Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Steve Williams taking the low road; Odds and ends

A couple of weeks ago in a column for I suggested that the title of the book Steve Williams was proposing to write should be, “Somebody Had to Carry the Bag.” I have now revised the title. The book should be called, “The Low Road ALWAYS Taken.”

Let’s give old Stevie some credit. He did the impossible: Turned Tiger Woods into a semi-sympathetic figure for at least a couple of days. Some people have said he should have turned down CBS’s request for a post-round interview after his new man, Adam Scott, cruised to an impressive four-stroke victory at The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

I had no problem with CBS asking to talk to him or in Williams talking. He was clearly part of the story: His split with Woods had been much talked about (mostly by Williams) since it happened and the fact that his new player won in the first week he was officially his full time caddie while Woods was struggling along to a 37th place finish in his first week back since May, was clearly a story.

Now, I’ve been around Williams enough to know he’s not stupid. Obnoxious, yes. Arrogant beyond belief, yes. Rude…You get the picture. But stupid? No. And he’s talked to the media enough in recent years that the notion that he was overwhelmed by it all doesn’t play. He said what he wanted to say; what he had planned to say. Let’s remember he repeated the whole thing a few minutes later behind the green talking to the rest of the media.

His message was clear: F--- you Tiger. Look, everyone gets upset about being fired and you can certainly make the case that Woods had no actual cause to fire Williams. He’s clearly a very good caddie and if Woods was going to fire him it should have been years ago when he was breaking cameras and screaming profanities at fans and publicly abusing Phil Mickelson.

He didn’t. This was a change made for change sake because Woods is struggling and perhaps because the relationship between the two men had cooled since Woods’ fall from grace almost two years ago. Williams had a right to feel wronged….Except for this: Caddies are like baseball managers. Ninety-nine percent of the time they are hired to be fired. Bruce Edwards with Tom Watson was an exception and so is Jim Mackay with Mickelson. There are a few others, but not many.

Williams knows that. He also knows that working for Woods made him rich beyond his wildest dreams even if the ending was graceless—whether it happened in person as Woods claims or by phone as Williams claims. When David Feherty practically fell on top of himself trying to ask a question in a way that would set Williams up to say something nice about Woods while taking his own post-victory bow, Williams wanted no part of it.

He talked about this being the greatest win of his career and the greatest week of his career. The 13 majors with Woods never happened. Then he went into a long diatribe about what a great front-runner HE was. My God, how many shots exactly did he hit on Sunday? Was Scott even there?

As Jim Nantz said when it was over, “wow.” Exactly—wow. In a moment of triumph, Steve Williams left no doubt about just who he is for millions to witness.

Oh, one more note on Stevie’s week. On Wednesday he was told by a PGA Tour official that he would need to abandon his habit of yanking off his caddie bib on the 18th green. He’d been doing it for years to show off the corporate logo he’s paid to wear by an oil company. Because The Tour didn’t want to mess with Tiger, he was allowed to do it in spite of complaints from sponsors—who want THEIR logo on TV in return for the $8 million they pony up annually—and from other caddies who had to follow the rule that says the bibs stay on until you are in the scoring area.

Gracious as ever, Stevie growled something about the fact that, “the sponsors have never done anything for ME.” Really? Does he think the huge purses that he got a cut of from all of Tiger’s winnings the last 12 years came from the heavens or from those sponsors? When that was pointed out to him, he whined about how uncomfortable the bibs were. Only then did he agree to keep his on—because if he didn’t, his new boss would get fined and that probably wasn’t the best way to start a new job.

I reported this on Golf Channel on both Thursday and Friday. Apparently Nick Faldo, who WORKS for Golf Channel some of the time doesn’t watch the network very much and neither do his researchers at CBS because when Faldo saw Stevie still wearing the bib on Sunday afternoon he said, “Well, it used to be Steve’s tradition to take off his bib on the 18th green. Maybe he’s starting a new tradition.”

Yeah, that’s it, he’s starting a new tradition.


Some odds and ends on different subjects:

Jose Reyes must really be hurt this time. Usually the Mets announce that he is ‘day-to-day,’ when he gets hurt and then put him on the DL two weeks later. This time he went straight to the DL. All kidding aside: Terry Collins deserves some manager-of-the-year consideration given the way he has held this team together with David Wright and Reyes and now Daniel Murphy (who was having an excellent year) hurt for long stretches; the trades of Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana not throwing a single pitch…

Gordon Gee of Ohio State is one of the 50 NCAA Presidents invited to the ‘summit,’ on big-time college athletics called by the NCAA. Isn’t that a little bit like asking Gee’s former coach Jim Tressel to chair a committee on transparency when dealing with a difficult situation?...

Someone asked recently why more of my books aren’t on tape. Good question: All my kids books are available on tape in their entirety. I am blessed to work with great people at Knopf. The non-fiction books, especially the more recent ones, are hit and miss largely because the people I’ve dealt with at Hachette Audio seem to be more interested in saving a few dollars on production costs than in putting out a quality product. To be honest, I stopped dealing with them about six books ago because it wasn’t worth the effort…

Finally: A belated Happy Birthday to my pal Jackson Diehl, who is the Deputy Editor of The Washington Post’s editorial page. Even though we last agreed political in, I think, 1979, we’ve been friends forever, dating to our days working in The Post’s Prince George’s County bureau in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Most important, Jackson is aging up and I fully expect to see him swim the 200 fly at next spring’s short course nationals…


Anonymous said...

Amen on Williams. A boor who was encouraged by Woods, and excused by the Woods fanboys, as long as it suited TW's interests. He's no different, he's just not useful to Eldrick any more.

Will be interesting to see if his dis of He Who Shall Not Be Named is enough to motivate HWSNBN. Part of me hopes it is.

Will Scott be strong enough to manage him?

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that nobody is pointing out the fact that Stevie Williams was caddying for a fellow Australian who won. Maybe this played in him making this comment. I'm not saying that he doesn't acting like a ******* and that he may be a little bit of a fame whore, but there may have been some truth behind this comment.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Stevie Williams a New Zealander (or whatever they are called) and not Australian? Anyways, he has caddied for an Australian before, Greg Norman.

At least I think so.

Anonymous said...

agree with everything you said, or at least much of it. so, howcum you didn't contribute an 'attaboy' paragraph on the golfer that won? or did you contribute that in some other medium?

Mark Sinclair said...

Gentlemen.We are called Kiwis.We are a proud nation of 4 million who have produced great milers like Snell/Walker,sailors like Coutts in the Americas Cup,the All Blacks Rugby team-men without pads and golfers like Charles and Campbell.Kiwis also value Old School loyalty.Williams stood by his man for two years taking flack and was rewarded with betrayal.Although I am sorry Williams did not make mention of Scott`s great round I`m proud of the fact that Williams stood up to Woods in the same way that Kiwis and Yanks have made a stand on principle in the past.John you are a great writer but I don`t agree with you on this issue.