Ex-caddie: 'I thought I knew' Tiger
Tiger Woods wants to bury the past.
In his mind, the public spat with his estranged caddie, Steve Williams, is over and won’t overshadow this week’s Presidents Cup, where Williams is working for Australian Adam Scott.
“It’s already done,” Woods said Tuesday at Royal Melbourne.
“I addressed it last week and as I said, life goes forward, not backwards.”
For Williams, not so much.
The outspoken New Zealander, who was embroiled in a controversy after making racially tinged remarks about Woods two weeks ago at a dinner in Shanghai, has opened up about all things Tiger.
In a New Zealand television interview on the program "In Depth with Graham Bensinger," which took place before his comments in China, Williams predicted that Woods won’t achieve his lifelong dream — to break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.
“He has to have a career equal to Phil Mickelson from here on in,” Williams said, just to equal Nicklaus.
“Phil’s a fantastic player, he’s had four majors, the next best number of major championships won besides Tiger in the time frame that Tiger’s been playing.
“He has to replicate that kind of career down the road here.”
Given the injuries and personal crises of the past two years, Williams said that would be “difficult.”
“Getting back into the groove (for Woods) has proven to be fairly difficult,” he said.
He added that it would be difficult, too, because of the strength of fields and because Woods has lost his intimidation factor.
“It was a big thing, there’s no two ways about it. Tiger was very intimidating,” he said.
“Back in the early days, he could hit shots that no one else could hit, and that’s intimidating. Knowing a guy can play in a way you can’t play, that’s intimidating.
“Right now, Tiger doesn’t have that intimidation factor, that’s part of his artillery that’s not there anymore.”
Williams also revealed that their relationship began to sour after news broke of Woods’ adulterous secret life in November 2009.
Williams and his wife, Kirsty, who was repulsed by Woods’ behavior and pleaded with her husband to quit, were close to Woods’ now ex-wife, Elin Nordegren.
“That sort of activity is not something that I have anything to do with, and to have your name associated with that kind of activity is just something I didn’t like,” he said.
He sensed things had changed between them when he next saw Woods at the 2010 Masters, his post-scandal comeback tournament.
“We didn’t click like we used to,” he said.
“No question that it was a difficult time and our relationship, obviously, deteriorated very quickly.”
Williams said the two had been “best of mates,” standing in line at each other’s weddings as well as winning 13 majors during their 12 years together.
But how well did he really know Woods?
“Not very well, obviously, that goes without saying,” he said.
“I guess I thought I knew him well and I didn’t.”
Much will be made of this latest dig by Williams, especially given the possibility of Woods and Williams meeting on the tee at Royal Melbourne, but maybe the greater truth in the disintegration of their relationship is that neither is ever likely to find again what they had together.
Scott is a world-class ball striker but can be clueless with a putter — even a long one — in his hands. That must be hard for Williams to watch after spending so long high-fiving Woods as he dropped clutch putt after clutch putt.
And Woods may personally like Joe LaCava, his new caddie, but will he ever be as trusted under the gun as Williams, who thrived on pressure down the stretch at big events and whose judgment Woods valued enormously?
John Cook, one of Fred Couples’ assistant captains at Royal Melbourne, knows them both well.
He said Tuesday that he was saddened at how two close friends have grown so far apart, so fast.
“It’s a shame, personally, for them because they were so close," he said.
“But it’s a shame also because it was one of the great partnerships in the history of our sport.
“Maybe the greatest one.”