Steve Williams – The Review
“Steve Williams is a badass. Glad he finally called out that scumbag Tiger”, that’s the text I got from a very dear friend whom shall remain nameless, mainly because he’s really a bastard. For the better part of 20 years this same friend has been killing me for being a fan of Tiger Woods. Busting my chops is his forte. My buddy hadn’t read the book, just using the “reported highlights” as his fuel. When the scandal hit almost 7 years ago and the veil was torn, I must admit defending the indefensible was a losing endeavor. Tiger the golden child was forever knocked from his lofty perch. In truth, reading this book, Out of the Rough, wasn’t high on my list….actually it wasn’t even on my list. Generally, gossip ridden offerings are a waste of time and the headlines and excerpts used to market the book certainly didn’t interest me. On the surface, it looked like another attack on Tiger further highlighting his shortcomings as a human being. Sure glad all the detractors lead perfect lives. Michael Collins, the up and coming superstar covering golf for ESPN, issued what amounts to a call to action (at least for me) with his comments. Maybe superstar is a little over the top, but the guy is good at what he does. Guys seem to respond candidly to his after round interviews. Collins is not quite Feherty in that respect, but he gets the goods. His video review of the book made me laugh (I mean, in the laundry room…dude is silly), but more importantly he piqued my interest and I actually wanted to read the book. Glad someone in the media doesn’t take himself too seriously…kudos Mr. Collins, keep doing what you do.
Where do we start?
Stephen A. Smith is a respected sports journalist/entertainer. His schtick is legendary. The loud uncle at Thanksgiving who knows it all when it comes to sports. I sincerely hope everyone has an uncle like that. One of my favorite uncles still thinks the Cleveland Browns are knocking on the doorstep. Can’t really knock a guy for his beliefs. ESPN tapped a nerve, understanding the dynamic Stephen A. Smith brilliantly brings to the set of First Take. If we are talking NBA, I want to hear what he has to say, he knows the NBA, he’s connected. Stephen A. Smith seems to grasp the other major sports (NFL, MLB, and of course NHL…not so much) and can competently opine accordingly, but he missed horribly with his rant on Steve Williams. First off, in his defense, he didn’t read the book and doesn’t plan to. He based his rant off of the perception of what the book is allegedly about. Like congress voting on an important bill, he didn’t read it, yet he felt confident enough to broadcast his views on the book disparaging the author along the way. While he is entitled to his opinion, like or hate the book whatever, his comments about the caddy in general were at best short sighted and misinformed. Disappointed with Stephen A. Smith on this account. Come on man….you are so much better than that!
Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, and Zach Johnson might have a counter argument about just how important the roll of a good caddie plays. In the majority of cases, the caddy/player relationship goes well beyond employee/employer. In the heat of battle whether trying to make a cut or win the tournament, a caddy is your right hand man. Trusted confidant. The only other person on that island when you play professional golf. Spieth consistently held up the “team” concept when replaying his rounds in the media tent following play. Repeatedly saying “we” and “our” plan for attacking the golf course. Same with Day, his caddy carries a ton of wisdom outside the pertinent golf data that helps buoy Jason in a storm. These guys aren’t just carrying a bag and cleaning your clubs. Nor do they simply give you the yardage or their opinion on the break of a putt. Pretty sure Stephen A. Smith has played a few upper crust tracts in his time. Caddied affairs. Not that I’ve often experienced caddied golf, but when I have …oh boy, if you listen, you just might save yourself a couple of strokes. Hard to imagine the impact they can have on a professional player.
Point of View
Steve Williams had a front row seat for 13 majors and over 60 PGA tour wins in total while he worked for Tiger. To believe he didn’t play a part in the formula is ignorant. Is his book an attempt to squeeze the turnip one last time to make certain he got every last blood dollar from the exploits of his former employer? If you base your opinion on the marketing excerpts, than yes, yes he is. If you actually read the book, I think you might be enlightened by what this “caddy” had to say. After all, how many guys have caddied for 3 World Number 1’s? Or toted the bag for the legend Raymond Floyd? Bingo, this book is about so much more than Tiger Woods. If anything, his portrayal of Tiger is actually favorable in my opinion. Was he let down and disappointed by the failure of their relationship? Absolutely. Did he make critical mistakes that more than likely played a roll in the situation? He readily and rightfully admitted he did. This book is a series of recollections detailing his storied career, more than a scathing indictment of his most famous boss. A career spanning over 30 years with some of the greatest players in the game during the era. Steve Williams was a sought after helmsman in the world of championship golf. A tactician and wise sage, as valuable as a 15th club.
