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Williams savors role in Bridgestone win
If anything can go wrong for Tiger Woods these days, it does.
Everything he touched used to turn to gold, but since his life was roasted around Thanksgiving 2009, he’s stumbled from one setback to the next, losing his marriage, his sponsors and his Q-rating and succumbing to injuries while precipitously dropping further and further down golf’s rankings.
On Sunday, hours after his comeback from a three-month layoff fell flat, came the latest indignity: The caddie he fired in June guided Adam Scott to victory at the Bridgestone Invitational and then hailed it the “most satisfying win I’ve ever had.”
Really? Steve Williams has been on Woods’ bag for 13 majors, among 72 worldwide wins together, and his first triumph with Scott trumped all of those?
“It’s the greatest week of my life caddying and I sincerely mean that,” Williams said.
To make a long and bitter story short, Williams is still so pissed at the way he was fired — unjustly, he believes — that he wanted to get back at Woods in a way he knew really would aggravate, and embarrass, his former employer.
“I was absolutely shocked that I got the boot, to be honest with you,” he said after walking off the final green at Firestone Country Club.
“I’ve caddied for the guy for 12 years, I’ve been incredibly loyal to the guy and I got short-shrifted. Very disappointed.”
Williams went on to dispute Woods’ assertion that he fired him in person, saying that the deed was done over the phone, which will bring into question Woods’ veracity.
“I was told over the phone that we need to take a break, and in caddie lingo, that means you’re fired, simple as that,” he said.
The acrimony is sure to spill over into the coming week, when both men will be at the year’s final major, the PGA Championship in Atlanta.
Obviously, it’s the last thing Woods needs to deal with as he tries to salvage something of a year that’s shaping as a second straight lost season. But, like the adulterous behavior that devastated his life, this is something he brought upon himself.
If he felt, as some within his camp maintain, that he and Williams were no longer on the same page, then he needed to sit down and explain his feelings. Williams deserved that after 12 years. And he might even have agreed.
But to fire him summarily because he decided to caddie for Scott while Woods was recovering from injuries to his left leg was only going to make a very public enemy out of a friend and supporter. To accuse Williams of being disloyal was the final straw. Williams feels he was nothing but loyal for two years despite pressures from his family — especially his wife, who begged him to leave Woods.
“The last two years have been very difficult for myself and my family, and I sort of believe in destiny sometimes,” Williams said.
The controversy generated by Williams’ words in Akron soon enough will blow over, but there will be lasting scars: It’s now clear that Woods cast away the man who may have most helped get him back to the top.
Caddies don’t hit shots, don’t roll putts and don’t win golf tournaments. But who didn’t look at Scott on Sunday, so composed and willful in shooting 65 to win by four shots, and not think of you-know-who?
Even the 31-year-old Australian characterized his performance as Tiger-like.
“It was,” Scott said after closing with a 65 for a 17-under 263 and his eighth PGA Tour win, by four shots over Rickie Fowler. “It was like we’re used to seeing Tiger close out tournaments. He gets in front and just won’t let anyone in.”
Is it merely a coincidence that Scott had Williams, who has now won 145 tournaments in his career, by his side? Scott didn’t think so.
“He’s right up for it,” he said of his caddie. “And it’s almost like I need to show him I’ve got it in me, because a lot of people question it. I can show him on the golf course that I’m right up for it as well.
“He’s good for me. He really fills me with confidence.”
Nothing about the week will have filled Woods with much confidence.
After a promising start of 68, he shot three over par for the last three rounds to finish in a tie for 37th. He’s won at Firestone seven times and finished lower than fourth here only once: last year. But Woods finished dead last in driving accuracy, hitting only 39 percent of his fairways for the week, and was in the bottom third in putting, not a combination conducive to high finishes.
After his round he bemoaned his failure to adjust to the fact that he was hitting the ball a lot straighter but still was aiming for cuts or draws. He acknowledged he still was having trouble ridding himself of the swing basics instilled by his previous instructor, Hank Haney.
Woods clearly needs more tournament rounds, but instead he’s got three days to get ready for the PGA. And he’ll go to the first tee at Atlanta Athletic Club with his boyhood friend, Bryon Bell, again filling in as his caddie.
Bell, who runs Woods’ golf course design business, looked overheated and exhausted as he trudged off the last green on Sunday.
I asked him when he was going back to his day job. “Soon, I hope,” he replied.
A tale of two caddies.
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