AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Adam Scott won his first World Golf Championship.
No one celebrated more than his caddie.
Steve Williams attributed Sunday at the Bridgestone Invitational to destiny. This was the first tournament for Tiger Woods in three months because of his injured left leg, and Woods’ first tournament since he fired Williams as his caddie after 12 years.
Williams was irritated at getting cut loose, and he made that clear in an interview with a New Zealand television station two weeks ago when he said he had wasted the last two years of his life sticking by Woods through all his trouble.
If that wasn’t enough of an indication, one only had to see the smile on his face as the fans chanted Williams’ name walking to the 18th green. Or the way he pumped his fist when Scott holed a 5-foot birdie on the final hole for a four-shot victory.
And the interviews – yes, interviews – that Williams gave after Scott signed for a 5-under 65.
Williams has only spoken to a few reporters he knows over the years, but he had so many media around him after the tournament ended that all anyone could see was the Titleist cap – not the familiar Nike “TW” brand – on his head.
Woods shot a 70 to tie for 37th, 18 shots behind, and his interview transcript was only 1 1/2 pages. Williams didn’t hit a shot all day and a transcript of his interview was nearly twice as long.
Even more shocking was how Williams described the feeling.
“I’ve caddied for 33 years – 145 wins now – and that’s the best win I’ve ever had,” Williams told CBS Sports on the 18th green. This from a guy whose 12 years working for Woods featured 13 majors and 16 world titles among 72 wins worldwide. That includes the 2001 Masters, when Woods won an unprecedented fourth straight major.
Scott didn’t seem to mind that Williams’ comment became a bigger story than the 31-year-old Australian going the final 26 holes without a bogey for a win that moved him up to No. 9 in the world.
Told about Williams’ comment that this was his best week as a caddie, Scott smiled and winced.
“He’s obviously really happy to get a win,” he said.
As for the distraction? Scott is used to it by now. Williams first worked for him at the U.S. Open, the first step toward Woods deciding to end the partnership, and he has been hounded by questions all week about using Woods’ former caddie and how much a difference it would make for him.
“I can talk about Steve now and not Tiger,” Scott said to laughter, alluding to the countless times he and other players have been asked about Woods. “I’m sure there are a lot of other golfers who wouldn’t mind that, either.”
It added another chapter to a saga that never seems to end with Woods. His left leg looked good all week. His scores were pedestrian, but there were signs that his game is not terribly far off. And yet the week ends with him being mocked.
Woods pushed back his news conference at the PGA Championship one day to Wednesday, although no reason was given. It at least means he won’t have to cope with the media for his first two full days of practice at Atlanta Athletic Club.
Lost in this soap opera was a strong golf tournament, and a command performance not only by Scott, but players chasing him, including 19-year-old Ryo Ishikawa.
Scott and Ishikawa were tied for a big part of the front nine, and Scott took a one-shot lead – the same one he started out with on Sunday – into the back nine.
Ishikawa stuffed his approach to 7 feet on the 10th hole. Scott hit his to 6 feet, and both made birdie.
Scott seized control on the 12th, when he chipped in for birdie to take a two-shot lead, then used his long putter to roll in a birdie putt just inside 30 feet on the 14th. On the next hole, Scott saved par with a 10-foot putt, while Ishikawa three-putted for bogey, and suddenly the Australian had a three-shot lead.
Ahead of him, Rickie Fowler played the kind of golf that usually wins at Firestone on Sunday. He had a bogey-free round of 66, but it simply wasn’t enough to catch Scott. Luke Donald, the world No. 1 for the last 10 weeks, also had a 66 and wound up tied for second with Fowler.
Ishikawa made a bogey on the final hole for a 69 and tied for fourth – his best finish in America – with Jason Day.
“Today, I was on,” Scott said. “To win here at this place, a World Golf Championship, it’s huge.”
It didn’t hurt having Williams at his side. Along with his experience working for Woods, along with major champions Greg Norman and Raymond Floyd, Williams was on the bag for all seven of Woods’ victories at Firestone.
“He has such a great knowledge of this golf course and the greens,” Scott said. “He’s seen a guy play incredible golf, the best golf anyone has ever played around here, so many times. He really guided me around the course nicely. … So he was, no doubt, a help.”
Scott finished at 17-under 263, the lowest score to win at Firestone since Woods had 259 in 2000 in an 11-shot win. He became the third Australian to win a world title, joining Geoff Ogilvy and Craig Parry.
With a three-shot lead, Scott thought about playing it safe on the 18th. Williams told him to take 6-iron at the flag, and Scott obliged with a shot that rolled past the cup and settled 5 feet away. When they got to the green, one fan shouted out, “How do you like him now, Tiger?”
By then, Woods was long gone.
After missing three months with a leg injury, he finished a tournament for the first time since the Masters on April 10 and closed with a 70 to tie for 37th, 18 shots behind.
“I had it in spurts this week,” Woods said.
While his old boss was on the mend, Williams agreed to caddie for Scott at the U.S. Open. Williams said he was led to believe that Woods was going to play practice rounds at Congressional, but only after the New Zealand caddie arrived in America was he told that Woods was not healthy enough for the U.S. Open.
That’s when Williams decided to work for Scott, and he worked for Scott again at the AT&T National, the tournament that benefits Woods’ foundation. Woods said he fired him after the final round that week, and they kept it quiet until Williams was done working for Scott at the British Open.
Woods said he told him face-to-face. Williams said Sunday that Woods fired him over the phone.
“I was told on the phone that we need to take a break, and in caddie lingo, that means you’re fired, simple as that,” Williams said.
“I was absolutely shocked that I got the boot, to be honest with you,” he said. “I’ve been incredibly loyal to the guy, and I got short-shrifted. Very disappointed.”
But he wasn’t disappointed on Sunday. It’s been awhile since Williams has smiled so much on the golf course.