Caddy Steve Williams has broken his silence for the first time since the Tiger Woods sex scandal, revealing his former boss also had a bad temper, threw clubs and would spit at the hole if he missed a putt.
In his tell-all book Out of the Rough, written with Auckland journalist Michael Donaldson, Williams says both Woods and his manager Mark Steinberg cut off all communication with him for four months after news of Woods’ affair with Rachel Uchitel broke. Williams claims he and his family were harassed by media and members of the public by association because Steinberg refused to put out a statement clearing him of any involvement in the scandal.
Williams caddied for Woods for 13 years winning 13 major championships together and attending each other’s weddings before their high profile split in 2011. Their wives Kirsty and Elin were close with Kirsty revealing in the book the anger and blame directed at her husband.
EXTRACT: Out of the Rough, by Steve Williams and Michael Donaldson
I knocked on Tiger’s hotel room door as arranged.
It was Sunday, November 15, 2009 and we were in Melbourne. I was calling by to collect his gear ahead of the final round of the Australian Masters at Kingston Heath.
Whenever I stayed at the same hotel as Tiger, he would usually give me a key to his room and I’d let myself in to pick up his golf bag. On this trip, however, he brought a couple of old mates with him and I wasn’t given a key. So during the week, I’d normally knock on the door and walk in. But this Sunday morning the door was locked and my repeated knocks got no response.
‘Maybe he’s in the shower or on the phone,’ I thought, and waited a few minutes before knocking again. Still no answer.
After I’d been there 10 minutes I thought, ‘This is getting weird. There’s a chance we’ll be late to the golf course.’ Tiger was normally so punctual, I figured something must have changed his routine and wondered if he’d already gone downstairs without me.
I rang security to see if he was waiting for me in the lobby. ‘No, he’s not here,’ they said. ‘We’re waiting for you – you’re late.’
Finally, after 15 minutes – which for Tiger is like being an hour late – the door opened and I immediately knew something was different. He had friends there but they were dressed as if they’d recently come in from a night on the town. Tiger had a suite with a number of bedrooms and there was more than enough room for them all to stay, but I thought it was odd that they’d elected to go out all night and then disturb Tiger in the early hours of the morning when he was due to play the final round of a tournament.
Tiger looked the same – I didn’t notice anything unusual about him – except he wasn’t ready to play golf and seemed a bit preoccupied. He told me there’d been a change of plan and he was packing up all his gear now and would be going straight to the airport from the golf course in a helicopter without calling back to the hotel to shower and change.
Again, I thought, ‘This is strange,’ but by now everything was starting to seem a bit weird. And besides, we were running late. It was the first time in 10 years that Tiger had played in Australia. There was a huge amount of anticipation about it and I was excited he was getting a chance to play at Kingston Heath, which I think is one of the best golf courses in the world. Architecturally, it is superb. The weather was perfect, the course was perfect, Tiger played impeccably and I had a great time. There were heaps of New Zealanders in the crowd, too – I kept hearing them yell out ‘kia ora’ wherever I went.
In many ways, I got as much of a buzz from this tournament as from winning a major – I’d caddied a lot in Melbourne, knew my way around the place, and had spent a lot of time there when I was getting set up as a young caddie. Next to having Tiger come to Paraparaumu, it was the closest thing to being at home. I was delighted Tiger was able to win the tournament and pick up the gaudy gold coat that is the Aussie answer to Augusta’s green jacket.
But the joy of winning dissipated in the strangest fashion. No sooner had Tiger fulfilled his media obligations than he fled to the airport in a chopper, leaving me to head back to the hotel on my own. As I was driving, I got a text from Mark Steinberg which read, ‘There is a story coming out tomorrow. Absolutely no truth to it. Don’t speak to anybody.’
In the back of my mind, one thought often replayed, over and over, without an answer: What did Tiger do with himself to get rid of the stress that built up in his life? He loved the gym work and, before he got injured, the Navy Seals training. I figured that addiction to the gym was where he got rid of many of his frustrations. And when I say addiction, I mean just that: year by year he got more and more hooked on working out.
When you live so intensely in the public eye, you surely have to have something else away from the spotlight that gives you pleasure – and it turns out I was wrong about the gym. The one question I’m now regularly landed with is: How could you not know about Tiger’s multitude of mistresses? It’s a valid question – it’s one I would ask myself if a scandal of Tiger-like proportions happened to another caddy’s boss. How could I spend so much time with him and not have an inkling this was going on? The answer, in a roundabout way, is that Elin didn’t know either. Only a handful of his oldest buddies actually had any idea this was going on. I didn’t know because Tiger didn’t dare tell me. We had such a strong bond and working relationship that there was no way he could let me in on what was happening – he knew my values and that I would have zero tolerance for that kind of behaviour. I would have told him straight away that I condemned that kind of activity and, unless he stopped, there would be no conversation – that would be the end of us.
