Tiger Woods splits with Steve Williams
Steve Williams admits Tiger Woods' decision to dump him after 13 years of loyal service has done nothing to regain the New Zealand caddie's total respect for the former world golf No 1.
Williams and golf great Woods are going their separate ways after a 13-year relationship, they both announced this morning (NZT) on their respective websites.
A disappointed Williams said his split with Woods came as a shock given his loyal service, especially after he was dragged into the Woods sex scandal which broke in late 2009.
''I would have to say given what transpired 12-18 months ago, I think anybody in my situation would say they didn't have total respect,'' Williams said this morning.
''That respect would have to be earned again and this situation is definitely not earning my respect.
''After 13 years of loyal service, needless to say this came as a shock,'' he said in a statement.
''Given the circumstances of the past 18 months working through Tiger's scandal, a new coach and with it a major swing change, and Tiger battling through injuries, I am very disappointed to end our very successful partnership at this time.''
Williams said he felt let down by Woods, with whom he had partnered for 13 of the latter's 14 major titles.
''There's no two ways about it,'' he told Radio Sport.
''I was completely loyal, as loyal as somebody could be. I took a lot of heat during Tiger's scandal, not just myself but my family as well, and never really got pardoned from that scandal.''
Today's news comes in the midst of continued speculation about Woods' future in the sport.
He's had serious injuries during the past two years and his last appearance on the PGA Tour lasted just nine holes, at the Players Championship in May.
His last completed tournament was the US Masters in April and he has not yet announced when he plans to return to golf as he continues to recover from a leg injury.
His career started a rapid downward spiral in 2009 when he admitted a series of sexual indiscretions.
Woods has since separated from his Swedish wife, Elin Nordegren, checked into a sex rehabilitation clinic and parted ways with coach Hank Haney.
Now he has dumped Williams, though he was full of praise for his former caddie in a statement.
''I want to express my deepest gratitude to Stevie for all his help, but I think it's time for a change.
''Stevie is an outstanding caddie and a friend and has been instrumental in many of my accomplishments. I wish him great success in the future.''
Williams said the news, delivered to him on July 4, came as a shock and the parting was not amicable.
He found the timing of it ''extraordinary'' but said the reasons Woods gave him would remain private.
''Any player that's not playing to the best of their ability will often look at ways to change and someone to bring in some new ideas,'' he said.
''I can't comment (whether this change will work for Woods). Only time will tell.''
However, Williams said he would ''absolutely'' remain friends with Woods.
''I've been fortunate to witness one of the greatest runs in golf, ever. I consider myself very fortunate. I would be surprised if anyone plays at that level again because the competition is so tough now.''
Woods and Williams had been close friends. Both got engaged while on safari after The Presidents Cup in South Africa, and they were in each other's weddings.
Woods played the New Zealand Open in 2002 and even took part in Williams' other job as a race car driver.
The relationship began showing signs of strain after Woods crashed his car on Thanksgiving night in 2009, followed by stunning revelations of multiple extramarital affairs that led to Woods getting divorced.
Woods' ex-wife and Williams' wife were close friends, and Williams went months before hearing anything from Woods.
In recent months, Williams was feeling out of touch during Woods' rehabilitation. He was not aware that Woods did not plan to compete in the US Open until after flying to the States from New Zealand, where Williams lives most of the year.
Woods, who is rehabilitating from injury, has not named a replacement while Williams, who with Woods formed one of the most successful partnerships in world sport, will link permanently with Australian Adam Scott.
The 47-year-old was on the bag for Scott at the last two major tournaments - the US Open and British Open - after getting the all clear from the injured Woods.
Williams said he was looking forward to working with Scott, a former top 10 player with 20 wins worldwide.
The 31-year-old's career peaked in 2004 when he won the Players Championship, the unofficial fifth major championship, but he fell outside the world's top 50 in 2009.
However, he has rediscovered some consistency during the past two years and was in contention to win this year's Masters at Augusta before a late surge by South African Charl Schwartzel relegated him to second.
Williams said he had followed Scott's career and always considered him a friend.
He has liked what he's seen of Scott during the past few weeks and is keen to continue caddying for several more years, despite previously stating that when he finished with Woods, he would end his career.
''While I always believed that statement to be true I had no idea it would come this early in the piece,'' he said.
Williams will reassess his caddying career when he turns 50, but will ''certainly not'' caddie beyond the age of 55.
Factbox on Tiger Woods' major golf championship wins while New Zealander Steve Williams was his caddie:-
1999 - PGA Championship, Medinah
2000 - US Open, Pebble Beach
2000 - British Open, St Andrews
2000 - PGA Championship, Valhalla
2001 - Masters, Augusta National
2002 - Masters, Augusta National
2002 - US Open, Bethpage State Park
2005 - Masters, Augusta National
2005 - British Open, St Andrews
2006 - British Open, Royal Liverpool
2006 - PGA Championship, Medinah
2007 - PGA Championship, Southern Hills
2008 - US Open, Torrey Pines
- © Fairfax NZ News