Wednesday, August 17, 2011

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Tiger Woods said he has communicated with former caddie Steve Williams since Williams made controversial comments after last week's Bridgestone Invitational, but he would not reveal what they texted about.

"I think that's between Stevie and myself," Woods said.

Williams was on the bag for Adam Scott during Scott's four-shot victory last week at Firestone Country Club, and afterward Williams told reporters that it was "the best win I've ever had." Woods, who won 13 of his 14 major titles with Williams as his caddie, said that he was surprised Williams spoke so openly to reporters after the victory, but declined to say how he felt about those comments. Woods was given several chances to fire back at Williams, but he took the proverbial "high road" each time. Woods said he didn't know what motivated Williams to speak to reporters about how he was "shocked" when Woods fired him and how he felt "short-shrifted."

"I'm not going to speculate on Stevie," Woods said. "Those are obviously his feelings and his emotions and his decision to say what he wants to say."

Asked if he regretted the way things ended with his former caddie, Woods was again diplomatic.

"All I can control is my life and how I feel, and that's it," he said. "That's all I can do."

As he prepares to chase his 15th career major title here at Atlanta Athletic Club, Woods met with reporters for 25 minutes in a wide-ranging press conference, though most of the questions addressed either the controversy with the man he always called "Stevie" or Woods's health. Woods said the knee and Achilles injuries that put him out of action this year are fully healed, which has allowed him to prepare both physically and mentally for the rigors of major competition.

"I was frustrated early in the year — especially at the Masters, because I just wasn't feeling well," Woods said. "And it's been frustrating. But now that I'm healthy, it's so much easier to be more patient because I feel good. I have way more energy because I'm not trying to block out the pain and trying to ignore that.

"I can just go out there and play golf," he said.

\nWoods played the back nine at Atlanta Athletic Club Wednesday morning, less than 12 hours after he played a practice round on the front. His friend Arjun Atwal joined Woods for both sessions, and after Tuesday's round Atwal briefly talked with reporters about Woods's game.

"He's hitting it great, he's just got to get more reps in," Atwal said. "He's flushing it. He just needs to work on his distances."

\nWoods will once again have his friend and design company president Bryon Bell on his bag when he tees of Thursday morning at 8:35 a.m. with Padraig Harrington and Davis Love III. (Live blog | Live video) Woods said Bell is a temporary hire, and that his search for a permanent replacement is ongoing.

\n"There's nobody I've committed to," Woods said. "I'm going to the major championship. I'm focused on this. After this event I'll sit down and really look at it — hopefully going into the [FedEx Cup] Playoffs."

\nWoods is currently 129th in FedEx points and will need to rise to the top 125 this week to qualify for the Barclays, the first event of the playoffs. According to PGATour.com, Woods likely needs to finish 14th or better this week to ensure a spot in the FedEx Cup playoffs. He's already said that he will not play next week's Wyndham Championship for family reasons.

\nWoods has not won a professional tournament since the 2009 Australian Masters, just weeks before his sex scandal became front-page news. He has not won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. He is a four-time winner at the PGA Championship, with his last victory coming in 2007 at another oppressively hot, muggy venue: Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla.

Temperatures are expected to remain in the high 80s and low 90s throughout the week, and Woods thinks it could be a good omen.

"I had a nice tournament at Tulsa when it was over 110 that week, so hopefully this will be similar success," Woods said.

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