ORLANDO, Fla. -- Steve Williams isn't a particularly complicated guy.
As a suburban sherpa, he carries a golf bag for a living, commands more than a modicum of respect among his peers and has earned the right to be rewarded for his loyalty. Despite what many people think, he's an honest man with far more integrity than most folks these days.
Which is doubtlessly why, if you've heard the audio clip of Williams venting about his firing by fading and former world No. 1 Tiger Woods, he sounds annoyed, betrayed and a little angry.
"You could say I've wasted the last two years of my life," Williams told Television New Zealand, sobering remarks that are now airing on the BBC and other outlets.
He was in Tiger Woods' wedding. They were thick as thieves. They worked out together, dined together, drove to the course as a twosome. As a result, everybody assumed that when Woods was caught up in the seamiest sex scandal in sports history, Williams had to be complicit. He insists that he was as clueless and shocked as the rest of us.
Many who follow the circus that is the PGA Tour -- despite occasional friction with Woods' longtime bag man and enforcer -- believe him, too, without much hesitation. If you heard the confusion and anger in his voice in the audio clip, it only underscored that belief.
After a record-shattering start in their 12 years together, Williams said he stuck with Woods lately through thick and thin. That's a charitable way of phrasing it. More like thin and thinner.
"I've stuck with Tiger and been incredibly loyal," he said. "I'm not disappointed I've been fired -- that's part of the job -- but the timing is extraordinary. I am extremely disappointed, given that the last 18 months has been a particularly difficult time.
"With the scandals, a new coach, a swing change, I've stuck with him through thick and thin and been incredibly loyal -- and then this happens. I wouldn't ditch someone when the chips are down. I've stuck by Tiger and put myself and my family in a difficult position."
That's because most people assumed Williams was aware of Woods' tomcatting. But that just doesn't compute. Williams takes a dim view of cheating in any fashion -- he was a caddie at the overseas tournament years ago where Vijay Singh was accused of cheating. Williams still hasn't forgotten, and maybe hasn't quite forgiven, put it that way.
Remember the awkward incident two years ago when Williams popped off about Phil Mickelson? He characterized Mickelson as a fake and said had little time for such people. In other words, Williams is a black-and-white guy with a very hard head.
Turns out, Williams was the guy working for the biggest fraud in golf history. Yet, even after he knew it, he remained an employee out of sheer loyalty and against the better judgment of many, because his family and friends were suggesting that he quit as the taint continued to spread. With a bad taste in his mouth, some thought Williams might walk away from the most lucrative second-banana job since Ed McMahon worked for Johnny Carson.
What did loyalty get him? A pink slip.
What did Williams know and when? Don't assume you know the answers.
Williams' wife, Kirsty, was a close friend of Elin Nordegren, Tiger's ex-wife. For Steve to have had knowledge of what was taking place with his boss and his bevy of women might have meant the end of his own marriage, too. Kirsty Williams and Elin Nordegren were inseparable on the course while watching their husbands ply their strange trade.
After 20 months of enduring a scandal that just refuses to end, watching Woods trash his swing, lose millions in endorsements and an immeasurable amount of credibility, Woods summarily ditched Williams without publicly bothering to say why.
"I'm a very big stickler for loyalty and I stuck with Tiger through his difficult period when a lot of people thought I should have left his side," Williams said. "That was the most difficult period that I've ever been through in my life. I'm pretty hard-headed and took it probably a lot better than my wife and family did, but there's no way that I should have been put through that."
For months, while Woods hid from the media and licked his many public-relations wounds, Williams was painted with the same broad brush of guilt by association. Other Woods associates were linked to both the trail of women and ensuing coverup. Williams was left to twist in the wind.
"My name should have been cleared immediately," Williams said. "It wasn't and that's what makes it even more disappointing what's transpired."
When Woods returned at the Masters last year, the body language between him and Williams had changed. The camaraderie that had always been self-evident took a hit. There was a professional distance.
Now we know why.
"I, along with a lot of people, lost a lot of respect for Tiger and I pointed out before his return at the Masters at Augusta in 2010, that he had to earn back my respect," Williams said.
Actually, that week, Woods said he wanted to be judged by his actions going forward. So be it -- he just fired one of his last remaining allies in Williams.
Williams always insisted that when his gig with Woods ended, he'd go home to New Zealand and never caddie again. But given the midseason abruptness of his termination, he had already started to work with popular Aussie Adam Scott -- Woods gave his assent beforehand. Williams says he will continue to work for Scott, who in terms of personality and temperament is the perhaps polar opposite of Woods.
"Through time, I hope he can gain my respect back," Williams said of Woods. "He definitely needs to earn my respect again, that's for sure."
In that regard, Williams is standing in the longest of lines, isn't he?