Steve Williams on Tiger Woods: “It was like I was his slave”
Steve Williams, widely regarded as one of the best caddies in golf, has a book coming out about his long and successful career in the game and naturally, there’s going to be some stories about the players Williams has looped for over the last three decades. It’s an illustrious list, with names like Peter Thomson, Greg Norman, Raymond Floyd, Adam Scott, and of course, his most high profile star, Tiger Woods.
Williams first started working with Tiger in 1999, and the relationship lasted for twelve years before Tiger ended it abruptly in 2011. Tiger has said predictably little since the split and subsequent hiring of Joe Lacava, but even before the publishing of his book, Williams has not been shy to speak about the partnership, including his desire to “shove something up that black arsehole.” With the release of the book on Monday, New Zealand publication ‘Stuff’ was granted a few excerpts, and the whole thing is worth checking out, but…
” One thing that really pissed me off was how he would flippantly toss a club in the general direction of the bag, expecting me to go over and pick it up. I felt uneasy about bending down to pick up his discarded club – it was like I was his slave. The other thing that disgusted me was his habit of spitting at the hole if he missed a putt. Tiger listened to what I had to say, the air was cleared and we got on with it – his goal was to be the best player in history and my goal was to keep working as best I could to help make that happen. “
First off, picking up the clubs and putting them in the bag is the very definition of the job that Williams signed up for and was paid handsomely to complete. I’m sure that any of the other caddies on the PGA Tour would have gladly traded spots, at least for the short term, with Williams if given the option. Hell, Williams was making more money than a lot of players while carrying Tiger’s clubs, and was able to make more money through endorsement deals because of how often he was on TV. It appears that this could be the type of thing Williams is referring to:
Sure, that could be annoying if Tiger did it all the time, but he definitely didn’t. I know lots of people who would gladly take a seven figure payday to pick up a club that went that far away from the bag, and wouldn’t term it as slave labour. It’s not like he sent him swimming:
“GO GET THAT ONE, STEVIE”
Williams has a book to sell, and he clearly understands that people want to hear anything related to Tiger, but this really sounds like someone who is still a little upset about the way he was fired four years ago, and sure, was Tiger the easiest “boss” to have? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean you were his slave, which is also a remarkably tone deaf way of describing your relationship with someone even for Williams.
How the word ‘slave’ was actually written in this book, and got through editors who decided to keep it in is appalling. How did no one think to actually change the word to something else? He could have gotten the still ridiculous point across with a simple “I felt uneasy about bending down to pick up his discarded club – it was like I didn’t have his respect.” When he made his comments back in 2011 about shoving something, that was with a live microphone in a setting that he apparently thought was off the record, which doesn’t excuse him at all, but that’s a completely different situation to consciously writing it in a book and publishing it. On top of that, it’s not like Tiger’s behaviour changed remarkably over those twelve years. He didn’t go from being Steve Stricker to someone who may have had a temper. He always had a temper, and Williams certainly didn’t seem to have a problem with that when the cheques cleared every week.
Caddies are hired and fired frequently in golf. The relationships you see on the PGA Tour these days like Phil Mickelson and Bones Mackay, or Jim Furyk and Fluff Cowan are the exception to the rule. Seve Ballesteros fired caddies at such an alarming rate that I wouldn’t be surprised if he even knew who was on his bag in a given week. The fact that Tiger Woods and Steve Williams lasted as long as they did is remarkable, and it’s a testament to how good Williams is at the job he signed up for, which included picking up Tiger’s clubs.
Yep, that about covers it.