When Scott needed a guide off his bogey path late at Royal Lytham, Williams offered little direction.
It's one of those major championship moments destined to be part of locker-room discussions for years. As soon as Adam Scott pulled a 3-wood out of his bag on the 18th tee at Royal Lytham & St. Annes on an English Sunday evening in July, the British Open at stake, the better part of the golf world let out a collective gasp.
Moments earlier, Ernie Els had bombed a driver over the fairway bunkers that dot the hole and made birdie to close the gap between him and Scott to one stroke. Clearly coming apart, Scott then bogeyed 17 -- from the middle of the fairway after a perfect drive -- and stood on the par-4 closing hole needing a birdie to win, a par to force a playoff.
He had a decision to make: follow Els and hit driver, a club Scott had been superb with all week, or hit an iron to safely lay up short of the bunkers.
Instead, he hit 3-wood -- the one club he couldn't afford to hit because it brought the bunkers into play.
As everyone in golf knows, Scott found one of those sandy monsters and had to play out sideways. Even though he hit a wonderful third shot, he missed the par putt for a fourth straight bogey, handing Els his fourth major championship.
All of which leads to two questions:
What in the world was Scott thinking?
What was Steve Williams, his world-renowned caddie, doing while Scott was committing golf suicide?
The answers vary depending on who you talk to. Some insist Scott had told Williams to back away and give him space a couple of holes earlier. Others say Williams gave up on his player, literally walking away from him in apparent disgust after his second shot on the 17th flew long and left.
In truth, it doesn't matter. Let's be clear about one thing: It was Scott who made the four bogeys and Scott who pulled the 3-wood. The ultimate responsibility always lies with the player.
The late Bruce Edwards often said what he loved most about the 27 years he spent working for Tom Watson was his player never once blamed him for a bad shot or a disappointing defeat. Watson always noted there was a simple reason for that. "If the caddies were that good," he would say, "they would be playing." Most golfers don't take that approach. That's why they hire and fire caddies almost as often as they insist a gust of wind somehow turned 69 into 73 on a given day.
Williams, however, has historically comported himself as if he were good enough to play. He is one of the most respected caddies and least-liked people in golf for just that reason. When he worked for Tiger Woods, he was the perfect bad cop, snarling at anyone who dared to come into his man's air space. The partnership lasted 12 years and produced 13 majors, a great run by any standard.
They parted -- with acrimony on both sides -- a little more than a year ago. Scott, whose reputation was that of a player with great talent but not quite enough meanness -- hired the Angry Caddie. When Scott won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational a year ago in Woods' first tournament back from an injury, Williams acted as if he hadn't just carried Scott's bag but the man himself to victory, declaring it "the best win I've ever had" in a post-round TV interview in which he barely mentioned his player.
Scott hasn't won since. For 68 holes at Lytham he was clearly the best golfer, leading by four shots. When he began to wobble, it was the moment for a great caddie to step in and say the right thing, calm his player down and remind him how he had gotten to within a few swings of a major title. Or, at the very least -- whether he had been told to back off or not -- get the 3-wood out of Scott's hands on the final tee.
Williams did none of that. Scott lost the British Open. And the caddie who loves taking bows after victories has to take some of the blame for this defeat.