SYDNEY — Tiger Woods and Steve Williams could learn a lot from each other.
They no longer are the best of friends, not even close. Their indiscretions were nothing alike. But a timeless lesson applies to both of them over the past two years: Treat people well on the way up, or there won’t be anyone to catch you on the way down.
Woods set an incomparable standard with numbers that even now are staggering – 54 wins around the world, 10 majors and the career Grand Slam twice while still in his 20s.
Outside the ropes, he left a lot to be desired.
He rarely stopped to sign autographs, and when he did, it wasn’t for long. Woods didn’t help tournament promoters with his policy of waiting until the last minute to announce he was playing. With the exception of Notah Begay, his roommate at Stanford, Woods didn’t take part in other players’ charity events.
Most of the disdain, however, came from the media.
Woods felt burned early in his career by a GQ magazine article, but it soon became a game of how little he could say. Woods is not a naturally gifted speaker, but there was so little effort that it came across as arrogant.
No one should have been expected to go easy on Woods when his life came crashing down in a shocking episode of serial adultery. He brought that on himself.
Even now, and without as much effort as he realizes, Woods still has a chance to reinvent himself. It starts with winning, and getting back to the top of his game. Neither will be easy as it once was.
Williams, though, has a tougher road. He’s still just a caddie.
Williams showed how much contempt he has for Woods at the Bridgestone Invitational when he caddied for Adam Scott in victory, allowed himself to be interviewed on the 18th green by CBS Sports and made it sound as though he won the tournament. “The best win of my life,” he said. At the caddies award party last week in Shanghai, his peers chose to roast him. In a night filled with bar room banter that wasn’t supposed to leave the room, Williams was asked about that interview and said, “It was my aim to shove it up that black (expletive).”
Three years ago, he used a vulgar term to describe Phil Mickelson. How many other caddies have been caught saying that about players, let alone one of the sport’s biggest names?
Much like Woods, he had a few close friends among caddies – Fanny Sunesson, for example – but not many.
When he found himself in trouble in Shanghai, few among his colleagues came to his defense.
For Woods, it was the second time he has taken the high road after Williams tried to make him look bad — first with the TV interview, then with his racial slur at the caddies’ dinner. That makes the caddie’s actions look only worse.