Aug
8
2011
Steve Williams: Same as He Ever Was
By Conor Nagle under Tiger Woods

There's no escaping Wei: the photo from that accompanied Donegan's piece in the Guardian.

Take a deep breath, folks, I’m about to attempt something entirely unprecedented in the history of the interwebs. I’m going to aggregate myself. Here, in it’s entirety, is an article I wrote earlier on for my other, less highly strung, employer, a great new Irish sports website by the name of The Score. (If Stephanie can see other websites, why cant I? We were never exclusive.)

Adam Scott’s win at Firestone was billed as an emotional triumph for his new caddy, but as the pettiness of the New Zealander’s post-round interview reminded us, Steve Williams remains less a golfing hero than the lesser of two evils.

THE LURE OF Schadenfreude is seductive and, more often than not, too powerful to ignore. If you need proof, take a look at today’s coverage of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

When Adam Scott’s 65th shot of yesterday’s final round found the bottom of the cup, it didn’t just cap an extraordinary return to form for the young Australian, it also succeeded in adding a final, gratuitous flourish to a story the golfing media had been just dying to cover: Steve Williams’ first victory without Tiger Woods.

If the world’s most powerful sporting institutions were to form a United Nations-style collective, the PGA Tour would be its People’s Republic of China, a wealthy and secretive outlier with a creative attitude to freedom of speech and censorship.

A body that keeps its scandals behind closed doors and its press corps on an extremely tight leash, the Tour has policed coverage of the Tiger Woods scandal to the point where the mainstream press has been forced to develop a coded language for discussion of the fallen World Number One.

Oblique references to the golfer’s “difficult personal life” shroud details of his extramarital affairs, qualified nods in the direction of “blood spinning” hint at suspected use of performance enhancing drugs. The enormous elephant in the room remains unacknowledged, if never far from everyone’s mind.

Efficient though this dynamic has been in ensuring that the game’s biggest draw remains protected, it has also guaranteed the persistence of a nearly insatiable appetite for Tiger-related intrigue among those who cover the game week-to-week. Sharpened by latent resentment of the organisation’s claustrophobic management of its golden ticket, and frustration at said ticket’s increasingly jovial inscrutability, the knives remain out for the 14-time major winner.

It was for this reason, then, that the dramatic possibilities of a Woods-Scott pairing, either at Firestone or at this week’s USPGA Championship, had been salivated over nearly as long as news of Woods’ split with Williams had been public knowledge. But when Tiger’s long-awaited return to competitive golf died amidst a flurry of ballooned drives and lipped-out putts, the only outcome that left any room for narrative embellishment was one that included Scott walking away with a trophy.

And so the scene was set for the public rehabilitation of Steve Williams.

Like a defector being met at the border, Williams was offered clemency for his past crimes in exchange for information about his former employer.

“All is forgiven, Steve! Now, where are the bodies?”

Yes, he smiled occasionally; yes, he left his bib on after the round (this was mentioned to me several times yesterday evening as putative proof of the his new personality, for some reason); and yes, he’s clearly been a good influence on Adam Scott; but the ease with which he segued from fist-pumping and hugging on the 18th green into a merciless demolition of his former employer told us all we needed to know about Steve Williams.

The reflexive victimhood, the narcissism and the vulgarity are all still very much intact, no matter how hard the Schadenfreude tempts you to declare otherwise.”

Conor Nagle

— reproduced with permission from TheScore.ie