I was about to doze off Friday night when my cell phone made that all-too-familiar text message noise that I usually ignore when I don't want to be bothered, especially when sleep is tugging at my eyelids. Nowadays most everything is bothersome even when I'm wide-awake.
So I ignored it and started to doze again. There came that pesky noise again. I discovered the next morning en route to the airport that it wasn't the same persistent messenger but another bearer of the same message: "What is wrong with Steve Williams?''
I figured Tiger's ex-caddie must have gone off on another self-indulgent rant, but I had no idea his venom had taken the turn down a racial roadway -- one which, in days past, would have quickly reached the point of no return. Of course, increasingly racial slurs have become more of the norm in every slice of life including politics and golf.
The shot fired in Shanghai but heard around the golf world? Steve Williams responding to a question during a mock award at a celebration for caddies. The award was for "Celebration of the Year'' when Williams said during a TV interview that Adam Scott's victory at the Bridgestone Invitational was "the best win of my life.'' It was at the time one of the most ludicrous statements in the annals of caddie/player divorces. Well, Williams' response in Shanghai went straight to number one with a bullet. "It was my aim to shove it right up that black a@#$%!,'' he was quoted as saying.
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He was, of course, referring to Tiger or a part of his anatomy. I guess the report didn't specify which. Williams later issued an apology on his website to Tiger and anyone else he may have offended.
Count me among the offended. Sorry, Stevie. Apology not accepted.
It's your right to hate Tiger for firing you. It's even your right to slap him around verbally if he allows it, although, I would probably be a little more gracious to the person who made me rich and secured my family beyond my wildest dreams. However, it is an egregious error to broadside your former boss with a racial slur under any circumstance even in jest. As I've written many times, a racial slur is only amusing to the person not on the butt end of it. They should not be tolerated, period.
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What is most disappointing is that you have probably shared more congenial conversations with me over the years than with any other media type. I enjoyed the horseplay and needling. The word play, however, comes from an ugly place and is totally unacceptable.
I don't know whether you should be disciplined. I'll leave that up to your current employer and the PGA Tour, which you represent every day until you hang up your bib. I wouldn't even suggest to Tiger that he should demand more than an apology. That's between the two of you.
I would, however, ask that you think of the example you're setting for young people who admire you. And if you are a racist, thanks for revealing it to the world.
*-- Pete McDaniel
*Editor's Note: Golf Digest contributing editor Pete McDaniel collaborated on instruction articles with Tiger Woods for 15 years.