Posted on: November 13, 2011 12:26 am
Edited on: November 13, 2011 12:42 am

Woods takes biggest stride yet toward reclamation

Two days shy of two years ago, Tiger Woods won his last professional tournament at the Australian Masters, edging feisty journeyman Greg Chalmers.

This time, the Aussie left-hander exacted his revenge, extending Woods' drought in the process -- though Woods made it clear that another win seems just around the corner.

Despite a vintage run that had the Aussie crowd holding its breath at times on the back nine, Chalmers held off the former world No. 1 to win the Emirates Australian Open by two shots at The Lakes Golf Club outside Sydney.

Woods finished third at 11 under and threw everything he had at Chalmers down the stretch, and for a couple of hours, it looked as though his career-worst two-year skid was about to end.

You remember this dude, right?

He wore the traditional red shirt. For the first time in months, meaningful putts actually fell. The crowd, sensing another characteristic comeback, started going berserk. There were fist pumps and the assassin’s stare that had been absent for so long.

Even though he fell short, Woods seemed as relieved to have finally traded haymakers with foes on a Sunday back nine as he was grumbling about one that got away. At last showing signs of progress, he was asked when he’d again be ranked No. 1.

He never blinked.

“I don’t know,” Woods said. “I’ve just got to keep plugging along.”

It was as though his personal and professional nightmare was about to end -- but Chalmers, 38, who won the 1998 Aussie Open, didn’t blink.

“I fought as hard as I could all day,” Woods said, “Unfortunately it looks like it’ll be a couple of shots short.”

The week had some ups and downs, but it will clearly be received as a major step forward since he hadn’t contended since the spring, and not on the back nine on Sunday since an unofficial event he hosted 11 months ago.

After blowing the 36-hole lead with a sloppy third round, Woods began the final day six shots back, but started climbing back into the mix in the middle of the round. Despite two bogeys in a three-hole stretch, Woods twice crept within a stroke of Chalmers, a PGA Tour member with one of the game’s sweetest putting strokes.

Generating the loudest cheer of the week, Woods chipped in from behind the green on the par-5 14th for an eagle to close within one, but Chalmers, playing behind Woods, answered. Same thing an hour later, after Woods had knocked his approach on the par-5 17to to within 12 feet for eagle, but settled for a birdie and a 5-under 67.

Yet a moment later, Chalmers made a birdie of his own from 30 inches at the 15th to restore a two-shot lead.

Woods, who has fallen 56 spots to No. 58 in the world this season, shot a 3-over 75 in the third round. Tuesday marks the two-year anniversary of Woods’ last victory in any sanctioned event, at the 2009 Aussie Masters. Two weeks later, he drove his car into a tree and his dark professional spiral began.

Still trying to sort out his swing under pressure, Woods put together his best effort since the Masters, but made a couple of crucial mistakes off the tee, making a bogey on the par-5 11th and then hitting his tee shot that plugged into the mud near a water hazard on the short 13th, a drivable par-4 for some players. He made another bogey there.

“I shouldn’t have gone for it,” Woods said of his tee ball, which nearly landed in a pond, but plugged in the mud instead. “Driver’s too much, a 3-wood’s not enough. I should have laid up. Unfortunately, I made the wrong decision.”

Woods will next play in the Presidents Cup matches next week in Melbourne.

Posted on: November 10, 2011 10:37 am
Edited on: November 11, 2011 1:35 pm

Perfect Timing: Lefty enshrinement a ray of sun

ORLANDO, Fla. – During a period in which golf has taken some big body shots, leaving administrators with metaphorical swollen eyes and some players and their employees with fat lips, the news from Singapore on Thursday morning was more than welcome.

Hardly a surprise, mind you, but as refreshing as an oceanside onshore breeze.

Six days after a caddie uttered a racial slut at an awards banquet and the world tours took no action, and mere hours after John Daly walked off the course and was banned by the PGA of Australia, one of the game’s biggest figures was fittingly fitted for a crown.

It wasn’t newsmaking in the least that Phil Mickelson was formally tapped to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame with the 2012 induction class, since according to admission rules he became eligible when he turned 40, but the timing could not have been better.

With much of the entire sports spectrum reeling in revelations of impropriety, criminal charges and racial utterances, Mickelson has been a rock of public-relations propriety for the PGA Tour for 20 years.

