Steve Williams shocked a crowd of more than 100 people at the annual caddies' award dinner at the WGC-HSBC Championship in Shanghai when he made a derogatory racial remark about his former employer, Tiger Woods.
Williams was on stage at the dinner, where he received a tongue-in-cheek award from fellow caddies for “Celebration of the Year,” when he was asked to explain his remarks after he caddied for Adam Scott’s win at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August.
“My aim was to shove it right up that black (expletive),” Williams said, referring to Woods.
Among the players who heard the remark were Scott, for whom Williams went to work after he was fired by Woods, and Rory McIlroy.
After Scott won the Bridgestone Invitational, Williams told a television audience that it was “the best win of my life.”
Later Friday, Williams issued this apology on his website: 'I apologize for comments I made last night at the Annual Caddy Awards dinner in Shanghai. Players and caddies look forward to this evening all year and the spirit is always joking and fun. I now realize how my comments could be construed as racist. However I assure you that was not my intent. I sincerely apologize to Tiger and anyone else I have offended.'
Williams' line drew the biggest reaction at a party attended by several players, caddies, officials and some media. There was a mixture of laughter and shock, with some players turning to each other with eyes widened and jaws agape.
All comments at the party are supposed to be off the record, yet several caddies continued to talk about Williams' remark. Approached early the next morning at breakfast, Williams was stunned to learn that British tabloids had gone with the story.
'Why would they do that?' he said. 'The whole thing was meant to be fun.'
Woods was in Australia, though it didn't take long for the comments to get back to him.
'I was with Tiger last night when he heard the news,' Mark Steinberg, his agent at Excel Sports Management, told The Associated Press. 'We got multiple calls from people who sounded like they were leaving the caddie party. Tiger obviously wasn't there. He doesn't know exactly what was said. But if multiple reports - which all seem to be accurate - are true, then it's sad it's come down to this.'
'It's a regrettable comment, and there's really nothing that Tiger can do or say. He's just going to move on.'
Several players who were at the dinner said Saturday morning they did not want to comment. Scott was preparing for his third round of the HSBC Champions, where he was one shot out of the lead. He is going for his second World Golf Championship of the year.
It's not the first time Williams has gotten into trouble for his words.
Three years ago at a dinner banquet in New Zealand, he made a disparaging remark about Phil Mickelson. Williams said that was meant in fun, though Woods had him apologize to Mickelson.
The comments in Shanghai took on an even more sensitive nature among the British press because of soccer player John Terry's alleged racial comments toward Anton Ferdinand during Chelsea's 1-0 loss to Queens Park Rangers in a Premier League loss last month.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.