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Will Tiger Woods' split from caddie Steve Williams affect his game? [Updated]

July 21, 2011 |  8:49 am

Question_640 Writers from around the Tribune Co. discuss golfer Tiger Woods, who recently fired longtime caddie Steve Williams. Check back throughout the day for more responses and feel free to weigh in with a comment of your own.

Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune

Lucky guy, that Steve Williams. Now that he no longer has to carry Tiger Woods’ bag, we can find out if he’s actually a decent guy.

For the last 12 years, he played the role of PGA Tour goon. He put a photographer’s camera in a pond at the 2002 Skins Game and snatched a camera from a fan at the 2004 U.S. Open. That fan turned out to be an off-duty policeman.

But that’s what Woods needed. The Superstar Formerly Known as Tiger surrounds himself with two types of people -– sycophantic yes-men and bullies. Now he’s lost a guy who was willing to do his dirty work and keep his secrets. You bet it will affect his game, and in a bad way.

[Updated at 12:56 p.m.:

Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times

It’s not a happy parting, this split between Tiger Woods and Steve Williams. Or at least Williams isn’t happy. It’s assumed Woods is. And whatever makes Tiger happy is good for his golf game, right?

So far over the last year, not much seems to have made Tiger happy, though.

Now it’s the caddie’s fault? Considering the physical issues Woods obviously has and the emotional issues one can only imagine Woods has, his game isn’t going to get better or worse because Williams isn’t carrying his bag, taking his fluffy Tigger covers off the clubs or throwing an unsuspecting photographer’s camera in a pond because the “click, click, click,” of the lens was bothering Tiger’s backswing.

There seems to be much more wrong with Tiger’s game than a New Zealander can fix. What ditching Williams indicates, though, is something about Tiger’s methods. If others found Williams abrasive and even rude, he never spoke badly of Woods. And he most certainly could have. He has secrets for sure. Tiger might not be calling Williams anymore but book agents probably are. Loyalty is not a club in Tiger’s bag.

Jeff Shain, Orlando Sentinel

Does Williams’ absence speed up the healing process for Woods’ troublesome left knee? Or help him find more fairways so he doesn’t subject himself to awkward shots from funky lies? Don’t think so.

In the end, the golfer still has to execute every shot. As good as Williams is –- and his résumé also includes stints for Greg Norman and Raymond Floyd -- he’s not going to transform a 2-handicap into a PGA Tour winner.

Likewise, Woods’ classic best likely was still good enough to win 10 of his 14 majors with Larry the Cable Guy toting his bag.

Where Williams could be missed is down the stretch of whatever major Woods next gets himself into contention. That’s where chemistry and understanding your boss pays its dividends, and the duo had few missteps in that pressure cooker. Woods eventually may get to that point with his new looper, too, but it takes time.

Kevin Van Valkenburg, Baltimore Sun

There is an air of quiet desperation around Tiger Woods these days.

Watching him now feels a bit like watching the greatest jazz musician of all time suddenly lose his nerve. In practice he can still play all the right notes, but in front of a crowd something is missing. On stage he's no longer able to summon brilliance from within, and so the allies of yesterday need to be jettisoned to save face.

Firing Steve Williams isn't going to improve Woods' golf game. In fact, there is a good chance it will only multiply his inner doubts. Williams knows Woods' game better than anyone on the planet. He's been at his side for more than just magnificent shots over the past 12 years. He's been there for weddings, for funerals, for triumphs and disappointments. The next time Woods is in the mix at a major tournament on Sunday, is he going to trust -- deep down -- that the man carrying his bag will know exactly what he's capable of?

In his prime, Woods was a bully on the golf course, and Williams was his pit bull. He kept the massive galleries out of arm's reach and snarled at photographers when they tried to document history a microsecond too soon. He was the enforcer and confidant Woods needed to keep fame at bay. Will a kinder, gentler caddy be able to offer Woods the same comforts? Will he be able to candidly explain to Woods he can't hit a 225-yard 6-iron anymore?

Woods' problems have more to do with his swing changes and with his knee. Eventually he'll need to come to terms with that. The old Tiger Woods is gone. Whatever Tiger emerges next can still be an occasionally great player, but he'll need all the allies he can get. Someday Woods may realize he can't do this alone. But he clearly hasn't realized it yet.]


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Photo: Steve Williams, left, and Tiger Woods at the 2011 Masters golf tournament. Credit: Hans Deryk / Reuters