A model citizen whose mold has mostly been broken.

“The image of the players and the image of the game is the strongest thing we have, our biggest asset as an organization,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in Singapore. “Phil has contributed to that in a very, very positive way over two decades.

"He is exactly what you like to see in a player. If everybody conducted themselves like Phil week in and week out, we'd be stronger yet.”

Mickelson has been such a popular figure with fans, we can state this without equivocation – his autograph is as ubiquitous, and virtually valueless as a result of sheer volume, as Arnold Palmer’s, his predecessor as the people’s champ.

In voting that took place this fall, Mickelson was elected through the PGA Tour ballot with 72 percent of vote, the highest percentage a player has received since Greg Norman had 80 percent in '01.

At the time, one voting scribe was mulling leaving Lefty off his ballot because he thought Mickelson was too young for entry at age 41, and that the Hall should not induct any player until age 50. Ridiculous. Why hold Mickelson accountable for the Hall’s cumbersome entry requirements?

He should have been listed on every ballot. Well, unless Rees Jones has a vote. All Mickelson has done is conduct himself on the course just like his generational predecessor, Palmer, who inked more autographs in a day than some players – including certain former world No. 1s – have done in an entire season.

Ever seen Mickelson throw a club?

Ever seen Lefty dog-cuss a rules official, shred his caddie or spit on the putting green?

Go ahead and think about it. The induction ceremony isn’t until May 7. Good luck coming up with an example by then.

Finchem said we should have seen this day coming 20 years ago in Tucson, when Mickelson won a PGA Tour event as a college amateur, with his coach at Arizona State, Steve Loy, on the bag. Loy, now Mickelson’s manager, was at the Barclays Singapore Open for the announcement.

“I think all of us would agree that Phil has been, by all of our estimations, destined to be a part of the Hall of Fame since he was an amateur,” Finchem said.

It has often been pointed out that Mickelson has never topped the world ranking or money list, or been named the PGA Tour player of the year. But this the time to consider what he has accomplished over two decades.

He was a four-time NCAA All-American, won the U.S. Amateur, has won 39 times on the PGA Tour, and has four majors, more than any active player not named Woods. In the community, particularly his hometown of San Diego, it’s become impossible to track his philanthropic associations.

“This is a really special and cool honor,” Mickelson said. “I'm excited to be part of the Hall of Fame that has the names of the greats of the game that I looked up idolizing, and many of them that I've had a chance to compete against early in my career. To be a part of that group is a special feeling.”

Mickelson has gotten himself in some hot water here and there along the way, often by being a bit too outspoken about his peers or courses he doesn’t particularly relish, but in an eras when almost no utterance goes unreported, he’s been a modern-day beacon of integrity. No other eligible player over the past two decades has been more deserving of a first-ballot pass into the Hall, frankly.

“I've really loved these last 20 years of playing and competing, whether it's with the people that I've been able to be in business with, the players I've been able to compete against, the people of the media that we've been able to share the experience, the ups and downs, highs and lows, talking about it,” Mickelson said.

“Sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's not. All those great experiences that have taken place in the last 20 years, it's really been fun, and I'm appreciative of the fact I've been able to play golf for a living, that I've been able to have partnerships with people that I enjoy spending my time with.”

Finchem called Mickelson personally and informed him that he’d topped the vote count. Everybody knew the call was coming, of course. It was even less surprising than former world No. 1 Ernie Els making the Hall on the first ballot last year.

“I think what I really like about being a member of the Hall of Fame is really being a part of that group, part of the players that have made the game great, has grown the game over the years, and the history, being a part of the history of the game, which is so cool,” Mickelson said.

A few years back, fellow scribe Rick Reilly rightly described Phil Mickelson as a Matador in Cleats. Just like Arnie, Mickelson thinks layups are for the basketball court. Whether he drilled it or drowned it, Mickelson's decision-making and execution have been intoxicating to watch. In terms of the most exciting players of the post-war era, he and Tiger Woods are in a class by themselves.

Of course, "class" has many definitions.

The last couple of years have been rough on Mickelson, given his family’s dual fight with cancer and his own issues with arthritis. Mickelson won one tournament in each of the past two seasons and hasn’t contended as often as in years past.

The putts have stopped falling as often, though he still hopes to reach 50 victories and complete the career Grand Slam – he still needs victories at the British and U.S. Opens – among other targets.

