Saturday, November 5, 2011
Stevie Williams remark: just plain stupid
By Bob Harig
He drew smirks and snickers when claiming credit for a victory as caddie for Adam Scott this summer, a highly entertaining although over the top rant that turned Steve Williams from sympathetic figure into egotistical lout.
The longtime caddie for Tiger Woods was not happy with the way his firing went down, let the world know about it, then got back to the business of following the looper's mantra: show up, keep up, shut up -- until Friday, when Williams apparently couldn't help himself.
At a caddie awards banquet in China, site of the HSBC Champions, a World Golf Championship event, Williams reportedly uttered a racial slur directed at Woods.
In accepting a facetious honor for "celebration of the year'' -- given to Williams for his controversial comments following Scott's victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August -- the long-time caddie from New Zealand said: "It was my aim to shove it up that black arse----.''
Several media outlets reported the comments, although they were not at the private function; media in attendance were invited under the premise that any comments made were off the record, with players and caddies alike taking some good-natured ribbing.
Williams saw fit to post an apology on his website, admitting that his comments could have been "construed as racist. However I assure you that was not my intent.''
Okay, so perhaps Williams will get a pass when it comes to racism.
But not stupidity.
No matter his feelings toward Woods and the way his situation with the 14-time major winner went down, he did make a considerable sum in his 12-year tenure, certainly into the millions of dollars. The men stood up in each other's weddings and Woods often spoke of the positive impact Williams had on his career.
Williams was on the bag for more than 60 of Woods' worldwide titles, including 13 of his majors. There was the 15-shot victory at Pebble Beach in 2000, the tearful win at Royal Liverpool in 2006 when Woods won for the first time after his dad's death, the epic playoff win at the 2008 U.S. Open.
And yet, Williams described his win with Scott at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational as "the best week of my life,'' an almost laughable assertion given the level of success he had achieved with Woods -- including having won the same tournament at Firestone seven times.
Clearly Williams was miffed at the way his firing occurred. He felt he had stood by Woods in the aftermath of the scandal that derailed Tiger's career -- and perhaps felt he was unfairly portrayed as an enabler.
But for a guy who made enough money to start his own charitable foundation and had a front-row seat to golf history, no manner of bitterness should have led to the kind of comments Williams made, whether in jest or not.
The problem for Williams is that he is unlikely to get a pass on this. Not from his peers, certainly not from the media, who spent years trying to get him to utter the most innocent of insight into the game of the greatest player of our era, only to be mostly rebuffed.
And now he's put his current boss, Scott, in a tough spot. The Aussie is considered one of the nicest guys in the game, an enormous talent who this year emerged from his own struggles to post that big victory at the WGC event.
Scott took all the chatter about Williams in stride, never seemingly being bothered by the bluster. But now what does he do? To say nothing or do nothing all but endorses the comments. And yet, Scott very much has appreciated Williams' work on his bag. More than once, Scott has commented on the boost Williams has given his game.
Williams is no stranger to controversy. He has had run-ins with fans and photographers, coming off as a bully. Several years ago, at another private event in New Zealand, he referred to Phil Mickelson as a "pr---,'' comments that drew a rebuke from Woods and necessitated an apology.
The sad thing here is that Williams was alongside Woods when he heard the occasional racist remark from the galleries, comments that were more common than either let on.
And yet here is Williams, using the same defamatory rhetoric, directing it at someone who paid him millions to carry a golf bag?
The HSBC Champions is sanctioned by both PGA and European tours, both of whom have the power to suspend or fine Williams. There will undoubtedly be calls for that, if not a firing by Scott, who if he were anybody else might have done so in the aftermath of the Bridgestone victory.
Scott was in contention at the HSBC Champions on Saturday, and there alongside was Williams, who was abiding by the caddie code, having shown up and kept up -- the "shut up'' part already obliterated.
Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.