Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why can't Tiger Woods/caddie Williams

say SORRY to Phil Mickelson?

So, peace has broken out in California between Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Steve Williams, Woods's caddie. Golf's big two players have communicated with one another and Woods was obviously trying to make amends for the rude remarks Williams had made about Mickelson a few days earlier. Woods has spoken to Williams, who is in New Zealand, too, and confirmed that Williams will remain as his caddie next year.
"I have communicated with Phil. We have discussed it. We all regret it. It's over and done with" Woods said on the eve of the Chevron World Challenge, a tournament that raises money for the Tiger Woods Foundation that he has hosted for the past ten years. Woods is not playing in this event this year for the first time because he is recovering from surgery to his left knee.
But is this the end of the affair? I do not think so. How will Mickelson feel the next time he sees Williams? What will Williams say when the two meet? How will all three men behave when Woods is paired with Mickelson in a forthcoming tournament as he surely will be? How does Mickelson feel now, for that matter?
There are many things Woods can ordain. He can win the US Open on one or one and a half legs while concealing to the world at large just how bad his injured left leg was. He can win 13 other major championships. He can will putts into the hole. He can hole outrageous chips and sink long curling putts. But can he cause this furore to die down?
Mickelson has come out of this story with his image enhanced. He made a courteous response to Williams's comments, praising his own caddie and thereby implying that all the things Jim McKay was, Steve Williams wasn't. It might have been better still if he had maintained silence but since he decided to respond he did so with dignity.
Woods, on the other hand, has not come out of this well. He has communicated (note not spoken. Did he do it by fax or letter?) to Mickelson, which is the least he should have done. But he gives little impression of being annoyed by Williams's comments. Even his statement was notably non-censorious of his caddie. He used the words "disappointed" and "inappropriate" but that is all.
Williams may feel that he was let down when remarks he thought were made at a private function were reported in a New Zealand newspaper. He should know better. The second or third highest earning sportsman in New Zealand, he is a public figure and these days such people are fair game. And if he is going to tell stories then he might get his facts right. The player in question in that story about the 16th hole at the US Open was not Mickelson but Colin Montgomerie and it had happened in the 2002 US Open not the 2008 event.
A puzzling aspect of this episode is the reluctance by Woods and Williams to say sorry. What is so difficult about saying that five-letter word. We would have thought more of Woods and Williams if one or both had apologised or shown rather more contrition or indeed any contrition. Then the issue might have been put to bed.
Now it won't be. Instead the impression is left that Williams was merely articulating something that he and Woods believe in and probably laugh about a lot when they are together on one of their runs or on a practice round.
This may well be the case but Woods should not allow that impression to become widespread. Williams behaved like an oik and Woods was not much better. He is not demonstrating manners that are becoming of the world number one



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