US PGA: Tiger bares teeth as caddie stirs up row
Hell hath no fury ... Tiger Woods has become embroiled in another soap opera following controversial revelations by one of his exes.
Any hopes Woods harboured of a smooth, controversy-free build-up to this week's US PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club have been shattered by his jilted caddie Steve Williams.
Adam Scott might have won his first World Golf Championship but the Australian almost was an afterthought at Firestone as his New Zealand bagman celebrated their maiden victory together by taking a pop or two at his former employer.
Tiger's management took grave exception to a suggestion by Williams that he'd been fired over the telephone and not “face-to-face” on Sunday night after the AT&T National as Woods had insisted last Wednesday in Firestone.
According to the Woods version: “We had a nice conversation after he completed play at AT&T National up in the boardroom. It was a tough conversation but we said what we needed to say to each other face to face and man to man.”
“That is incorrect,” said Williams. “He just called me up. When I asked him to go and caddie for Adam and he didn't agree with it and thought it was time to take a break and in caddie lingo, that means you're fired. Simple as that.”
Describing this version of events as “untrue”, Woods' agent Mark Steinberg insisted: “Tiger went there (Aronomink) specifically on that Sunday to talk to Steve in person.”
This thorny issue certainly will dominate the pre-PGA Championship headlines over the next 48 hours and add spice to Tiger's media-briefing in Atlanta Athletic Club tomorrow.
Williams, plainly frustrated, angry and emotional following his dismissal by Woods after 12 years working together, admitting: “I was shocked when I got the boot, to be honest with you.”
So consumed was the New Zealander with delight after “my 145th win”, he barely mentioned Scott as he spoke at length of the significance of Sunday's victory, which he described as “the best I've ever had in 33 years of caddying”.
Sunday's bizarre and highly-inappropriate outpourings stole the limelight from his player and broke one of the basic tenets of caddying (contained in the phrase ‘urn up, keep up and shut up').
Anyone unfamiliar with golf who happened to tune into Sunday's CBS broadcast from Firestone, just before the main evening news, would have been forgiven for thinking the big, hugely-excited Kiwi celebrating “the greatest week of my life” with interviewer David Feherty was the victor.
“I caddie and I go racing,” Williams gushed. “When I go to the race track, the only place I'm interested in finishing is first.”
The ever-honest Rory McIlroy put it best yesterday morning during an interview on the Golf Channel. “You say things in the heat of the moment,” the Ulsterman explained. “Maybe Steve went a little far in what he said and I definitely think it took away from Adam's win.
“It was a phenomenal win. He played unbelievable all week to finish 17 under par on that golf course was a great effort. Adam is the one hitting the shots. Stevie obviously has had a good influence on him in the last four weeks or whatever it is but, ultimately, Adam is the one that gets the ball in the hole.
“A caddie is very important at times but you can't take anything away from what Adam did.” To his credit, Scott expressed amusement at fans who'd loudly serenaded Williams as they'd walked up the 18th to victory. “Yeah, I'd no idea how popular a New Zealander can be, coming from Australia,” he quipped.
For Woods, the final Major Championship of the 2011 season probably comes a tournament too soon. Making his first competitive appearance in nine weeks at Firestone, Tiger earned $58,000 in a tie for 37th on one-over par. Ironically this is less than half the $140,000 Williams pockets as part of the caddie's usual 10 per cent cut of the winner's purse.
Yet of more significance to Tiger will be trying to get his tee shots under better control — he finished rock-bottom in 'fairways hit' at Firestone, finding the short grass with 22 of 56 attempts. More importantly, however, he has not yet found the sure putting touch which underpinned his 14 Major victories to date.
As for Williams, his ability as a caddie clearly is matched only by his super-ego. After 12 years living cheek-by-jowl with this ‘looper', is it any wonder Tiger went off the deep end.