Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are in contention for the WGC-HSBC Champions but that’s not going to push Steve Williams off the back pages with the furore over his insulting remarks about ex-employer Tiger Woods unlikely to die down anytime soon.
In case you missed it, Williams was given an “award” by his fellow caddies for “Celebration of the Year” for his attention-grabbing performance at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August, where his new employer Adam Scott brilliantly won the title.
After punching the air as Scott holed his final putt, Williams later justified his celebration as a natural reaction to what was the “greatest victory of my career”, completely overshadowing the golfer’s apparently minor role in “his” victory. Of course, Williams was still hurt about being sacked by Woods a few weeks previously and felt he had to make a point.
If that wasn’t jaw-droppingly stupid enough, Williams dug his own grave at the “fun” annual awards ceremony the caddies hold during the HSBC Champions. Asked why he’d acted in such as over the top manner in Akron, Williams said: “I wanted to shove it up that black arsehole.”
Accused of a racial slur, it’s likely that not even the great fictional defence lawyer, John Wilkes would be capable of extricating Williams from this scrape.
If you haven’t read “Wilkes: His Life and Crimes” by William Schoonover, I cannot recommend it highly enough. My favourite extract concerns the occasion when Wilkes was held in contempt by his nemesis, the Honorable Justice Joseph P. Blugeot, for calling him “a racist honky motherf****r.” He got away with it in the end but not because he used the age old defence in defamation cases and proved that his statement was true.
Getting back to real life, it appears that Williams might escape official censure for his remarks. Neither his employer (Scott) nor anyone in the golfing establishment appears willing to condemn him. In fact, Scott defended him, believing Williams’ comments were simply unfortunate and taken out of context.
“Everything in that room last night was all in good spirits and a bit of fun, probably taken out of that room in the wrong context,” Scott said after shooting a third-round 69 that left him just three shots behind leader Freddy Jacobson in the WGC-HSBC Champions. “Look, anything with Tiger involved is a story. I value Steve’s contributions to my game and having him on the bag.”
When asked if Williams should be fired, Scott said: “I disagree with that.”
Rory McIlroy is threatening to win for the second week in a row in Shanghai after a third round 65 left him just four shots behind Jacobson (67) on 12 under par. The Swede leads by two strokes from Louis Oosthuizen with Scott, despite all the furore, a shot further back in third.
McIlroy is tied for fourth with his ex-Twitter friend Lee Westwood. They pair will play together on Sunday in a Sunday threeball completed McIlroy’s new Horizon stablemate Graeme McDowell, who is well used to their “jokes with jabs.”
This time, there is a lot at stake between Westwood and McIlroy - the world No 2 ranking. If McIlroy is second alone and Westwood doesn’t win, McIlroy goes to Number 2.
No wonder he was delighted with his golf. However, McIlroy had no desire whatsoever to get involved in the Williams case. He is, after all, under new management and being careful to saying nothing contentious whatsoever:
“I mean, it’s just unfortunate that there’s been such an argument between a player and a caddie. I’ve heard that since then, Stevie has apologised for his comments, and I think now that he’s done that, everyone can just move on and sort of put it behind them.”
Despite his weekend rounds of 81 and 82 at Valderrama last week, McDowell has made a remarkable return to form in Shanghai with a couple of 69s with a 67 leaving him five behind in joint sixth .
But the 32-year old Portrush native, who was present when Williams spoke, doubts the Kiwi meant to be racist towards Woods.
“The comments were surprising, yes,” McDowell said. “I’m aware that he’s released a statement this morning apologising. I would doubt severely if he meant it racially like it came over and, you know, hopefully his apology will in some shape or form settle the matter.
“We don’t want something made out of nothing. It was a fun night and we really hope that it doesn’t become too big of an issue. These are racially sensitive times, especially in sport. It’s unfortunate because it was a very sticky situation.
“I kind of feel bad for him in many ways because, like I say, it was a very humorous evening and it’s unfortunate that it’s come out as negatively as it did. I don’t think Stevie Williams was trying to be racial. I don’t think it was a racial comment. I think he was trying to be funny and make a joke of it.
“It was an embarrassing situation that he was put in. He was up in front of his peers and colleagues and it came out wrong.”
In the midst of all this unpleasantness, a golf tournament has broken out. Unless the Scott-Williams partnership wins, the winner will be quickly forgotten.