Caddie 'shocked' after Woods wields axe

 

Unlike many of Tiger Woods's jilted, Steve Williams could not be silenced. Last night the New Zealander reacted with thinly-veiled fury when suddenly sacked as caddie after 13 years, 72 victories, 13 major triumphs and one very public scandal. "So much for loyalty," was the gist of the New Zealander's reaction.

Woods announced the news on his website, saying: "It's time for a change" while "extending my deepest gratitude" to Williams. Woods called Williams "an outstanding caddie and a friend", although the latter claim may now be in doubt. Williams posted his response on his own website and it will not make happy reading to a Tiger camp desperately trying to rebuild the fallen icon's reputation.

"I am no longer caddying for Tiger after he informed me that he needed to make a change," said Williams. "After 13 years of loyal service needless to say this came as a shock. 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' anger barely needs spelling out, and it will be multiplied if it emerges Woods was upset with him for caddying for Adam Scott since his injury. The former world No 1 has only played nine holes since The Masters in April due to an injury to his achilles and his troublesome left knee. Williams asked Woods's permission if he could fill in for Scott, who was without a caddy at the US Open.

The Kiwi had travelled over from his home in New Zealand to work for Woods, but as he was on his journey, Woods announced his injury would keep him out of the major. Williams then caddied for Scott twice more, most recently at last week's Open at Sandwich. Rumours emerged in Kent of an impending split, although Williams intimated to an American journalist the pair were still together. Williams will now caddy for Scott on a permanent basis.

When the news broke, the spotlight immediately fell on Billy Foster, currently employed by Lee Westwood. The Yorkshireman caddied for Woods at the 2005 Presidents Cup, when Williams was at the birth of his son, and is often referred to as the "best caddie in the world". Yet when contacted last night, Foster said he had not yet been approached. "It's been a running joke that I would be next in line for the job," he said. "I can honestly say I have no idea who it will be."

Joe LaCava, Freddie Couples' old caddie, is the other obvious choice, but he has just taken on the bag of the Open runner-up Dustin Johnson. Woods is expected to return at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in a fortnight and he may well pluck someone from obscurity, or even use a friend. Byron Bell, who Woods has known since childhood and was implicated in the scandal, caddied for him in the Buick Invitational victories of 1999 and 2000.

The identity of the new man will obsess golf, but last night there was merely shock at the cold manner in which he dismissed Williams. Woods and Williams have been close friends. Both got engaged while on safari after The Presidents Cup in South Africa, and attended each other's weddings. Woods played in the New Zealand Open and even took part in Williams' other job as a racing car driver. "Stevie has been instrumental in many of my accomplishments," said Woods in his statement.

However, since the revelations emerged of Woods's multiple affairs, cracks have appeared in the relationship. Woods's ex-wife and Williams' wife are close friends and during the scandal Williams said: "If I'd known I would have blown the whistle on him... Of course I'm mad at him, why would you not be? I'm close with his wife and he's got two lovely children and he's let them down."

In truth, sympathy may be limited for Williams. He is believed to have earned £1m a year with Woods and is hardly popular on the circuit.

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