I’ve not waded into the whole Steve Williams/Phil Mickelson is a prick with “tits” debate because I wasn’t frankly sure how the whole strange affair would end.
This all started with Williams comment a few days ago at a charity event:
“I wouldn’t call Mickelson a great player,” Williams was quoted as saying, “Cause I hate the prick.”
The remarks was a rare harsh word it professional golf and led to the question of how Williams’ employer, Tiger Woods, would react. Would Tiger Woods sack his nasty caddie, who also typically does exactly what is asked of him (act as enforcer, camera tosser, bad cop to Woods’ good cop)? The answer tonight is no — at least that’s what Tiger is saying currently:
Tiger Woods said he was disappointed by his caddie’s disparaging comments about Phil Mickelson in New Zealand newspapers.
Steve Williams was quoted in the Taranki Daily News as saying he wouldn’t call Mickelson a great player “because I think he’s a prick.” When contacted by another New Zealand newspaper, Williams confirmed making the comment.
“I was disappointed to read the comments attributed to Steve Williams about Phil Mickelson, a player that I respect,” Woods said in a statement Monday. “It was inappropriate. The matter has been discussed and dealt with.”
Of course Tiger has to say he’s disappointed. Notice Woods calls Mickelson, “a player I respect.” Not a person he respects. My take is that Woods respects Mickelson as a golfer — as an individual it is a different matter. As for Williams, he’ll get a pass — this time.
There’s a lot going on here, especially for a story that’s being told at a time when Woods has been away from golf for six months, and on the eve of hosting his own charity silly season event. Woods issued a statement today — but tomorrow the media will have at him and this story will generate lots of headlines.
So what did Williams say, exactly? He admits to calling Mickelson a “prick,” and saying that the Phil-ster doesn’t respect him. Fair enough. Tough language, but he’s not the first person to think Mickelson is a self-absorbed prima-donna. I recall talking with the tour writer for GolfWeek who said Mickelson would occasionally blatantly lie to reporters, and was only well liked by cameramen, for whom Phil would turn on that 40-watt smile. Print guys, on the other hand, were treated rather differently.
There’s surely some truth to the fact Mickelson isn’t always kind to those around. Sure he signs tons of autographs — a laudable fact — but he’s not well-regarded by his peers, and in that, Williams is just verbalizing what many have wanted to say. After all, Mickelson is referred to as “FIGJAM” by many, and no, I’m not going to tell you what the acronym is. You can figure it out yoursef.
However, I think there’s something else going on in this whole mess that should be acknowledged. Most of my peers complain that those around golf don’t have enough colour. They don’t make comments that have any interest other than to say, “I played good today,” the type of remarks we usually watch on Golf Central. And largely that’s true. Then, when someone makes a remark that’s slightly out of the ordinary, writers deliver blows in column inches, condeming the player for saying too much or talking out of turn. It happens time and again. Think David Duval on the Ryder Cup. Or Stephen Ames on Woods’ driving. Or Hunter Mahan on the Ryder Cup again. All honest, thoughtful remarks. Not off-the-cuff BS. And they were all dragged over hot coals for their comments.
Okay, Williams is being about as blunt as a brick to the face. But I actually don’t see the big deal about the his remark that Mickelson is a piece of work. That’s widely known — just rarely made public. However, his second comment is a bit odd:
But to make matters worse, the Guardian has reported a story Williams told about this year’s US Open at Torrey Pines, where Woods and Mickelson were paired together.
The two players were walking down the 17th fairway when, according to Williams, someone shouted “Phil” in Mickelson’s direction. The world No 2 did not respond until the fan shouted, “Hey, Mr Mickelson.” When Mickelson turned and waved, the fan yelled out “Nice tits”. The crowd erupted in laughter; Mickelson went double bogey, bogey and his chances of winning the tournament disappeared.
The issue is that Williams seems to have made up the story to get some yucks from a dinner crowd to which he was speaking. The story has changed a few times since its telling. First it was at this year’s U.S. Open. Then it apparently happened a few years back at Bethpage. Truth is that the story has circulated for a few years — often with Colin Montgomerie as the centre of the joke. There doesn’t appear to be much actual truth to it, and in turn it is this part of the story that makes Williams look classless. Why repeat something he knows isn’t true?
Woods can’t be pleased. He’s hosting his charty silly-season fundraiser this week (Canadians Mike Weir and Stephen Ames are in the field) and he has a press conference today. He’ll spend the whole time answering questions about Williams and their future together.
Lorne Rubenstein, in this morning’s Globe, seems to have a similar perspective.
All of which makes it intriguing to see Lawrence Donegan’s take on this at the Guardian. He points out, and rightly so, that this situation would have been very different had it been Bones Mackay, Mickelson’s loop, who had made the remarks. Remember the reaction to Ames’ comments? If Ames got that much heat for saying Woods couldn’t hit a fairway — which was true at the time — Mackay would surely have been fired.
In the meantime, Williams lives to throw cameras in a lake another day.