Tiger Woods said he accepted an apology from Steve Williams over comments the golfer’s former caddie made last week at an awards dinner, adding that he doesn’t consider the New Zealander to be a racist.
Woods said he wants to move on after Williams made a remark about the 14-time major champion at a Nov. 4 event in Shanghai. Williams apologized the following day, saying his comments could have been construed as racist.
Woods, who fired Williams in July, said the pair shook hands and talked the matter through today at The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney ahead of the Australian Open, which starts in two days. Woods and Adam Scott, Williams’s new boss, are both playing in the tournament.
“It was the wrong thing to say, that’s something that we both acknowledge now,” Woods, 35, said at a televised news conference. “He did apologize. It was hurtful, certainly, but life goes forward.”
Although the U.S. PGA Tour and its European counterpart said two days ago that Williams’s reported remark was “entirely unacceptable” and that they considered the matter closed following his apology, players including Fred Couples said over the weekend that the New Zealander should be fired or suspended.
Scott issued a statement last night saying he had accepted Williams’s apology and that his caddie had intended no racial slur.
“Stevie’s certainly not a racist. There’s no doubt about that,” Woods said today. “It was a comment that shouldn’t have been made and was certainly one that he wished he didn’t make.”
Williams, 47, at last week’s caddies dinner received a mock award for “Celebration of the Year” for a television interview after Scott won the Bridgestone Invitational in August, according the Daily Telegraph in London. During the interview he called the victory the best of his life, even though he carried Woods’s bag for 13 major championships.
Woods, who last won a tournament two years ago at the Australian Masters, split with Williams in July after 13 years and 72 victories. Williams said at the time that his dismissal came as a shock.
Asked how his relationship with his former caddie could have soured to such an extent, Woods said he didn’t know.
“For me personally, it was a tough decision to make to go a different direction in my professional life,” Woods said. “I don’t know how that could have happened the way it did, but it did, and here we are. We’ll see what time does. As we all know, time does heal wounds. We’ll see how that goes.”
Woods hired Joe LaCava, who previously worked for Couples and Dustin Johnson, in September. LaCava is the third full-time caddie of Woods’s career after Williams and Mike “Fluff” Cowan, who was on the bag for the American’s first major victory at the 1997 Masters Tournament.
Following the Australian Open, Woods is scheduled to play next week’s Presidents Cup in Melbourne and then the Dec. 1-4 Chevron World Challenge, a tournament he hosts in California.