SYDNEY – In a well-crafted statement released on Tuesday Adam Scott declared “the matter closed,” an admirable combination of naiveté and wishful thinking on the Australian’s part.
On Wednesday afternoon, however, Scott learned within two questions that when it comes to Tiger Woods and his estranged former caddie Steve Williams there may never be any real closure.
On the eve of this week’s Australian Open Scott was asked if his weekend swoon at the WGC-HSBC Champions had anything to do with the brouhaha that was sparked by Williams’ racially charged comments during an award dinner last week in Shanghai?
“I don’t think that affected my golf swing . . . just coincidence,” Scott offered quietly.
Know this about Adam Scott, he may walk and dress the part of an international icon but he is as quiet and unassuming as they come among the play-for-pay set. The spotlight he’s learned to accept. But this is something altogether different.
This has thrust Scott into the middle of a public-relations firestorm and prompted Tuesday’s statement.
The same day Woods helped defuse the situation. “Obviously it was a wrong thing to say,” Woods said on Tuesday following an impromptu détente with his former looper. “Stevie’s certainly not a racist, there’s no doubt about that. It was a comment that shouldn’t have been made and was certainly one that he wished he didn’t make.”
Calls from far and wide have demanded Scott fire or suspend Williams for his comments. Instead he released a statement, “I accept Steve’s apology, knowing that he meant no racial slur with his comments.”
To be clear, it’s not as though Scott is above slash-and-burn management styles, having split with longtime caddie Tony Navarro earlier this year. “We just didn’t have the energy,” he said regarding his previous employee.
But with Williams on the bag there has been energy, and plenty of success. In the duo’s fourth event together Scott won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and he’s finished outside the top 15 just four times in 10 starts.
As much as Scott distastes the stormy center stage he cherishes success even more.
“The fortunate thing for me is I was able to pick up an experienced caddie very quickly,” Scott said. “Steve is a great asset to my game and your personalities need to work well together. It’s been a good fit.”
So much so he’s willing to put up with the added scrutiny that Williams has brought. So much so he eschewed calls for Williams’ dismissal despite a particularly high-profile and high-value schedule the next few weeks.
This week’s Australian Open is enjoying one of its deepest fields in decades thanks to the influx of U.S. and International Presidents Cup players; and next week’s matches promise even more analysis.
For an Australian, these events are what have been missing from golf in this region for some time. So much so that Scott even alluded to “a special summer in Australia.”
All of which makes his decision to dig in against the mounting wall of political correctness even more telling. Scott is staying with Williams not because he feels the New Zealander was “taken out of context” or is being unfairly judged, but because he believes in him.
For all his faults, and there are many, Williams is Cooperstown of the caddie world – a consummate professional on the golf course who has elevated Scott’s game to new levels.
Scott is staying with Williams because of what’s on the line the next few weeks, not in spite of it. For those who dreamed of being Greg Norman when they grew up, the Australian Open is their fifth major, and next week’s Presidents Cup may be the International side’s best chance to break free of the victory schneid for the first time since the matches were last played at venerable Royal Melbourne in 1998.
For all the right reasons, Scott made a decision that some consider very wrong. For everything that’s on the line he penned those five paragraphs in Tuesday’s statement hoping, however irrationally, that his words would somehow quiet the storm.
“(Williams) is a part of my team,” Scott said on Wednesday. “It’s unfortunate, we don’t need that in the game and I wanted to put an end to it.”
Unfortunately for Scott there is no end in sight.