, he could have quit. But of course he didn’t. Williams claimed, and still claims, he tried to stick with Woods out of “loyalty.” Right. I’m sure the potentially large paychecks and chance to win more majors had nothing to do with it.
Williams is so “loyal” that once Woods fired him, and he couldn’t cash in anymore, he announced that he had lost “a tremendous amount of respect” for Woods. That’s loyalty, isn’t it? And now he has written a book about how hurt he was. The book includes this gem from Williams, talking about his conversations with Woods before he was fired:
“I wanted him to prove to me he could change his behavior and show me -- and the game of golf -- more respect.”
If I were Tiger Woods, and I had paid Steve Williams millions of dollars to be my caddie, and he lectured me like that at my lowest point ... well, I would have fired him on the spot.
Williams is validating Woods’s worst suspicions: That a lot of people just want to take a piece of him. Hank Haney made a ton of money off his association with Tiger, if indirectly, then quit when Woods started to struggle and wrote a tell-all book about it. Say what you want about Woods, but he has consistently taken the high road in these spats. He doesn’t say what any reasonable person can see: Steve Williams and Hank Haney should still be thanking him.
Most caddies understand their role. Williams doesn’t. Even on his website (he has a website!), after writing that he had “one of the best jobs in golf caddying for one of the greatest players of all time,” Williams adds, “Together Tiger and I won 84 tournaments around the world including 13 major championships.”
History wasn’t my strong suit, but English is. So let me edit: “Tiger won 84 tournaments around the world, including 13 major championships, while I was standing next to him. Sometimes I had to pick up his clubs when he was ticked, but so what? That was a small price to pay for having the best job in golf.”