“It does make me sound a little bit old,” he said of the enshrinement. “I'm 41; I don't feel old. But I hopefully will be able to play quite a bit longer and compete.”

For the sake of our sports sanity down the road, let’s hope he’s got some horsepower left under the hood. After the past couple of weeks, across the sports spectrum, we can all use more exposure to guys who do it the right way.

Category: Golf
Posted on: November 9, 2011 11:19 am

PGA Tour top-player ballot gets a 'nay' vote

ORLANDO, Fla. – They took another two weeks to flesh out the season and this was the best the PGA Tour could do with regard to its top honor?

After an embarrassing scheduling mistake precipitated the delaying of ballot distribution for the 2011 Player of the Year until this week, the nominees were finally announced Wednesday.

As it turns out, maybe they needed more time.

The ballot lists five candidates and a brief thumbnail bio of each’s 2011 accomplishments. The ballots, mailed this week to tour members and due back by Dec. 9, isn’t notable for what’s included, but rather, what isn’t.

Three players – Steve Stricker, Bubba Watson and Mark Wilson – are not mentioned among those listed on the ballot.

Each of the trio won twice this season. In all, seven players won twice in 2011 on the U.S. tour, and nobody won thrice. Yet, while the threesome was omitted, Bill Haas was included, even though he won only once, against the smallest field of the year.

Haas won the 30-player FedEx Cup finale in Atlanta in a playoff, his lone victory of the season. Presumably, a certain company based in Memphis will be happy.

Sure, the race is realistically a three-horse affair with world No. 1 Luke Donald, major winner Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson, who had a breakout season, but would it have hurt to list all seven of the guys who won twice this season?

The tour said the nominees were determined by the player-members of the tour Policy Board and Player Advisory Council. PAC member Ben Crane said Wednesday that he did not recall specifically discussing the ballot issue.

“I agree that we needed Mark, Bubba and Stricker on there,” Crane said.

The tour can surely afford the paper and postage.

Here’s the full alphabetical listing of nominees and their performance thumbnails as distributed by tour brass Wednesday:

Keegan Bradley
Entered 29 events during the 2011 season featuring playoff victories at the HP Byron Nelson Championship and the PGA Championship.  Four top-10 finishes.  Ranked 20th on the final FedEx Cup points list and 13th on the money list with $3,758,600.

Luke Donald
Entered 19 events during the 2011 season featuring victories at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship and the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.  Led the tour with 14 top-10 finishes including a playoff loss at The Heritage. Ranked third on the final FedEx Cup points list and topped money list with $6,683,214, earning the Arnold Palmer Award. Earned Byron Nelson Award and Vardon Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average.

Bill Haas
Entered 27 events during the 2011 season featuring a victory at the Tour Championship by Coca-Cola that clinched the overall FedEx Cup title. Seven top-10 finishes including playoff losses at the Bob Hope Classic and Greenbrier Classic. Ranked first on the FedEx Cup points list and seventh on money list with $4,088,637.

Webb Simpson
Entered 26 events during the 2011 season, featuring victories at Wyndham Championship and a playoff victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship. Twelve top-10 finishes including playoff losses at the Zurich Classic and The McGladrey Classic. Ranked second on the FedEx Cup points list and second on money list with $6,347,353.

Nick Watney
Entered 23 events during the 2011 season featuring victories at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and the AT&T National. Had a total of 10 top-10 finishes. Ranked ninth on the final FedEx Cup points list and finished third on the money list with $5,290,673.

Category: Golf
Posted on: November 7, 2011 4:33 pm

Slippery slope? Valvoline sticks with Williams

ORLANDO, Fla. -- In addition to being given a free pass by his new boss and the professional game’s disciplinary corps, it appears that Steve Williams’ headline-grabbing statement about Tiger Woods won’t cost him financially, either.

A spokesman for Ashland Inc., the Kentucky-based firm that owns Valvoline and has an endorsement deal with the controversial caddie, said Monday that the company has communicated with Williams and is effectively satisfied with his apology.

Williams, who races cars in his native New Zealand during the offseason, has had an endorsement deal with Valvoline for several years and prominently wears the company logo on his shirt while serving as a caddie on the PGA Tour.

Williams uttered a crude racial remark about former boss Tiger Woods on Friday night at an informal caddie awards banquet in China, prompting inquiries as to whether Valvoline might sever ties, given the blowback.

