As much as some might have hoped differently, Mickelson is refusing to be drawn into the controversy.
Among the ideas that cross an idle mind when any diversion is being sought as a substitute for work are various ways to make golf televise better. The idea of full-contact golf with a 45-second shot clock -- hit the ball, hit your opponent all within 45 seconds -- will likely never fly. So how about just unleashing some verbal fisticuffs? What this grand, old game needs is some saucy trash talking.
TIGER & PHIL RESPOND
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) -- Tiger Woods said he was disappointed by his caddie's disparaging comments about Phil Mickelson in New Zealand newspapers.
Steve Williams was quoted in the Taranki Daily News as saying he wouldn't call Mickelson a great player "because I think he's a (expletive)." When contacted by another New Zealand newspaper, Williams confirmed making the comment.
"I was disappointed to read the comments attributed to Steve Williams about Phil Mickelson, a player that I respect," Woods said in a statement Monday. "It was inappropriate. The matter has been discussed and dealt with."
Williams began working with Woods in the spring of 1999 and has been on his bag for 13 of his 14 majors.
Mickelson's management company issued a statement Sunday evening to respond to what it called "grossly inaccurate and irresponsible statements" by Williams. It included a comment from Mickelson.
"After seeing Steve Williams' comments, all I could think of was how lucky I am to have a class act like Bones (Jim Mackay) on my bag and representing me," Mickelson said.
With apologies to Jonathan Swift, in the spirit of this modest proposal perhaps is found the salvation of Steve Williams, the porter who struck it rich as bag handler for Tiger Woods. The Kiwi who has set records for smashed cameras of which John Daly can only dream is sort of the Andrew Carnegie of golf. He may give to charity, but only after he has given the back of his hand to everyone else.
Williams clearly protects his player in the manner desired, otherwise he would not have walked at the heels of the best golfer in the world for nearly a decade now. But to the fans and media he is about as embraceable as a porcupine on uppers. Yet it appears both of those constituencies owe the man a measure of praise. We read the poor lad wrong.
Speaking to a group of reporters in his native New Zealand, Williams said of his boss' most ardent rival: "I wouldn't call Phil Mickelson a great player ... 'cause I hate the..." and then he used a five-letter word that rhymes with "trick."
As the late great comedian George Carlin said in his famous routine about the seven words you can't say on television: "You can prick your finger but you can't finger your ..." Who knew Williams was such an ardent advocate of free speech? I thought he hated journalists -- and anyone else who thinks for a living.
Given a chance later by another intrepid reporter to cool off his comments about Mickelson, Williams instead confirmed the Carlinism and expanded his articulation with this: "I don't particularly like the guy myself." Given his comment of the earlier day that probably was a bit redundant, and nowhere near as colorful.
Williams also apparently took great pleasure in telling the reporters a story which he claims to have witnessed during the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage, near New York City. According to Williams, someone clearly laden with obvious New York City attitude commented on the feminine curvature of the subcutaneous fat that, when he is not ardently working out, graces the pectoral area of Mr. Mickelson.
Oddly, this guy used yet another of those words Carlin identified as unacceptable to TV censors, one George said with mock outrage must be harmless because "it sounds like it could be a snack food. Try new cheese ..." uh, bits.
Anyway, to get back to the point, Williams is to get high marks for all this. Trash talk. What a wonderful idea. That's what golf needs. Let's take the sport down into the gutter with all the other games. Problem is, Mickelson wouldn't take the bait. Lefty instead took the high road. How so Bobby Jones of him.
"After seeing Steve Williams' comments all I could think of was how lucky I am to have a class act like Bones (his caddie, Jim Mackay) on my bag and representing me," Mickelson said. Ah, come on now, Phil. What fun is that?
What was needed by Mickelson was a snappy, obscenity-laden response that would have shocked Williams silly. What, was Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevitch unavailable for some consulting work on this? How about the good governor's wife? She and Williams seem to have similar Thesauruses.
All right, file that under opportunities lost. But there is a new PGA Tour season right around the corner and that means plenty more opportunities for others on tour to rise to the oratorical eloquence of Mr. Williams.
Here's what you do, Phil, next time you are paired with Woods. After you crush your opening drive about 343 right down the middle, pluck the tee out of the ground, spike it at the feet of Williams and shout, "Choke on that, Sparky," and dance in a circle around him shaking your man boobs inches from his startled face.
Of course, the downside of doing this is Woods will likely shoot 58, triggering the greatest single year in the history of professional golf. He has a way of rising to a challenge like that. And calling out Williams will certainly be regarded as a challenge.
Sadly then, it appears unlikely trash-talking will catch on in golf. Perhaps no one else will ever exhibit the intellectual bravado and verbal skills of Williams.
Alas, we will have to live a life knowing this great game only has one man with the dignity and honor of the bagman from next-door-to-down-under.
Then again, maybe golf simply does not deserve more than one Steve Williams. In fact, I am certain golf doesn't deserve more than one Steve Williams. I'm pretty sure Jonathan Swift would have agreed.