Tiger Woods took the high road in making his first public comments about his embattled former caddie, Steve Williams, at the Emirates Australian Open at The Lakes Golf Club on Tuesday morning in Sydney.
“Stevie’s certainly not a racist, there’s no doubt about that,” Woods said in a packed press conference, which aired on Golf Channel Monday at 6:30 p.m. Eastern. (Sydney is 16 hours ahead of the East Coast.) “It was a comment that definitely shouldn’t have been made, and he certainly regrets that comment.”
Woods said he and Williams met face-to-face in Sydney, Williams apologized and the two shook hands.
The former world No. 1 was seemingly the last person to comment on the inflammatory insult that stunned many. Williams was at a caddie awards ceremony in Shanghai when he was asked why he had celebrated so exuberantly after his new boss, Adam Scott, won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August.
“My aim was to shove it up that black a------,” Williams said.
Although the event was billed as a bawdy roast in which all comments would be off the record, the racial comment—made into a microphone on stage, and in front of several players, media and others—made its way around the world quickly, first via Twitter and then with reports in two newspapers.
“It was hurtful, certainly,” Woods said. “But you know, life goes on.”
As for their relationship in the future, he added, “We’ll see what time does. As we all know time heals all wounds.”
Williams apologized on his website, and Scott, after his final round at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, said he believed the comment was taken out of context. That wasn’t good enough for many, who said he should fire the outspoken New Zealander. The PGA and European tours issued a joint statement condemning the Williams comment. Scott then issued his own statement, saying he’d asked Williams to apologize, he didn’t know what else he was supposed to do, and he considered the matter closed. Interviewed by a New Zealand radio station Monday morning, Williams called the uproar "blown way out of proportion" and "totally ridiculous."
The relationship between Woods and Williams was one of the longest lasting and most fruitful in the history of the game. They won 13 majors together, 85 times in total, with Woods earning more than $100,000,000 and making Williams a rich man. What's more, they seemed to be friends. Woods was in Williams's wedding, and the two had bungee-jumped and raced cars together.
But it all started to come apart when Woods's game soured after the sex scandal that began two years ago. He reinjured his left leg at the Masters in April, and Williams began to work for Scott while waiting for his regular boss to return. What seemed like a temporary assignment at the U.S. Open in June turned into more than that when Williams worked for Scott again at the AT&T National in July.
Saying it was simply time for a change, Woods fired Williams, who made no secret of feeling stunned and hurt.
That led to the caddie's strange rant on CBS after Scott won at Firestone, in which Williams called the victory the greatest of his career, and his ill-conceived comment while being cited for “celebration of the year” in Shanghai.
Although there was speculation that Woods and Scott would be in the same group for the first two rounds in Sydney this week, tournament officials now say that won’t happen. The two players could still end up seeing plenty of each other at next week’s Presidents Cup in Melbourne. (Photo: Rob Griffith/AP)