“This is Steve Williams, his conduct,” Ashland spokesman Jim Vitak said. “We’re not speaking for Steve Williams … He has a contract with us, a legal contract.”

Well, for now, anyway.

“We do periodically review contracts at appropriate points in time,” Vitak added.

The length and terms of the deal are unclear. Vitak gave no indication that the logo on Williams’ shirt will be disappearing anytime soon, either. Williams and his current boss, Adam Scott, will be side by side this week at the Australian Open, where they will be under some heavy scrutiny.

“I don’t get involved with what apparel is worn,” Vitak said. “But yes, he does still have a contract.”

Williams also wears a Titleist hat when on the golf course, the manufacturer of Scott’s clubs, and multiple inquiries to the company’s publicist in Connecticut have gone unanswered.

Williams caddied 13 years for Woods before he was fired by the former world No. 1 in July.

Posted on: November 7, 2011 11:12 am
Edited on: November 7, 2011 11:47 am

Williams explains slur to Kiwis, makes it worse

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Steve Williams was in his comfort zone.

Speaking before members of his fraternity, clearly comfortable that he was among friends, self-assured that he had nothing but allies lending a sympathetic ear.

Sound familiar?

No, we’re not talking about the now-infamous caddie awards banquet on Friday night in China, where Williams offered a racial slur about former boss Tiger Woods that has since become the biggest topic in global golf.

Nope, we’re referencing a radio interview that Williams did with New Zealand talk-shot host Murray Deaker shortly before Sunday’s final round of the World Golf Championships mega-money HSBC Champions event in Shanghai.

Deaker freely professed to being Williams’ “mate” during the broadcast on influential Newstalk ZB in Auckland, and went out of his way to give his countryman every chance to explain away his comments at the raucous caddie dinner, where Williams received an award and used the term “black arse----” in reference to part of Woods’ anatomy.

Despite offering an apology on his website the day after his Woods quote came to light in several international publications, Williams seemed anything but contrite in the radio interview. At ease and clearly comfortable while speaking to a familiar audience in New Zealand’s most populated city, Williams was downright dismissive of the reaction his comments have caused.

Deaker began the interview by offering an olive branch, if not a get-out-of-jail-free card, to Williams by excusing the comments since they were uttered at a caddie function where hilarity was the order of the day.

Said Deaker: “I wonder if we understand the environment where the Steve Williams comments were passed. It was a caddies’ function …. I think a caddies' function would be somewhat different, than suddenly what you have to say there appearing, stark, in newspapers around the world, and front pages at that.”

Williams, speaking from Shanghai, attempted to set the context of the scene in a posh Shanghai hotel, where his verbal bomb went off.

“It’s an annual thing they have at the HSBC championship here in Shanghai, an annual caddie awards ceremony,” Williams said by phone. “It’s strictly for caddies only. Of course, some of the media invite themselves along. It’s kind of like a locker-room environment, everyone was having a good time. My comments were by no means the worst comments that were passed – there was a lot of profanity and other kinds of remarks.

“Just because I make a remark regarding my former employee (sic), it gets blown way out of proportion. You know, it’s absolutely ridiculous.”

Deaker cited a report in a prominent U.K. paper, the Daily Mail, which stated that several jaws dropped in the banquet room when Williams offered the slur. Williams said quite the opposite was true.

“No,” Williams said. “It’s incredible when you are actually there and at something, and you can even perceive that when you watch a game of rugby and are there and watch it and you read in the paper the difference of opinion between you watching and a reporter viewing it.

“It’s the same thing. It was a fun sort of thing and everyone laughed their heads off. So what you read is absolutely ridiculous.”

Everyone laughed their heads off? Interestingly, a couple of caddies wasted no time in communicating their thoughts about Williams to scribes staying in Shanghai, though few spoke for attribution.

Deaker, clearly intent on helping Williams clean up his mess, suggested that stories quoting anonymous caddies had been completely fabricated by the print media. One caddie who was not identified was quoted in a story as saying of Williams, “We knew he was an idiot, but we didn’t know he was a racist idiot.”

“Murray, you make one comment like that in a room having a bit of fun, how does that make you a racist?” Williams said. “We live in a country that is multi-cultural society and we owe a hell of a lot of our ancestry and tradition and culture in New Zealand to a lot of the Polynesian communities and that. I don’t think you can say anyone in New Zealand is a racist.