To be expected, I can’t imagine writing a book about one of the most significant periods in the history of golf and not have a little dirt. Some of which came off a bit myopic. Due to the brief media storm, my presumption was that the bulk of the dirt would be a rehash of the spectacular self destruction of Tiger’s personal life. Surprisingly, it wasn’t. Dropping the dime on his chief competitors? Yep, he went there. Not that we didn’t already know there was some genuine animosity. It’s just different when you see it in black and white, or in this case backlit E ink. We all loathe the kid who tattles in class, but man oh man, some of these glimpses are too good to pass up. My guess is Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, and Vijay Singh won’t be sending Christmas cards to the Williams household this year. The funny part, Steve Williams doesn’t care, at least that’s what I gather from his thoughts on these men. One sided stories often meet the truth halfway, but for his part the author comes off credible and more importantly bullish on his view of the events. I reckon he knew there would be consequences and from the looks of things, he’s had enough of carrying the bag around the world for the sake of another’s quest in professional golf.
My favorite dirty little anecdotes featured Steve Williams as the person in the wrong…or at least the one who could be left holding the bag so to speak. His story about Tiger’s win at Pebble Beach for the 2000 U.S. Open borders on behind the scenes legend. If you were watching that day you heard Tiger berate himself in a particularly colorful way after he duck hooked his drive on 18. To this day, that was Johnny Miller’s best call…That passage alone is a entertaining must read if you follow golf and love the game. Could you imagine telling Tiger Woods…”um, boss, that was your last ball”…that could’ve happened, but thankfully didn’t. That’s the kind of golden backstory that drives the book. Like a scene dropped straight out of Tin Cup, but Romeo doesn’t quit.
The rivalry between Phil and Tiger was real. They didn’t really understand each other. Tiger knew Phil was a threat to his run…how can you not be wary of a guy with that much talent? He didn’t want the guy to win a major because he was fearful of Phil fueled by validated confidence. Sounds a little different from todays players. A far cry from Jack, Arnie, and Gary. Somehow, I don’t see Phil and Tiger arm and arm at the Masters in their late 60’s for the ceremonial opening tee shot. Stranger things have happened I guess. Sergio and Tiger? If Phil and Tiger were a little frigid at times, Sergio and Tiger were an apocalyptic ice age. Surprised? Probably not. Neither would you be shocked that it was real disdain when Vijay and Tiger tussled. Didn’t help that Stevie had such a low opinion of Vijay stemming from his days on the old Asian Tour. These stories didn’t cast a souring light on Tiger Woods. More of an matter of fact account of those incredible days on the tour. When the PGA was must see TV and everyone tuned in to see history come Sunday. Even if you hated Tiger back then, you still watched to root against him.
The Shark! Steve Williams owns it when he talks about Greg Norman. I haven’t looked to see if there is a biography on Greg Norman, but if there is I’ll probably try and pick it up. Norman was at the tail end of his run when I really started following the PGA Tour. He will always be associated with The Masters and the heart wrenching ways he lost the tournament. Steve Williams laments with regret that he felt he cost Norman his shot at the title, by not being more assertive in helping his player make the proper club selection. In the end, the player makes the final call. There is some prime cut material within these pages.
This isn’t the best book I’ve ever read, but it was an entertaining read nonetheless. The bitter outcry against the publication is probably warranted, provided you didn’t read the book in making your assessment. Admittedly, I was in that camp in the beginning. My initial take was Steve Williams should just retire and be happy and let Tiger be. Certainly not an apologist for his former boss, but he doesn’t throw him under the bus either. At times, Steve Williams leveled the blame squarely on his own shoulders. Other times he wavered, convinced it was mostly Tiger that had done wrong by him, yet it will always take two to tango. Steve Williams isn’t a lout on any count. This isn’t a last stand money grab before fading into the sunset. I applaud the guy in his semi retirement. His professional focus has shifted to his foundation and the powerful work it does for sick children. His mission critical derived from a deep sense of responsibility to help those in need. The mettle of a man is often the sum of his deeds. You can’t demean the good he is doing in New Zealand. Not sure I had a positive opinion of Steve Williams when I began the book, but I came away a fan. The unfounded villain perspective is not unexpected given our quick consumption society. I can guarantee, if you read this book you will come away with a least a different perspective about Tiger and his former caddy. You may actually find a way to become a fan of both….probably wishful thinking. Hope old wounds heal one day, and these two blokes can enjoy a beer on the beach someday, talking about the good ole’ days.