Tiger Woods surely doesn’t need my advice. He has plenty. He has reporters, sports writers, sports anchors, current players, ex-players, gossip show hosts, gossip reporters, talk show hosts, politicians, fans, non-fans, therapists, and anyone else that didn’t fall into one of the above categories telling him what to do and how to act.
They tell him, among other things:
Answer everyone’s questions.
Tell us everything we want to know about your private life.
Don’t act angry.
Don’t wear red anymore on Sunday; it’s too aggressive.
Don’t apologize so much.
Change your swing.
Don’t hit the driver.
Tell us how your wife treats you.
Quit smiling, you don’t have the right.
The last thing Tiger Woods needs is for one more person to tell him what to do. So, I’m not going to tell him what to do. I’m only going to make a small suggestion.
My suggestion to him would be this: Change your caddie.
I’m not saying Steve Williams is not a good caddie. From all evidence he is a great caddie. I’m also not saying he and Tiger aren’t good together. It may be one of the most successful player/caddie relationships in the history of golf. No, that isn’t the issue.
The issue is that Tiger Woods needs to change his persona. This is not groundbreaking, earth-shattering news, I understand. Obviously, he has been trying to do just that. He has had no choice. He made his bed, so to speak. But the changes he has been trying to instill are not working.
And, although I was skeptical to think his off-course life would have any effect on his on-course performance, I’m now starting to think it is affecting his golf. I’m now starting to think that it isn’t just rustiness that is causing the higher-than-normal Tiger golf scores. It very may well be a result of the baggage he is carrying around.
Steve Williams, through no fault of his own, is part of that baggage. He is part of it, more than anything else, because of association. It doesn’t seem fair to old Stevie, I admit, but Tiger can’t worry about that. Steve will be fine. Tiger needs to change his image, not so much for all the people telling him he has to change his image, but because the old image is gone. There is a new Tiger Woods, whether or not Tiger wants that.
Tiger must ask himself, at some point, and maybe sooner than later, "Can my old caddie be a part of my new self?"
Woods and the 46-year-old Williams have been together for 11 years. Before Tiger came along, Steve had been carrying for Ray Floyd. Before Floyd a couple of the more prominent players he caddied for were Ian Baker-Finch and Greg Norman.
On the golf course, before the off-course mess that started for the duo at the end of 2009, Williams often played the role of enforcer for Woods. He wasn’t just Tiger’s caddie; he was Tiger’s body guard. It is this image that Tiger needs to shake.
Although, to be honest, if anyone on tour needs a body guard, it is certainly this man.
But, alas, Tiger must go it alone. What a new caddie would mean for Tiger is that he is ready to do that. He alone made this mess, and he alone must be the one to try and clean it up. As long as he is still with Steve, he is not facing it alone.
A new caddie will not be a part of the baggage. A new caddie will not be a part of any scandals (even if it was only through association). A new caddie will help Tiger realize who the new Tiger is, if for no other reason simply because he is new.
Again, this is not fair to Steve Williams. But Steve’s a big boy, and any number of players on tour would love to have them on their bag.
Perhaps Steve, when considering his next employer, might want to choose a bachelor with no immediate marriage plans, just to be safe.