“We live in the Maori culture, which is a great culture, along with a lot of island people. New Zealanders in no way, I don’t think any New Zealander, is racist. That’s so far off beat it’s a joke.”

Speaking of jokes, that’s what Williams says his crack about Woods was intended to be. He said defensively that other humor of the night and said he had no idea that he had stepped on his tongue publicly yet again.

“I wasn’t the first person up on stage and having listened to some of the profanity that was used and coming from some of the players that were in attendance as well, and then listening to the HSCB spokesperson who got up and made a speech, and listened to some of his comments that were very funny but way worse than mine -- no one mentioned anything about what he had to say.

“I didn’t give it one thought, to be honest with you.”

Well, certainly not beforehand, anyway. Sort of makes his apology ring hollow, no?

Given the banquet’s rowdy nature, Deaker asked why this had happened to Williams.

“I think, obviously, having worked for my former employee (sic), anything that’s linked to him – and of course I worked for him for a substantial amount of time – any sort of controversy that somebody can make up, I think that’s the sort they love to do.

“Like I said, it is absolutely making a mountain hill out of a mole hole. I am not worried about it one bit.”

Sounds like he’s really learned a lesson, huh?

The PGA and European tours on Sunday jointly declined to sanction Williams over his comments, though it's within their purview to do so. Williams' new boss, Adam Scott, reiterated Sunday that he will not bench Williams and the pair are set to team up at three big events in Scott's native Australia over the next month, including the Australian Open and Presidents Cup matches over the next two weeks.

Category: Golf
Posted on: November 6, 2011 2:16 pm

Finchem downright preachy in 2008 race mess

Something about throwing rocks and glass houses comes to mind.

After the HSBC Champions event concluded in Shanghai on Sunday night, the commissioners of the PGA and European tours offered a joint statement about the perceived racial slur that had been directed at Tiger Woods by his former caddie, Steve Williams.

Considering the game's often shameful racial history, Williams' comment became a global issue within hours, though it took two days for the tours to muster up any comment.

It was not worth the wait.

“The International Federation of PGA Tours feels strongly there is no place for any form of racism in ours or any other sport,” the statement said. “We consider the remarks of Steve Williams, as reported, entirely unacceptable in whatever context.

"We are aware that he has apologized fully and we trust we will not hear such remarks ever again. Based on this, we consider the matter closed, and we will have no further comment.”

How hollow are those words, which weren't even attributed to a particular individual? Decide for yourself.

The PGA Tour is empowered to sanction caddies, but in this case the Ponte Vedra brass elected to stand back and take no action beyond issuing a weak tongue-lashing delivered to media via email and fax machine.

Yet in 2008, when the Golf Channel and Golfweek magazine became jointly embroiled in a similar racially tinged issue after a network employee bungled an attempt at humor on the air about Woods that included the phrase, "lynch him in a back alley," the tour ultimately seized on the moment.

After Golfweek published a cover shot of a hangman's noose in an attempt to underscore the jarring imagery of the network's words, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem accused the magazine of tabloid journalism.

"We consider Golfweek's imagery of a swinging noose on its cover to be outrageous and irresponsible," Finchem said. "It smacks of tabloid journalism. It was a naked attempt to inflame and keep alive an incident that was heading to an appropriate conclusion."

Appropriate in his mind, anyway. Yet when presented three years later with the opportunity to sanction a de facto employee for a similar verbal offense -- again, the tour has the power to discipline caddies even though they are not payroll employees -- Finchem did what he has always done.

Absolutely nada.

When it comes to patrolling his own backyard, or the neighbords in which the tour has business interests, is it possible there is a pattern emerging here?

Whereas in 2008, Finchem defend the on-air personality who uttered the "lynching" statement -- like the Williams comment, it was intended to be light-hearted but missed by an acre or four. Then he pulled no punches regarding the magazine cover published the following week.

The tour already had a multi-year contract in place with the Golf Channel and also had a deal with Golf Digest, which publishes GolfWorld, a competing weekly to Golfweek. Surely, it was just a coincidence.

"We have partnerships with a lot of media companies," tour communications chief Ty Votaw said at the time. "This was an editorial decision that Tim was expressing an opinion about. I don't think anyone should read anything else into it. It was simply a reaction to the image on the cover."