On top of that, Kirsty and Elin had become close friends and Tiger would have been aware of that as well. When [Tiger’s manager] Mark Steinberg sent me that text following the Australian Masters, I had no idea what to expect. When I first got back to New Zealand, there was nothing going on.
The story being chased by the National Enquirer about an alleged affair with Rachel Uchitel – who had been with him in Melbourne – was still developing. Steinberg’s warning to say nothing wasn’t a problem because no one was asking.
That all changed once Tiger slow-crashed his SUV into the fire hydrant just outside his house on Thanksgiving night. He was fleeing an angry Elin, while dosed up on sleeping tablets, after she discovered he had been cheating on her. Before long, my phone wouldn’t stop ringing.
I distinctly remember what I was doing when I heard he’d been involved in an accident – I was in a paddock slashing the grass and listening to the radio through headphones. I knew only what everyone else knew at that stage: that Tiger Woods had been involved in a car accident close to his home but the details were sketchy.
Any story involving Tiger got blown out of proportion, so I was happy to wait for more details. When later reports said there were no serious injuries, I relaxed and waited to hear from him. Tiger and I had been regular communicators and I figured he would contact me soon enough. A few days later, in late November, he emailed to say that he was in a spot of bother and would be in touch. I didn’t hear from him again for four months.
Every other bugger was calling me, though. The media were incredibly disrespectful with constant calls asking for information. There was no let-up. I got frustrated over that period – the media feeding frenzy was relentless. It seemed like each new day broke with another story about Tiger and in response to these daily revelations someone would want me to comment.
I was angry at him for what he’d done – especially what he’d done to Elin – but regardless of the morality of the matter, he was still a friend in trouble and I was going to stick by him. I did that even though people were accusing me of being an enabler, an accomplice, saying I was lying when I stated clearly that I knew nothing about this. For months on end, my life was absolutely miserable.
People in my local community would front up to me at the shops and call me a liar to my face, and ask, ‘What are you doing with him?’
That summer I won the national saloon car title and the next time I raced at my home track there was a grand parade of champions, which I led out. I was sitting on the roof of my car with Jett beside me, holding the trophy – and all I could hear were boos. Jett turned to me and asked, ‘Why are these people booing you Dad?’ He was five years old and it was impossible to explain to him why it was happening – it was embarrassing and humiliating.
Even when Jett returned to school at the end of the summer he’d come home and ask, ‘Why do people say you’re bad?’ It wasn’t easy for Kirsty, either.
I repeatedly asked for Tiger’s management to release a statement that would clear me of any involvement in this lurid news. They simply wouldn’t do it because there were others in his group who knew exactly what was going on, and management felt they couldn’t single out one person as innocent. Angry, frustrated and hung out to dry, I was also in limbo about when I would next work. Tiger had taken an indefinite break from golf and I had no idea when he’d be back – or if I’d be working for him again. Quitting wasn’t an option as I felt incredibly loyal to Tiger – this was the toughest time of his life and I wasn’t going to ditch him. The uncertainty came from the total lack of communication from Tiger’s team. It didn’t bother me that he hadn’t said anything because he had told me he’d be in touch when he was ready – though admittedly that was an email and I’d rather have had a phone call. But I think Mark Steinberg or one of his lackeys could have been more forthcoming and more understanding of my situation. All I got was silence.
At one stage, one of the many women who claimed to be a mistress said she’d met me when I was with Tiger in Las Vegas – that got broadcast on radio in New Zealand and picked up in the papers. It was despicable reporting. I was giving my side of the story but no one seemed to care and comments like that from some bimbo on the other side of the world trying to get her 15 minutes of fame made me look like a fool. I begged Tiger’s team to say something in my defence, but they wouldn’t.
We took a family holiday to Australia’s Gold Coast in February, staying in an apartment right on the beach. One morning, Jett and I walked down to the beach for a swim – I was in my board shorts only, no T-shirt. Suddenly, there’s a reporter and photographer there wanting a comment on the televised statement Tiger was about to give. That’s how far this media machine was prepared to go – we couldn’t even take off to Australia on holiday without being hounded by the press.
I couldn’t say anything. I had no idea what he was going to say that day anyway. The next day there’s a shot of me in the paper running across the road without a shirt on – and people wonder why I would get upset.
I didn’t see the need for Tiger to make that televised statement – I didn’t think a public apology was warranted. Yes, he needed to apologise to the people closest to him – his family and friends, me, Kirsty, his sponsors – but to hold an internationally televised press conference to say sorry to the world? That was way over the top. It was a peculiar thing to watch too, as he was so awkward in his delivery and choice of words. I turned off the TV thinking, ‘That’s not the Tiger I know.’ It was heavily scripted with nothing natural about it. It would have been more appealing to me, to his fans, to the other players, if he had spilled his heart out honestly. I’ve never asked him but I’m positive this was not his idea – it was obvious to those who knew him that it was not something he would choose to do.
