In the aftermath of Steve Williams’ controversial book which slammed former boss Tiger Woods for treating the Kiwi caddy like “a slave”, a good news story has emerged about Tiger. Well… Sort of…
This is the tale of journeyman tour pro William McGirt. Or, as Tiger Woods would say: “An idiot”.
As his brilliantly Dickensian name would suggest, McGirt is not a flashy character. There’s little in the way of vim or vigour to be found here. But, he’s a trier, an everyman, and the antithesis of a character called Tiger Woods – a name ol’ Charlie could have slotted in beside Bill Sikes and Fagin.
While his name is completely bereft of sparkle or cadence, McGirt is tough. McGrit, even. He kind of looks like a farmer and his swing is pretty much just as agricultural. But three years ago, the then-33-year-old from North Carolina was in just his second year as a full-time PGA Tour professional and all of a sudden, at the RBC Canadian Open, found himself in contention.
It’s a position every golfer dreams of, because if you win a PGA Tour event, you’re guaranteed to remain on tour for another two years and qualify yourself for majors like The Masters at Augusta National and the PGA Tour’s top tournament, The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
It’s job security for two years and a step to a higher rank. A milestone moment.
So for a man like McGirt, it’s a situation bound to cause a few nerves.
As it turned out, he wouldn’t win, though he would go on to retain his tour status every year to date. However, this week it emerged how McGirt lost that tournament – and what Tiger Woods said to him when he found out what had happened.
Professional golfers live on tour. They travel every week and see their playing competitors more than their families. But even so, after a season-and-a-half on the PGA Tour circuit, McGirt was had never even spoken to Woods.
Sure, they’d passed each other in the locker room and they knew who each other were. But never was a word spoken until Woods called McGirt “an idiot”.
A month after his failure to win at the Canadian Open, McGirt was on the putting green at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island – one of golf’s four major championships, at one of the most revered courses in the world.
Warming up before heading out to play, McGirt was shooting the breeze with a caddy called Joe LaCava – a good friend of McGirt’s caddy, Brandon Antus, and the man who carried the clubs of none other than Tiger Woods.
McGirt had been explaining to LaCava on the putting green how his only regret of the loss the month prior was not looking at the leaderboard in the final few holes to check his position in the tournament – he’d rather ignore the field, keep going and play his own game – as opposed to panicking or reacting to what the rest often field were doing.
While this conversation was going on, a dozen metres away was Tiger Woods. “What?” Woods shouted, walking over to McGirt, asking him to explain the scenario. “You’re an idiot,” McGirt recalled Woods saying. “Do you think Kobe [Bryant] doesn’t look at the scoreboard with a minute to go in the game?
“Point taken,” McGirt countered. That was the first time the pair had ever spoken. Touching. Right?
“You might pass him in the locker room and not get so much as a hello sometimes,” McGirt said. “But for him to walk over and offer a little advice on how you need to know where you stand, it meant a lot to me that he would take the time to do that.”
McGirt is now in his sixth full-time season on tour. And while he still hasn’t picked up a win, he does now admit to looking at leaderboard when in contention.
And in just three events so far this season, he’s also made more than half the money he banked in the entirety of the last campaign. So the advice seems to have worked…