When it comes to reacting to disturbing images created by the words of those inside his own gallery ropes, different standards apply.

Posted on: November 6, 2011 10:33 am
Edited on: November 6, 2011 10:40 am

World tours pay lip service to Williams slur

What, you were expecting swift justice, some semblance of accountability, or at least a measure of transparency?

Slow learners, we are.

Sunday night in Shanghai, after the big-money HSBC Champions event concluded, the commissioners of the PGA and European tours offered a joint statement about the weekend’s other hot-button matter, the perceived racial slur uttered at an off-site banquet Friday night by controversial caddie Steve Williams.

In at apparent attempt at humor at the off-color awards banquet, the longtime bagman of Tiger Woods described his over-the-top celebration after new boss Adam Scott won in August as an attempt to “shove it up his black arse----.”

Williams was denigrating about Woods, his boss for parts of 13 years until he was sacked at midsummer, leaving the caddie feeling bitter and betrayed.

Given the game’s history as it relates to racial issues -- Woods is the lone player of African-American blood with exempt status in 2012 -- the condemnation was swift from all corners of the globe. However, it took two days for the tours to offer any formal comment, and when the wrist-slap was issued, it implied that zero punitive measures were taken.

The PGA Tour is empowered to sanction caddies, but implied that no action had been taken, other than to toss out a few late, hollow words.

“The International Federation of PGA Tours feels strongly there is no place for any form of racism in ours or any other sport,” the statement began.

Just not strongly enough to offer any sanction, apparently.

“We consider the remarks of Steve Williams, as reported, entirely unacceptable in whatever context,” the statement said. “We are aware that he has apologized fully and we trust we will not hear such remarks ever again. Based on this, we consider the matter closed, and we will have no further comment.”

This clears a path for Williams to caddie for Aussie-born Scott at the Australian Open later this week and next week at the Presidents Cup matches, where Williams, a New Zealander, will be a sideshow to the story – Woods is playing in both events.

Just another reminder that when it comes to discipline, the sport is long on talk and short on corrective action, especially the U.S. tour. John Daly had an inches-thick disciplinary file that was released in 2010 as part of a lawsuit, and it was learned that despite more suspensions and sanctions than any player in tour history, he had been fined approximately $100,000.

Faced with yet another chance to do the right thing, the professional game’s top officials did what they have done best for years – talked the talk, but skipped the walk.

Williams will get off Scott-free with the new boss, pardon the pun gymnastics. The world's No. 8 player said after his final round at HSBC that he would not suspend Williams for the Aussie Open or Presidents Cup matches and refused to be dragged further into the afffair.

That decision was ar least as disappointing as the non-action taken by the professional tours, given Scott's sterling reputation as a classy player who has rarely, it ever, made such a perceived public misstep. Bluntly asked if the tours were condoning racism by failing to take action -- a charge that could rightly be leveled at Scott himself -- the player blanched.

"Look, I don't [think] digging for a story out of me on this is a good idea," he told reporters.

Posted on: November 5, 2011 11:49 am
Edited on: November 5, 2011 2:00 pm

Grate Scott: Williams drags Aussie into new mess

The incredible paradox of their personalities would be funny if it weren’t so outrageous, not to mention increasingly uncomfortable.

Australian star Adam Scott, universally regarded as one of the classiest acts in the game, employs a caddie who has come to be defined by his arrogance, ego, venom and vitriol.

At least, he employs him for now.

Again dragged into the mud by caddie Steve Williams’ crass remarks about former boss Tiger Woods, Scott is faced with a decision as the most important fortnight of his year approaches.

Over the next two weeks, with the eyes of his countrymen focused on him, Scott will play in the Australian Open and Presidents Cup. In both instances, there’s a decent chance he will be paired with Woods, who used Williams as his caddie from 1999 to 2011, which included wins in 13 major championships.

To muster some Stevie-style lingo here, Scott will be accompanied by a caddie who has turned from an asset into an ass, not to mention a growing liability.
In the midst of rebuilding his career, Scott, 31, once again has been rendered as collateral damage as the caddie continues to lash out at his former boss, whom he first savaged in mid-August after Scott won the Bridgestone Invitational with Woods in the field.

On Friday night in Shanghai, at a tongue-in-cheek awards ceremony for caddies that was supposed to be an off-the-record affair, Williams was presented with a mock “best caddie celebration” award for his post-Bridgestone diatribe regarding Woods.

