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Monday, November 14, 2011

Stevie Williams - The Art of Burning Bridges

The act of burning one's bridges is historically an expression used to signify staking everything on the success of one venture or another, usually battle. In ancient Rome, Generals used to sometimes destroy the bridges or sabotage their own army's means of retreat to ensure that their men put up a chippy fight - there would be no turning back, so it was fight or die. That'll show them.

In recent times, the term seems to have taken on a more modern twist - still hinging on the fact that there is no turning back, but also insinuating that somehow one has managed to wind up alone and adrift through some action of their own, either on purpose or unwittingly.

Stevie Williams is a caddie from New Zealand, best known for manning the bag of Tiger Woods for over a decade and earning millions of dollars in prize money, making him the richest athlete in his native country. I was unaware that caddies were considered athletes, which makes this fact even more ironic. He was relieved of his caddying duties earlier in the year, when Tiger decided he could use a change, what with his scandalous divorce, injuries and difficulty regaining the form that had won him thirteen majors. After being let go by Woods, Steve Williams put on one of the best self-destructive displays of bridge burning ever. Judging from Williams' subsequent behavior, I have a hard time imagining how Tiger kept him around as long as he did.

Steve Williams - Bridge-Burner, Extraordinaire


New Zealand is a tiny little island, located Southeast of Australia, and was originally populated by a feisty tribe of Polynesians known as the Maori. Mostly peaceful, the Maori were reasonably quiet until Europe poked its head in and showed the natives how to use a musket, at which time the entire bunch went haywire and tribes with muskets would attack and capture tribes without muskets, thus disrupting a quiet history with an explosion of unsavory bloodshed, courtesy of the morally corrupt Europeans, no doubt aided in part by the thieves, scoundrels and malcontents sent from England to occupy neighboring Australia and torment the Aborigine.

New Zealand - Little Brother to morally corrupt Australia
 
There is a lesson in there about being feisty, but I digress. My point is that New Zealanders may be saddled with a long-standing history of a certain lack of decorum, dating back to the days of the ill-mannered musket wars. Judging by Williams' recent lack of discretion when speaking of his ex-employer, there can surely be no other explanation other than struck-by-lightening or hit-by-pitch for his unsportsmanlike behavior.

Looping for Adam Scott and securing his first post-season win, he was asked by the media (who must have stampeded over the winner Scott to get to the spurned caddy) how it felt to get this win, Williams gushed that this victory was the most fulfilling of his entire career. “I’ve caddied for 33 years, 145 wins, and this has been the best week of my life,” Williams told CBS television after the final putt dropped on Adam Scott‘s eighth career win. What? I guess the 13 majors and millions of New Zealand doubloons in the bank were all simply a prelude to this regular-season win somewhere in Ohio, near Lake Erie.

Woods took the high road and shrugged off Stevie's backhanded dig. For a change, we all kind of admired Tiger for keeping his mouth shut. But Stevie wasn't finished - not by a racial long-shot.

Recently, Williams spoke out in Shanghai at an awards dinner for caddies. I don't know what kind of awards they give caddies at such an event - I would assume it would be for things such as "neatest handwriting", "best club-cleaning" or "quickest to figure out 10% of a golfer's winnings, after taxes". Apparently, there must be an award for "most racially offensive remark" or "most brutal use of a pitching wedge": When asked about Scott's win at Bridgestone. "It was my aim to shove it up that black arse..." Williams was quoted as saying.

Again, Tiger took the high-road, gracefully accepting Williams' apology when it was offered - at least publicly. For all we know, he may have already paid for a band of angry Maori to roust Williams from his sleep, shoot him with a musket and chop him into chum for the man-eating ocean dwellers off the coast of New Zealand. Just sayin' - you never know.

All I know is that I once felt that Williams had been given the shaft and that Tiger had shown bad form for sacking the caddy who had stood by him through all his transgressions. Williams had defended Tiger ruthlessly on the links, swiftly dispatching sly, nebbish photographers with a well-placed kick to the lens, or a rough "snatch and toss" of a camera into a nearby pond.

But Stevie, with his rough-hewn New Zealander ways has managed to make Tiger look like a sympathetic character and that is no easy task, these days. Hmmmmmm... Maybe that's been the goal all along and this is a master plan worthy of the marauding Maori. If these little digs somehow manage to restore some of Tiger's public luster this could be one of the most effective PR gameplans of all time.

Perhaps Williams hasn't picked up his last check from Woods after all and is taking it on the chin for the benefit of his former friend and employer. And maybe the crafty caddy hasn't burned his bridge in the end, but simply helped shore it up with his harsh words. I would like to think that Williams is not so much ill-tempered and lacking discretion, but simply sly like a fox. Let's look at it that way - I'm certain New Zealand would approve.

Sly like a Maori Fox
 

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