Williams: Intimidating, polarizing, tremendous caddie

RSS

Steve Williams and Adam Scott celebrate victory in the 2011 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. (Getty)

Wednesday’s news that Adam Scott and Steve Williams have parted ways shouldn’t come as a surprise, based on the caddie’s insistence over the past year that he would retire, at least part time, to New Zealand. It should also give us reason to remember what Williams called “the best win of my life” – a cringe-worthy moment that is still largely misunderstood.

There might never have been a scene quite like that of the late-afternoon on Aug. 7, 2011, at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Scott, one of the game’s best – and most popular – players, was making his victory march down the 18th fairway at Firestone CC. The unassuming Aussie did so with an amused smile on his face, not because he was on the verge of claiming a trophy, but because he was being virtually ignored by the massive gallery.

“Good job, Stevie!” “You da man, Steve!” “Steee-veeee!”

The surrounding crowd had latched onto the feel-good story of the day. Williams, who had been unceremoniously dumped by Tiger Woods after a dozen years and 13 major championships, was in the midst of helping another player to victory. In as much of an anti-Tiger stance as a pro-Williams one, the fans lavished him with praise.

The awaiting television crew, realizing that Williams was a bigger story that day than the guy hitting the shots, decided to interview him on the final green.

Perhaps swept up in the emotion of the moment, the caddie gladly stepped in front of the camera. You know what happened next.

“I have been caddying for more than 30 years now,” he boasted. “I have won 145 times and that is the best win of my life.”

As Williams was still being celebrated on the course, viewers at home became enraged at the guy known as a camera-chucking bully, who was now – it sounded like – taking credit for the victory.

From that day, Williams’ profile as Public Enemy No. 1 only grew. The cheers in his honor never returned, replaced by jeers for a misunderstood man. The jokes came quick and easy, too. Each time Scott would win, it would inevitably be mentioned that Williams earned another great win.

Lost in the antagonism and amusement was the fact that Williams actually deserved some credit every time his player won a title. He was never the guy swinging the club, but it takes some talent to caddie for 14 major wins – even if the guy standing next to him each time was the game’s best player.

It was after the last of those wins, at last year’s Masters Tournament, that Scott credited Williams for helping him with the read on his birdie putt on the second playoff hole.

“I was struggling to read it, so I gave Steve the call over,” he divulged. “I said, ‘Do you think it's just more than a cup?’ He said, ‘It's at least two cups; it's going to break more than you think.’ I said, ‘I'm good with that.’ He was my eyes on that putt.”

For over three decades, Williams has served as the eyes – not to mention ears, mouth and muscle – for Greg Norman, Raymond Floyd, Tiger Woods and Adam Scott. He might not have been the most popular caddie in the game, but he wasn’t afraid to take the heat for his player and wasn’t afraid to make his opinion known. Earlier this month, he was inducted into the Caddie Hall of Fame by the Western Golf Association.

That afternoon of Aug. 7, 2011, might have been the best win of his career, but if that career is indeed now over, it was one filled with them – whether the public wants to give him credit or not.