Williams told the audience in Shanghai, “My aim was to shove it right up that black arse----.”

Time to shove off, Stevie. Frankly, Scott’s next exchange with Williams at the HSBC on Saturday should be: “What’s the yardage to the clubhouse from here? Good. Start walking, mate.”

In fact, the PGA and European tours ought to bench Williams for the rest of the year, at minimum. The tours have the authority, and pejorative comments offered before a room packed with dozens of guests, including a handful of players, have no place in a sport with such an abysmal record on race.

Williams’ comments first saw light when a caddie in attendance recounted to writers from a couple of U.K. publications who were not present. The rollicking awards event was held at the upscale Le Meridien Sheshan hotel.

Hours later, Williams began to understand the impact of his comments and posted an apology on his website, including this passage: "I now realize how my comments could be construed as racist."

How could they not be? According to reports, several in the hotel ballroom collectively gasped at Williams' failed attempt at humor. However you feel about Woods, that comment is so far out of line, it’s not close to funny.

For years, Williams has displayed as much finesse as one of those thunderous Australian road trains. This is hardly a first offense, is it? Three years ago, again speaking publicly and too clueless to understand that the world population is armed with camera phones, Williams ripped longtime Woods rival Phil Mickelson and said, “I hate the p----.”

As ever, PGA Tour communications chief Ty Votaw on Saturday offered no illumination relating to possible pending disciplinary action: “We will have no comment publicly on this matter. The tour does have the ability to discipline caddies of its members.”

Later Saturday, Votaw followed up thusly, implying some action might be forthcoming: "By the way, the fact that we don't have a comment on this at this time, that does not mean we will not have one in the future. Just wanted to make that clarification."

Scott shouldn't wait for the tour to do his dirty work for him.

So far, the world No. 8 said he is satisfied with Williams’ apology and had no plans to fire him, but he might want to reconsider when the issue comes up, again and again, over the next couple of weeks in Australia.

"Steve issued a statement and apologized and did the right thing," Scott told reporters. "That's all there is to say about that from my side of things. I disagree that he should be sacked. I think everything in that room last night was all in good spirits and bit of fun and I think it probably got taken out of that room in the wrong context."

That's hugely disappointing. You can bet he'll hear about it soon enough from along the gallery ropes, too. It would already have been uncomfortable enough playing alongside Woods, given the back story. Aussie Open officials are expected to formally release pairings Tuesday, but many believed even before Williams’s off-color comment in China that a Woods-Scott dance card is a no-brainer that will boost ticket sales and interest.

Well, with Williams in tow for the walk, no-brainer is the perfect term. If the caddie mantra is “show up, keep up, shut up,” he’s only got a rudimentary grasp of the last part. This is one pit bull who needs a muzzle.

Williams obviously remains bitter about the way he was sacked four months ago after spending months waiting for the fading former world No. 1 to clean up his personal life. He’s got a point. After all those wins, most believe that Williams deserved better from Woods.

But the way the caddie has handled himself has turned him from a sympathetic figure into a megalomaniacal, classless jerk.

In the immediate aftermath, he told a Kiwi news outlet: “You could say I’ve wasted the last two years of my life. I’ve stuck with Tiger and been incredibly loyal. I’m not disappointed I’ve been fired – that’s part of the job – but the timing is extraordinary.

“I, along with a lot of people, lost a lot of respect for Tiger and I pointed out before his return at the Masters in 2010 that he had to earn back my respect. Through time I hope he can gain my respect back.”

Fair enough. Then he offered an opera-singer solo – warbling an a cappella string of me, me, me -- on CBS after Scott won at Bridgestone, and continued for another 10 minutes off camera, affectively calling Woods a liar and disputing the player’s characterization of how the firing was handled.

A week after Scott won at Bridgestone, revitalizing his career, Williams was half-jokingly asked after the first round of the PGA Championship if he had anything more to say.

Bag slung over his shoulder as Scott signed his scorecard inside the recorder’s office, he never stopped walking, but couldn’t resist taking another shot as he ambled away.

“At least somebody around here would be telling the truth,” Williams said, a remark clearly aimed at the Woods camp.

The truth here?

Unless he does something quickly, the utterly blameless Scott seems sure to suffer the consequences of Williams’ racially tinged comments, too.

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