SYDNEY – Tiger Woods says he received an apology from former caddie Steve Williams over a racial slur when the two met and shook hands Tuesday.
“We talked this morning, we met face to face and talked about it, talked it through,” Woods said, ahead of the Australian Open at The Lakes Golf Club.
Williams’ disparaging comment came during a caddies’ awards party Friday in Shanghai.
“It was a wrong thing to say, something that we both acknowledge,” Woods said. “He did apologize. It was hurtful, certainly, but life goes forward.”
“Stevie’s certainly not a racist,” Woods said Tuesday. “There’s no doubt about that. It was a comment that shouldn’t have been made and was certainly one that he wished he didn’t make.”
He was asked how two people so close together for more than a decade – Williams was with Woods for 13 of his 14 majors over 13 years – could become so distant so quickly. Woods fired Williams in July.
“That’s a great question, I don’t know that one,” Woods said. “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 could have happened the way it did. But it just did and here we are.
“It’s just one of those things where we’ll see what time does and as we all know, time does heal wounds.”
Asked for the source of the animosity between them, Woods said: “That’s between Stevie and me. We talked it through, and we’ll leave it at that.”
On Monday, Greg Norman called Williams’ comment stupid, but also said he felt the New Zealand caddie was not a racist.
“We’ve all made stupid comments at stupid times, unfortunately his stupid comment became global news,” Norman said. “I know he probably regrets saying it, but I guarantee you in that room on that night there was probably some heavier things said.”
Adam Scott, who employs Williams full time, said in a statement that he believes “there is absolutely no room for racial discrimination in any walk of life, including the game of golf.
“I have discussed this matter directly with Steve and he understands and supports my view on this subject. I also accept Steve’s apology, knowing that he meant no racial slur with his comments. I now consider the matter closed. I will not be making any further comment.”
Woods and Scott are playing in the Australian Open, which has attracted a strong field due to the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne next week.
Norman said any feud between Woods and Williams needs to be sorted out.
“Because of the temperature that was going on between the two of them, anything that is said or not said is going to exacerbate whatever that feeling is,” Norman said.
“I hope it gets resolved. Golf doesn’t need it. Golf needs Tiger back playing great golf like he used to. Golf needs the cohesiveness that’s always existed.”
On Tuesday, Woods said he is injury-free for the first time in months, allowing him to practice at an accelerated rate.
“My bad rounds need to be under par, not over par,” Woods said. “That’s something I haven’t done through this stretch.”
That stretch is a victory drought of nearly two years – his last win on any tour was at the Australian Masters in November 2009.
Weeks later, news of his infidelities surfaced, followed by a divorce, injuries and swing changes, leaving his win at Kingston Heath in Melbourne his last tour victory anywhere.
On Monday, Woods said “I’ve had a ruptured ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), I’ve had a broken leg, a torn Achilles, and strained ligaments over the last five years. I’ve been rehabbing for so long I haven’t been able to train.”