Memo to Tiger Woods' Caddy: Quiet, Please!

John McCloryAnalyst IDecember 16, 2008

In this time of economic crisis, financial arrogance is often frowned upon. Nobody wants to hear the sob story of the hedge fund guru who can no longer afford daily massages and pampering. Or the Beverly Hills housewife who cuts back on her assets by making the heart-breaking decision to sell one of her four residences.

Up is down, left is right, and—in the immortal words of Jerry Seinfeld—hamburgers are eating people in the current economic climate.

But when the going gets tough, the bone-headed tend to speak up.

Before Tiger Woods signed his scorecard and stashed his clubs after suffering a knee-injury-heard-'round-the-world in his U.S. Open victory, you may have subconsciously noticed the middle-aged man entrusted with polishing Woods' clubs and providing the occasional "trouble's on the right" warning.

His name is Steve Williams and the New Zealander is the caddy assigned to the Best in the World. Williams began caddying at the age of six and was squeezing in 36 holes on the weekend by age 10.

Williams' father introduced him to Australian golfer Peter Thomson who entrusted the caddy with his bag in the 1976 New Zealand Open.

Upon making his way to the U.S., Williams served as right-hand-man to names such as Greg Norman and Raymond Floyd before filling the vacant caddy position at Team Woods in 1999.

Of course, the million-dollar question is, "How much does this guy make for schlepping around a bag of golf clubs?" And the answer may be, well, a million-dollar answer.

Researching Williams' salary earnings results in a barrage of misinformation and conflicting sources. But from what can be deciphered, Stevie—Woods' nickname for him, not mine—is pulling in roughly a million bones a year.

According to Bob Harig of the St. Petersburg Times, "Caddies are typically paid a weekly salary to cover expenses and then receive a percentage of earnings. The standard is five percent, with a bonus of 10 percent for a victory."

OK, so after a few Tiger victories and a speaking engagement or two, Williams is easily in the seven-figure range.

So the only lingering question remaining is: Why, in the name of all that is holy, did Williams feel the need to bash Woods-rival Phil Mickelson over the weekend?

During an event in New Zealand, Williams said, "I wouldn't call Mickelson a great player, 'cause I hate the [expletive]," according to The Guardian newspaper.

But the world-class caddy wasn't finished with his unprovoked assault on the fan-favorite Mickelson.

He told the New Zealand Star Times, "I don't particularly like the guy. He pays me no respect at all and hence I don't pay him any respect. It's no secret we don't get along either."

To put the finishing touches on the public lashing, Williams shared a story about a Mickelson heckler at the U.S. Open.

Allegedly, the anti-Phil spectator sarcastically complimented him on his, um, growing chest region, except not in those exact words. Mickelson vehemently denied the story and called it an "absolute fabrication."

Sorry, but are caddies allowed to have egos? Who's the real money-maker here, Woods or Williams?

Naturally, once the cheap-shot comments were filed under "controversial" by the media talking heads, Williams began to backpedal like a true instigator (For a similar example see: Owens, Terrell).

The now infamous caddy said he didn't expect the comments to reach the public.

Really? What planet is this guy living on?

Put it this way: What controversial comments don't reach the media these days? There is 24-hour and 365-day surveillance on Tiger and everyone in his life. Nothing falls through the cracks, especially at a public speaking engagement.

Woods was forced to speak up and clear the air by issuing a statement on Monday. "I was disappointed to read the comments attributed to Steve Williams about Phil Mickelson, a player that I respect," he said. "It was inappropriate. The matter has been discussed and dealt with."

The matter has been discussed and dealt with? That is what elementary school principals say when a kid gets sent to their office for excessive talking. Sounds like Woods gave his employee a stern talkin'-to.

Sure, we can give Williams the benefit of the doubt—he misspoke and immediately regretted it. It's possible.

But if you're making a hefty amount for trailing Tiger—and dispensing advice like "Hit a five-iron. No, wait! Hit a six"—then everybody wants you to modestly perform your job and not say a peep. And when the sport of golf—and sports in general—are nearing a state of economic turmoil, Stevie better be seen and not heard while strolling along Easy Street.

Maybe this smack-talk will end up being a blessing in disguise when Woods makes his triumphant return. Storylines never hurt anyone, after all. Maybe this is what the PGA needs to kick-start fan interest.

Heck, maybe Williams' comments are just what the doctor ordered to bolster golf's tournament events.

But if Williams is going to target his employer's opponents one-by-one with his foolish statements, then management might be "restructuring" in the near future.

There is no room for classlessness at Tiger Inc. The line of interested candidates will be longer than a Woods tee-shot and the interview process will be rigorous.

And whoever abides by the following requirements will nab the job:

1. Do your job.

2. Shut up.