Steve Williams: Hits and misses

Steve Williams.
Steve Williams.

Steve Williams is not only an exceptional golf caddie. When it comes to making news, the Kiwi leaves fellow bag carriers eating his dust.

An anecdote in Sports Illustrated from PGA golfer Kevin Na, which recounts a confrontation with Williams, has leapt into the headlines.

Williams can still make news, even though he has stepped away from being a fulltime caddie on tour. What is it about the man? He appears as someone without many filters - a sort of bull in golf's china shop. We check out the rough and the smooth of our super caddie.

1) Williams' prowess as a caddie is undisputed. He might well be the greatest bag man of all time, and certainly the best known. He was with Tiger Woods for 13 of his 14 major titles - Tiger hasn't won a major since. And his alliance with Adam Scott helped extract the Aussie's potential, taking him to the No. 1 ranking and victory in the 2013 Masters.

2) Scott happily conceded that Williams was "my eyes" for the winning playoff putt at the 2013 Masters.

In fading light and rain, Scott couldn't get a read and summoned Williams, who was bang on in over-ruling Scott, telling him there was a two-cup break rather than one. Williams' experience and confidence won the day. A most famous moment in golf.

3) In a 2014 Metro magazine profile, former Aussie professional Mike Clayton explained the cockiness that makes Williams so good and gets him into so much trouble. Having just hired Williams for a 1984 tournament in France, Clayton got an immediate ticking off from the 20-year-old caddie who told him: "It looks to me like you don't concentrate particularly well. I just want you to pay attention, concentrate on every shot." Clayton scored his only win in 311 European starts. At the end of the year, Williams gave Clayton the boot.

4) At a 2008 private New Zealand function, Williams said he wouldn't call Woods' rival Phil Mickelson a great player " 'cause I hate the prick". Then he told a derogatory story about Mickelson in which a spectator yelled at the American "Nice tits".

5) Williams has often been straight to the point in a refreshing way. The day after being unceremoniously and ungraciously sacked by his boss and friend Woods in 2011, Williams hit back saying he "lost respect" for the superstar golfer when Woods admitted to cheating on his wife. And he intimated that he'd get further revenge in a tell-all in a book. Williams also said he had "wasted the last two years of my life" because of Woods' poor form and injuries. And he made no secret of how much his debut victory with Scott at the Bridgestone Invitational meant to him with another put-down of Woods, who made a comeback from injury in that tournament. "I have been caddying for more than 30 years now and that is the best win of my life," said an emotional Williams.

6) His understandable anger at Woods crossed a line however when in late 2011, he told a Shanghai golf dinner that he had gloated after Scott's Bridgestone victory because: "My aim was to shove it right up that black a!@#$%^&." Williams apologised with a proviso: "If you can't have a bit of fun, what is the world coming to?" Former boss Greg Norman was among those to declare that Williams was not a racist.

7) Williams had a lot of problems with cameras during his time with Woods, and went to unacceptable lengths to deal with the intrusions. He rolled a camera belonging to a non-credentialed photographer into a lake on one occasion. Another time, he kicked over a news photographer's camera during the US Open. He apologised then, but not when he dispossessed a spectator - on off-duty cop - of his camera and didn't discount doing so again to protect Woods from unfair distractions. (Spectators are banned from bringing cameras into tournaments.) Williams was also an expert at placing a golf bag in front of camera lenses.

8) He made perhaps the most generous single donation by a New Zealand sports star, giving $1m of his own money to the Starship Hospital in 2008 which went towards building a $5m child cancer ward. It was made through his foundation, set up to foster junior golf.

"It was impossible not to get emotional. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to have a child diagnosed with cancer," said Williams.

9) Williams dived into more controversy via his biography, released last year. He used the word "slave" to describe his working relationship with Woods, in reference to picking up clubs the golfer would throw towards him. Williams explained the word had a different connotation in New Zealand compared to America. But critics also said he could hardly consider himself a slave in any use of the word, considering he made millions of dollars thanks to Woods. Williams was also accused of breaking an unwritten code of confidentiality between golfers and their caddies.

10) Williams' book was panned for the use of "slave", for being an attempt to denigrate Woods, and for pumping up...Steve Williams. Yet a Golf Digest reviewer described the Williams book as "exceptional - original, comprehensive, enlightening, honest." Just another example of Williams' knack of polarising opinion.

- NZ Herald

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