Steve Williams was the caddie for 84 of Tiger Woods’ tournament victories; for 13 of his 14 major championships. That’s a big number. And Steve is not short on bigging himself up. His autobiography, Out of the Rough: The Caddy’s Story, was published in the UK earlier this month and a clue to the context is provided by the title: he’s not ‘a caddy’ (that’s how the word is spelt in this book); he’s ‘the caddy’.
You wouldn’t expect this to be a tale overflowing with bons mots and it’s not filled with many meae culpae either, but one of the latter comes with Adam Scott’s victory at the 2011 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Akron, his first with Williams on the bag, this after Stevie had become the latest casualty in the fall-out of Tiger’s broken marriage. Williams admits he made an error in agreeing to be interviewed on live TV by David Feherty. As he says, “caddies don’t do interviews”, and he then adds: “The biggest mistake I made was saying that that week with Adam was the greatest of my life and the most satisfying win of my career. Clearly, it wasn’t – there had been much more significant victories – but I was caught up in the moment.”
Also in his own fantasy. What had he been doing all this time? Giving the ball a hit with the bag? But then Williams does seem to regard tournament victories as a 50/50 team deal. “A caddy is like a jockey on a horse…in the same way a good jockey can be the difference in a close race, I’ve learned how to get my players across the line.” Fair enough if crassly exaggerated – a jockey is rather fundamental to horse racing in a way a caddie just isn’t to golf – but “a contributing factor in Tiger’s huge wins in the British Open at St Andrews was the way I scouted the course each morning”. Really? OK, so let’s give up and go with the flow and figure Woods would have been lucky to have won even a handful of majors sans Stevie. And Greg Norman may have won more. Of the latter’s collapse to Nick Faldo at the 1996 Masters, Williams suggests what might have happened if he had been there. “Without knocking Tony Navarro [Norman’s caddie on that occasion], I truly believe that with a different approach I may have been able to make a difference that day.”
Pointing out that Greg had already cost Steve the Masters green jacket in 1989 by refusing to listen to him on the final hole at Augusta – “I reckon in all my years of caddying I can count on one hand how many yardages I got wrong” – he makes mention of a couple of momentous putts he read right for Woods and Scott. I’m not doubting he did, but he seems to feel he may well be the only caddie who’s ever done this.
He certainly feels he was one of the principal victims of the unravelling of Tiger’s life in 2009 – “a scandal that dragged me in its wake” – though he does speak well of Tiger’s ex-wife, Elin. But perhaps the anecdote in the book that sums it up best is when Scott and Woods are drawn to play with each other for the first two rounds of the 2013 US Open. Off the first tee, Woods blocks it right; Scott skulls his tee shot. Williams says all he could think of was: “Shit, this is all my fault.”
Probably not, Steve. I know it’s tough to comprehend but, even back then, major-championship golf was not all about you.
Robert Green’s ‘Seve: Golf’s Flawed Genius’ is available on Amazon. You can follow him on Twitter @robrtgreen