Look, on the PGA Tour, there are two types of caddies: those who have been fired and those who are waiting to be. So, before we get all breathless about Tiger Woods kicking Steve Williams to the curb, remember that nothing on Tour lasts forever.
You ride the hot streak as long as you can and when it all starts going south, which it always does, you make a change. Just like in team sports, you can’t fire the players, so you do the next logical thing: You fire the caddie.
Except Steve Williams adopted the one attitude you cannot afford in matters such as these. He took it personally. As they say in Texas, it ain’t personal, son; it’s just bidness.
Needless to say, Stevie is running hot about getting the sack and he’s letting everybody know it. For a guy who didn’t talk to the press at all when he was Tiger’s man, he certainly is taking his message to the airwaves and he’s not being the least bit restrained.
“Basically you could say that I wasted the last two years of my life,” he told New Zealand television.
That coming from a man who has become a millionaire carrying a golf bag for a living. He hasn’t hit one shot in competition on the PGA Tour. David Feherty always said that Williams, when he was in Tiger’s employ, was one bad club selection away from slinging luggage at LaGuardia.
Nevertheless, Williams feels he’s been badly treated in exchange for his loyalty. When Tiger’s transgressions were being made public, many eyes turned toward Williams as being duplicitous. Woods could not possibly have juggled as many dalliances as advertised without someone’s help keeping things secret. Williams was thought of as Tiger’s aide de camp.
For his part, Williams has always maintained he had no part in the subterfuge, that whatever Woods was up to, Williams knew nothing. Believe that or not. You choose. Regardless, Williams stood by his man and this is how he was rewarded.
“It’s been a very difficult time in my life and I stuck by Tiger through thick and thin,” Williams said.
In fact, Williams says that when Woods returned to The Masters in 2010 after his self-imposed sabbatical, that he spoke sternly to his employer.
“A lot of people lost respect for Tiger,” Williams said. “I told him when he came back at The Masters that he had to earn back my respect.”
Apparently, that is still a work in progress. For Woods’ part, he at least fired Williams face-to-face and not in a text. Tiger flew to Philadelphia on the Sunday of the AT&T Championship and met with Williams in a conference room in the clubhouse at Aronimink Country Club.
Williams was caddying for Adam Scott, what he thought to be a temporary job, a favor for a friend. Scott was without a caddie since he and Tony Navarro parted company, a situation that barely caused a ripple in the golf world at the time. Williams asked Woods’ permission to work for Scott at the U.S. Open and the AT&T and he received it. So, apparently that wasn’t the cause for dumping Williams.
Neither Williams nor Woods will reveal what was said between them at Aronimink and that’s just as well. However, Williams did say that he was not satisfied with Woods’ reasons for letting him go. And, he was asked by New Zealand radio whether the split was amicable.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Williams said. “I wouldn’t say that at all.”
Now comes the demolition derby of speculation concerning who will be Woods’ next caddie. Navarro’s name is near the top of the list, as is Ricci Roberts. Navarro not only worked for Scott, but was Greg Norman’s man for a number of years when Norman was No. 1 in the world. Roberts was employed long-term by Ernie Els until they decided to take some time apart.
One name tossed out is Terry McNamara, who was Annika Sorenstam’s caddie for a number of years. McNamara is said to have both the experience and the temperament to handle a situation such as having Tiger as a boss.
Regardless, it’s going to take a special personality to take Woods’ bag. Whoever it is will have to be firm inside the ropes and quiet outside. The man who preceded Williams was Mike (Fluff) Cowan, who was hired away from Peter Jacobsen when Woods joined the Tour, and was fired after a couple of seasons when Cowan was giving interviews and doing television commercials. Woods doesn’t want anyone on his team getting more attention than he does.
Williams maintains that after his career is over, he will write a book. And the Woods years will make for “an interesting chapter,” he says. Odds are, if such a book is to be written, the Woods years will be more than one chapter.
Don’t feel the least bit sorry for Williams. He has plenty of money, unless he’s spent it all driving race cars. And he has a job. The gig with Scott has become permanent. Still, Williams is feeling like the caddie scorned and will be for some time. He was asked if he was disappointed.
“Disappointed, angry – to me those two words are about the same,” he said. Fired, disloyal – those are in the same context, as well.