SYDNEY, Australia, November 8 – Tiger Woods defended his former caddie Steve Williams Tuesday, saying he was not a racist and had apologised for a “hurtful” slur that triggered widespread condemnation last week.
Williams, who was Woods’s caddie for 13 of his 14 major titles before being sacked earlier this year, used a racial insult to refer to the former world number one during an awards dinner on Friday night in Shanghai.
The pair came face to face at The Lakes course in Sydney on Tuesday ahead of this week’s Australian Open, where Williams is now carrying the clubs of Australian world number eight Adam Scott.
Woods, 35, who has not won a tournament for two years — precipitating a slump in his world ranking to 58 — said that the pair shook hands and agreed to move on.
“We talked this morning, we met face to face and talked it through,” Woods told a news conference.
“Obviously, it was a wrong thing to say, something that we both acknowledged now and we’re moving forward.
“He did apologise. It was hurtful, certainly, but life goes forward,” Woods said.
“No, Stevie’s certainly not a racist, there’s no doubt about that. I think it was a comment that shouldn’t have been made and certainly one that he wished he didn’t make.”
Despite outrage over Williams’s remarks, Scott has refused to fire the New Zealander at this week’s event.
Greg Norman, also competing in Sydney, defended the caddie and said there was no racism in golf, while tournament chiefs said no action would be taken.
But Woods’s friend, Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples, has said he would have sacked Williams as his caddie over his remarks.
Williams, 47, posted an online statement Saturday apologising to Woods and admitting his comments “could be construed as racist”, but the US and European Tours have declared the matter closed.
Woods said it had been a tough decision to split with Williams.
“For me, personally, it was a tough decision to make to go in a different direction in my professional life.
“But as far as personally, I don’t know how it (the comment) happened, but it did. Here we are, so life goes forward,” he said.
“This summer I wanted to go in a different direction. I wasn’t playing, I was injured and I was trying to come back but I missed most of the major championships and he (Williams) didn’t want to miss them, which was understandable.
“I wish I could have played in them too.”
He said Williams was currently in a good position.
“He’s got a great bag (caddying) and Adam’s playing well. He’s got just a load of talent, so he’s in a good spot.
“We’ll see what time does, we know that time does heal wounds and we’ll see how it goes. We shook hands.”
Woods said it was up to the golfing authorities to look at any sanctioning of players, officials and caddies over their conduct away from the course.
“I don’t make the policies. I’m not part of the governing bodies, that’s up to them,” he said.
Woods has not won since the 2009 Australian Masters in Melbourne and will be hoping The Lakes course can help turn around his fortunes.
He slipped down the rankings following lurid revelations about his sex life, after which the golfer entered rehab.
The Australian Open also features Woods’s fellow Americans Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson, and Australians Geoff Ogilvy, the defending champion, two-time major runner-up Jason Day plus Scott, another former winner.
Woods will be paired with Day and Australian Robert Allenby in the opening rounds of the Open, with Scott along with caddie Williams in the preceding group.