Opinions strong in Tiger-caddie dustup
Each week, golf writer Bob Harig will take your questions and answer a few select ones on ESPN.com. Below are this week's selections.
I find it comical that the press is saying that Steve Williams became a bigger story than Adam Scott, who actually won the event. This is the same media that kept talking about Tiger (who finished 18 shots back) like he still had a shot in the tournament. Don't you think that Williams being on Scott's bag and Tiger finishing so far back was a story the public would like to hear?
And secondly, why is Tiger still getting so much attention? He hasn't won on the tour in over two years, he finishes in the middle of the pack, he treats spectators like garbage, has become almost a "reverse" role model, and yet anytime he enters the tournament the press ignores the leaders and focuses an undue amount of time on Tiger until he finishes his final round? Enough already -- give the new breed their due -- they are out there playing, not saying "I'm still great, I'm just a few tweaks with my swing."
Really??? I'll ask one final question: Which professional golfer currently rated in the top 50 couldn't make that same statement? All any of them need is a tweak here and there -- that's witness by the fact a different player is winning every week and in any given tournament.
Harig: Where to begin. First, it was other players who suggested that Adam Scott was overshadowed by his own caddie after winning the Bridgestone. And in the media, certainly it was suggested that was the case when you consider that Williams mostly talked about himself winning and not the player who did.
Of course Williams being on Scott's bag in the aftermath of his firing with Tiger in his first tournament after injury is a story. That's why it became such a big deal. As for stories about Tiger, the issue comes up all the time. Woods was making his first appearance in three months, which made him a big story.
And given his overall record, he will always be a story when he plays. The fall from grace and the attempt to return to previous heights -- whether he gets there or not -- will always be a story for as long as Woods remains a competitive golfer.
Why is the media making such a big deal about Steve Williams? He is a caddie for gosh sakes. I have not seen him hit a single shot on tour. He has made millions toting a bag for others and, yet, he refers to his victories. The media, including you, glorifies a person who should really be on the periphery of the game and, certainly, should not be compared in any way to the professional who has worked his hands raw and who actually makes the incredible shots and the clutch putts.
Harig: In my particular case, I hardly glorified Steve Williams. In fact, I wrote that Tiger of all people managed to make a guy who was generally not well liked into a sympathetic figure. You are correct that caddies don't hit the shots, but there is a reason so many top players make it such a priority to have someone they like and are comfortable with. If it was so easy, these guys would bring friends or family out and change caddies all the time. The fact that Tiger fired Williams after 12 years made it a big deal.
It has to annoy Adam Scott that his caddie -- his caddie -- was giving interviews about being a "good front-runner" as if he was out there hitting shots, draining putts and sweating the pressure. I don't care what Adam says publicly, the fact that Steve acted like the win was all about him and his "career" is one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen at a sporting event.
I'm not saying he contributed nothing, but the level of attention he is getting is absurd. It takes away from what the player -- his boss -- did. What kind of person steals the moment from the person who earned it, just to nurse a spiteful, silly grudge? Even a class guy like Adam has to be annoyed by that kind of egomaniacal behavior.
Harig: For what it's worth, I was there on Sunday at Bridgestone, followed Scott the last few holes and took part in the Williams media scrum. And it was absolutely one of the more bizarre situations you will encounter, a caddie getting so much attention and obviously trying to stick it to Woods in the way he did. Scott has handled the situation with considerable grace.
The only edge (Steve Williams) has over the other caddies is an Aussie accent which he should keep closed. He's only a name because he rode Tiger's coattails. Grow up man, Firestone is not Augusta.
Harig: Lots of varying opinions here of course. Some believe the caddie has no influence, that he's only a bag carrier. Others think they make a difference.
Luke Donald made a good point this week: "If I thought my guy was carrying luggage, I wouldn't pay him nearly as much as I am.''
I ran a few numbers regarding top-10 finishers in the three majors plus (the Bridgestone Invitational) and it goes like this:
Masters: 1 U.S. player out of the top 7; 3 out of top 10
U.S. Open: 2 U.S top 10; 8 of top 20
British: 5 U.S. top 10; 10 of top 21
Bridgestone: 3 U.S. top 10; 8 out of top 20
That would total just 13 U.S. out of 40 combined top-10 finishers. This is not very encouraging for team USA, obviously, but checking out the world rankings: 4 U.S. players of the top 10; 7 of top 20; 10 of top 30; only 17 of top 50.
Whew! I'd have to say the numbers are more skewed this year than any in my 62 years of duty. And it doesn't help to look at the fortunes and age of several of those 17 in the top 50. I think the numbers speak for themselves, and if Americans want to reassert themselves in this sport, we're going to have to start from scratch with the youngsters.
-- Philip Toler
Harig: The numbers you put forth speaking to an evolving global game. Keep in mind you are putting up U.S. players against the rest of the world, not just one country. Sure, at the moment, England has a strong presence as do players generally from the United Kingdom. But the United States as a country is doing pretty well, it just doesn't look good compared to a time when Americans simply dominated.
Some of that had to do with few opportunities for international players. A lot has to do with the game growing around the world. Certainly in the case of the Americans, three are several aging players at the top of the rankings, leading to the conclusion that the young guys are going to have to step up.
Looks to me that golf is in fairly decent shape right now. Tiger and Phil will continue to play and draw fans, but the game is now moved past them. What say you?
-- Jim Ward
Harig: Golf is in decent shape. It is certainly no worse than it was before Tiger Woods turned pro in 1996. Golf has always done fine, it simply got a huge jolt and a lot of attention from casual fans or those who don't follow golf at all when Woods was winning at such a monumental rate. He's a once-in-a-lifetime figure who has transcended his sport, one that does OK without him just not as well.
How many wins does Steve Williams have as a caddie? (Peter Thomson, Ian Baker-Finch, Greg Norman, Raymond Floyd, Tiger Woods, Adam Scott & others.) What is the record for most caddie wins? Is there any kind of PGA record book to show win counts for caddies like Angelo Argea, Fluff Cowan and Herman Mitchell?
Harig: According to Williams, he has been a part of 145 victories as a caddie. Who knows if he is counting victories achieved on mini tours or anywhere else he has caddied, but he does have 63 documented wins with Tiger and you can bet he had a bunch with Norman. No such records are kept of such caddie victories.
Have a question? Send it to Bob Harig's mailbag at BobHESPN@gmail.com to see whether it gets used next week.
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