That statement was also made while the World Match Play Championship was on, prompting many players to criticise Tiger and his team for showing no respect to his fellow professionals. Ernie Els, an elder statesman on the tour and someone who held Tiger in high regard, called him selfish to make his statement on a Friday while the tournament was on.
‘I feel sorry for the sponsor. Mondays are a good day to make statements, not Friday. This takes a lot away from the golf tournament,’ Ernie later said. Others thought the whole thing was a payback to Accenture, which sponsored the tournament but was one of the first companies to ditch its personal sponsorship of Tiger. ‘That was the first thing we all thought of, like he is sticking it to Accenture – and that the PGA Tour is part of it all,’ said another player, making reference to the fact that Tiger was allowed to make his statement at the PGA Tour’s headquarters. I think these pros had a right to be upset – that statement didn’t need to be made during a tournament, let alone an important one like a World Golf Championship event. There was no doubt a better time to hold that broadcast. Anyone who made such a comment was justified. I don’t think anybody thought it was the right time to be doing it.
There was still no indication as to when he’d come back to golf and I had to make up my own mind, as no one from his company gave me any clue as to what was happening. Knowing Tiger and knowing how much he loved Augusta, I didn’t think he’d skip that tournament but I had no idea if he was practising or not. It was only at the 11th hour that I found out he was playing.
Tiger finally rang me on March 23. He had already sent me an apologetic email when he was in rehab. It was heartfelt and meaningful; he was open, honest and remorseful and it reinforced my thinking that because I was so straight up and had such strong values, he felt he couldn’t tell me what was going on with his affairs.
It was good to actually hear his voice over the phone. I told him I was sorry to hear what he’d been going through and he was again apologetic to me. I didn’t have any sympathy for him over what he’d done. I believe you’re in charge of your own actions and I have no sympathy for people who get addicted to drugs or gambling or sex. People make choices in their lives and he had chosen to do this. But I did have sympathy for the way he’d had to suffer in front of the world when others would have been able to sort out their mess in private. I also told him that before I came back to work we had to sit down and have a long chat as there were some home truths I needed to say face to face. There was no question in my mind that our relationship – and his relationship with the game of golf – was going to be different when we got back together for the Masters in two weeks’ time.
After we chatted he immediately phoned Kirsty and apologised to her as well. While Kirsty wanted to give him a piece of her mind, she was appreciative of the fact he’d at least made an effort.
Through this period, there was one person who was incredibly helpful to me – former All Blacks rugby coach Laurie Mains. Laurie was one of those people I’d met along the way – he’s a big golf fan, was a big Tiger fan – and we had struck up a friendship. He’d had experience dealing with rugby players who had been in sticky situations and was a great person to talk to about what was going on. When I told him I wanted to have it out with Tiger face to face, he advised me to list the gripes I needed to get off my chest and not to leave the table until I’d said every word I’d written down.
The list was long – there was a lot I needed to say and it was going to be difficult to tell my boss he had to pull his head in. But I’d done it before and I would do it again before I retired. I explained to him what had happened in New Zealand and how furious I was at being dragged through the wringer over a scandal I had nothing to do with. He needed to know how difficult that was for me and my family.
I told him it was something that could have been avoided and how bitterly disappointed I was at his people for their total lack of communication and unwillingness to put out a statement saying I had nothing to do with it. I was adamant that some of his behaviour on the course had to change. He was well known for his bad temper and, while that wasn’t pleasant to witness, you could live with it because it ended as quickly as it started. But he had other bad habits that upset me. I wanted him to prove to me he could change his behaviour and show me – and the game of golf – more respect.
One thing that really pissed me off was how he would flippantly toss a club in the general direction of the bag, expecting me to go over and pick it up. I felt uneasy about bending down to pick up his discarded club – it was like I was his slave. The other thing that disgusted me was his habit of spitting at the hole if he missed a putt. Tiger listened to what I had to say, the air was cleared and we got on with it – his goal was to be the best player in history and my goal was to keep working as best I could to help make that happen.
STEVE’S WIFE KIRSTY:
There was a lot of anger and blame directed at Steve. A lot of people thought he was doing it too and that he and Tiger were going out together – it was a difficult time but I never doubted Steve and neither did Elin. Both Elin and I understood that Tiger knew very well that Steve was the kind of guy who would have told Elin about his cheating, had he known.
While I appreciated that it would have been hard for Tiger, I didn’t thank him for the phone call. Elin was and is a very good friend. I told him how upset I was about what he had done to Elin and the children, and then asked him to clear Steve’s name in the media, as we were still getting a lot of hate mail and the media were still hassling us. When he told me he couldn’t, I asked why not, and he told me that if he cleared Steve’s name, the media would start asking if anyone else knew, and they did, so basically he was covering their butts and letting Steve suffer.
* Out Of The Rough is on sale on Monday.
– Sunday Star Times