For years, we have been conditioned to expect the bland, non-answer from those in professional Golf. No one personified this more than Tiger Woods, and his gamesmanship with the press was annoying, but tolerated in light of his on-course accomplishments. In recent weeks, Rory McIlroy and Steve Williams have upset the status quo, providing a refreshing injection of frankness and genuine emotion.
As I watched the Back 9 of this week’s Bridgestone Invitational, I traded some texts with Mo’ Golf, contemplating a potential post-round meeting between Tiger and Steve Williams:
Tiger: “How are you, Steve?”
Steve: “I’m winning, bee-atch! It’s been a few years. Tell BB to enjoy!”
Little did I know that I was almost dead-on in the tone that Williams would express publicly. For those of you who may have missed the scene, David Feherty approached Tiger’s recently-fired looper for an interview. Based on Williams’ years with the Master Press Infuriator, I expected nothing to come of it. Until he unloaded this:
“It’s the greatest week of my life caddying and I sincerely mean that,” Williams said.
Translation: “Take your loyalty concerns and shove them up your $@#% Eldrick!”
If there was any doubt that Steve was perturbed about the way he was let go, it is gone now. The happiest person in the world at that moment was the publisher of Williams’ expected book. Any concerns that he may pull his punches were forever removed. The only thing that could make the publisher happier would be if Fluff Cowan writes the Foreward.
Sure, a number of pundits immediately jumped on Williams for making himself part of the story. But that’s nothing short of hypocrisy. These reporters repeatedly ask leading questions in an often-futile attempt to get some genuine emotion and unguarded honesty. They bemoan the vanilla non-answer, but then anoint themselves to judge such raw responses.
To me, it was refreshing and enjoyable. I certainly don’t believe Steve Williams is some perfect human, but Tiger has managed to do what I though was impossible a few years ago. He made Williams a sympathetic figure. Having the gallery cheer “Stev-ie Will-iams” Sunday provided a glimpse of how far Tiger has fallen in people’s eyes.
The thought that Tiger even remotely questioned Williams’ loyalty was stunning. After Steve stood by Tiger during the past 18 months, I found it hard to believe that there was any concern over Williams helping Adam Scott during an injury hiatus. At first, I may have even given Tiger the benefit of the doubt, and chalked it up to a “he said / he said” situation.
Until I saw Tiger’s choice for a replacement caddy. Apparently, the only person who scores high enough on Tiger’s “loyalty meter” is Bryon Bell. Yes, the same Bryon Bell who was in charge of the travel arrangements for Tiger’s mistresses in his role as president of Tiger Woods Design.
It made me question how much of Williams’ surliness was a function of his prior employer. Williams even hinted at that Sunday, saying “I guess caddying for Tiger, I’ve probably been a bit unfair to the media sometimes. I realize I owe you guys something, so it’s no problem.”
To his credit, Williams came out yesterday with even more honest reflection. “Looking back on it, I was a bit over the top,” he told FOXSports.com. “I had a lot of anger in me about what happened (with Woods) and it all came out.”
Imagine that – some real emotion and human reflection.
Loyalty seemed to be at the core of another episode of frank emotions. Rory McIlroy and Jay Townsend engaged in a heated Twitter exchange recently. In the end, it was revealed that McIlroy’s hot reaction was driven primarily by Townsend’s criticism of caddy JP Fitzgerald.
On yesterday’s episode of “Morning Drive,” McIlroy addressed the issue one more time simply stating “I stand by my caddy.” The US Open Champion expressed regret over some of the tone he used, but stood by the content of his comments.
This isn’t the first time that Rory has spoken out beyond the platitudes we’ve grown accustomed to hearing. And I hope it’s not the last.
But, in order for that to continue, the media needs to check its hypocrisy and urge to condemn such “un-professional” raw commentary. Tiger was the ultimate “Professional” in dealing with the media, and we know how that turned out.