Every professional golfer relies on a good caddie to help them navigate the various challenges of a day on the links. Jim Mackay caddied for Phil Mickelson for almost his entire career. James Anderson was at Arnold Palmer’s side for some of his biggest victories. And Steve Williams caddied for Tiger Woods during a 12-year stretch of dominance.
Unfortunately, Woods and Williams proved unable to keep up a positive relationship. In 2015, Williams released a tell-all book in which he attacked Woods in a nasty and largely uncalled-for manner. Here we take a look back at the time the two men spent together, their separation, and the friction caused by Williams’ book.
The years Tiger Woods and Steve Williams spent together
Woods hired Williams as his caddie in 1999, shortly after firing his original tour caddie Mike Cowan. At that point, Williams had already proved himself a competent caddie, having spent many years at the side of Greg Norman. He and Woods soon formed a close relationship, with Williams proving himself a valuable asset on the course.
Williams also filled another important role for Woods: channeling his aggression. Williams’ was more than willing to play a hostile role toward fans, competitors, paparazzi, and anybody else that tried to antagonize Woods. In that way, Williams was able to shield Woods from a lot of the attention he drew as a mega-star and object of constant celebrity interest.
The two men also apparently formed a close bond off of the golf course. In 2005, Woods flew to New Zealand to attend Williams’ wedding. He also went to lots of Williams’ dirt track races over the years. Williams, meanwhile, quickly became Woods’ most outspoken advocate, defending the golf star from any perceived attacks.
A friendship cools
It’s probably no coincidence that Williams and Woods’ relationship started to sour right around the time that Woods’ professional and personal lives hit their lowest points. Starting in 2009, Woods was outed for his extramarital transgressions, received a reckless driving citation, entered treatments for sex addiction, and got divorced.
Meanwhile, Woods was struggling mightily on the course, despite taking time off for physical and mental therapy. Those struggles were likely the final blow in Woods’ relationship with Williams. After all, caddies get paid depending on the success of their golfers, and with Woods in such a huge hole, Williams wasn’t taking home much pay at all.
In 2011, Williams approached Woods, saying that he wanted to caddie for Adam Scott while Woods was recuperating from an injury. Woods gave his permission — only to turn around and fire Williams a few short weeks later. At the time, Williams was quoted by the Washington Post as saying, “You could say I’ve wasted the last two years of my life.”
Steve Williams’ publishes his book
Williams evidently wasn’t satisfied with the way his relationship with Woods ended, and in 2015 he published his tell-all book, Out of the Rough. Williams was worried enough about legal backlash from Woods’ camp that physical copies of the book were only published in New Zealand. Fans elsewhere in the world had to settle for digital copies purchased through Amazon.
In the book, Williams airs numerous personal grievances about Woods, citing incidents both on and off of the golf course. Williams complained about how Woods would flip clubs toward him, saying he felt that he was being treated “like I was his slave”, according to ESPN.
Many in the golfing world felt that Williams’ book violated the unspoken “caddie code,” which involves keeping unflattering aspects of a golfer’s life private.
If nothing else, the book seemed to help Williams get over some traumas suffered while working for Woods. These days, Williams is singing a different tune, having praised Woods publicly following his 2019 Masters win.