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Book review: Steve Williams’ Out of the Rough

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Book Review: Out of the Rough by Steve Williams

I expected very little from Out of the Rough by former Tiger Woods caddy Steve Williams. It is easy to simply see Williams as a camera-throwing goon who was as much a bouncer as he was a club-carrying advisor. I’d put myself in that camp before reading his book, which came out last year and is just being officially released in Canada now.

However, you can’t argue with Williams’ success—the number of wins he has with players over his career suggest either he’s always on the bag of the best (somewhat true) or that he brings something to the player/caddy relationship that isn’t common (also true).

Regardless, the book bills itself as a candid telling of Williams’ career, and since he’s now largely retired (he’ll come out occasionally to work for Adam Scott), he doesn’t pull many punches. And given that he’s caddied for some greats like Greg Norman (who fires him, though they remain friends), Raymond Floyd (who he parts with to work with Tiger) and eventually Woods, a tell all has a lot of possibility, much of which the book delivers.

Williams comes across as a complicated character, with limited education who started to work as a caddy as a teenager, and who struggled to the top through a mix of hard work and determination, as well as a significant understanding of how a golfer’s mind works. In the book he makes a point of stating that he pushed Norman too hard, and that he was likely the cause of his own demise when Norman fired him, even though they won their last tournament together. He fact, he’s occasionally quite open about his own shortcomings, which gives the book a strange duality when mixed with the positive quotes from friends and family that are interspersed throughout.

He has nothing negative to say about Floyd, and that part of the book really seems like a prelude to working with Woods. The most compelling bits are largely about the players Williams doesn’t like, with some snarl reserved for Phil Mickelson (a know it all, which has been confirmed by many) and Vijay Singh, who Williams thinks should have been banned for adjusting a scorecard while playing in Asia.

Then there’s all the material about Tiger. Williams clearly enjoyed working with Tiger, loved the demands that came with looping for the best, and enjoyed the limelight and money. He argues that he helped Woods—and all of the players he worked for—by professionalizing the role, walking courses at 5 am to make notes, understanding their personalities and when they needed to have their egos stroked or their ass kicked. He likes to say, quite regularly in fact, how he outworked all of the other caddies.

In Williams’ perspective Woods comes off as a sort of man-child who won’t stop a video game to interview Williams in their first job interview, and as a golfer who is always striving to be better than he is, thus the dalliance with the Navy Seals. Finally Williams raises questions about Woods’ desire to continue playing. That said, Williams never really digs too deep into the details about Woods—I’d love to have known exactly how a day played out caddying for Tiger, but that detail never arrives. While the last half of the book is about the relationship between Tiger and Williams, it only gets personal a couple of times, like the point where Woods tells Williams he should get married, or agrees to fly to New Zealand to play in a European Tour event near the caddy’s home.

The real vitriol is aimed at Mark Steinberg, Tiger’s agent, who Williams felt hung the caddy out to dry after revelations of Woods’ affair hit the press.

Yes, the book has too many self-aggrandizing moments where Williams likely takes a little too much credit for the success of his players, and he’s clear to suggest he made very few mistakes that really cost his players. I was not a fan of the use of quotes from people he worked with (Norman, Ian Baker-Finch, Adam Scott, his wife) that all come across as so positive you wonder if you’re reading a press release from a fan club instead a book. He also goes to extremes to suggest he had no idea that Woods was banging porn stars, waitresses and the like, and the repetition in that part of the book seems too defensive.

In all, Out of the Rough once again shows part of Woods’ story. Alongside Hank Haney’s The Big Miss, the book offers some great perspective on caddying, but one is once again left with the impression the full Tiger tale has yet to be revealed.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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