Sunday, November 06, 2011


It fell to Fred Couples to shatter the silence that condemned golf in the wake of the Steve Williams race row.
Prior to Sunday's statement from tour chiefs Tim Finchem and George O’Grady, describing Williams’ racial slur against Tiger Woods as “completely unacceptable”, the game’s authorities had lasted almost 48 hours saying precisely nothing.
Even when the announcement came, it was to confirm that Williams had escaped without sanction for his contemptible remark.
So how refreshing it was that Couples, Tiger Woods’ American team captain for next week’s President’s Cup in Melbourne, had the guts to declare that the Kiwi should be sacked.
“If that was Joe LaCava he wouldn’t be caddying for me today,” the former Masters champion said.
LaCava happens to be Couples’ former caddie — and the man now working for Woods. Couples argued: “If a caddie has that kind of anger for a pretty good guy, I don’t want him around me.”
It was hard not to feel that golf had regressed due to the supine stance of its executives. True, the moral indignation was ratcheted up a notch, as Finchem and O’Grady professed a desire not to see Williams’ comments repeated “ever again”, but they failed to match the strength of their words in deeds.
Thus, they allowed a perception to be perpetuated of golf as a sport where racism could go unpunished.
They could hardly have complained about a lack of evidence in the Williams case. This was not comparable to the racial disputes convulsing football; this was cut and dried. Unlike the controversy engulfing John Terry and Anton Ferdinand, there could be no disagreement over what had been said.
And unlike the row between Patrice Evra and Luis Suárez, there was no cause for lingering over semantics. The New Zealander, pictured right, had uttered the term “that black a--------” in front of almost 200 players, fellow caddies, sponsors and officials at an awards ceremony. Not much need for lip-reading there.
But here in Shanghai there has remained an impulse within the golfing fraternity to find mitigation for Williams. Graeme McDowell said he “felt a little sorry” for the Kiwi.
Even the compere of the awards night, who shared a stage with Williams that fateful Friday evening, has suggested that the caddie’s comment seemed less like the expression of an overt racist than a gauche and clumsy intervention by a man lacking social grace.
Williams, or so the theory goes, had been present in a room crackling with bawdy locker-room banter and attempted to speak in kind — to hideous effect.
None of this should have influenced, as it appears to have done, the decision by the International Federation of PGA Tours to let Williams off scot-free.
Or even Scott-free, if the similarly blind support emanating from his Australian employer Adam Scott was any guide. Golf needed to take emphatic action against Williams, by suspending him for a period of time at the very least and preferably by banning him. It missed the opportunity.
The absurdity is that it has banned its miscreants for so much less. John Daly has received extended bans for “bringing the game into disrepute.” As such, it is difficult to interpret the weakness at the top of the sport as a sign of a desire to sweep the story away.
It was ironic that such an impression should have been given at China’s HSBC Champions tournament — labelled ‘Asia’s major’ — and in a setting where golf’s PR people have been so enthusiastic to promote golf as inclusive.
Instead, the game’s protectors have become curiously complicit in the sullying of its image by offering nothing more than moralistic hand-wringing on the Williams case.
Couples’ voice is so welcome since it at last made the one sensible suggestion that Williams should be ostracised. Here was a golfer not afraid to ruffle feathers and not disposed to acquiesce in the silent strategy.
Williams’ attack on Woods stands, by its sheer casualness, as an example of how certain social attitudes in golf are the stuff of 100 years ago.
Sexism, elitism, and now racism? It might be an unfair caricature but Sunday's rap on the wrists for the misbehaving caddie did nothing to deflect it.



Post a Comment

<< Home

Copyright © Colin Farquharson

If you can't find what you are looking for.... please check the Archive List or search this site with Google