Caddie's future lies in hands of former employer Woods
So it took the Australians, those masters of diplomacy, to ensure the outrage does not boil over on to the fairways. After the game's two most powerful executives allowed caddie Steve Williams to carry on regardless, after referring to Tiger Woods as "that black arsehole", the officials in Sydney vowed to do all they could to take the heat out of the race-row.
Woods arrives at The Lakes Club today for this week's Australian Open and it was widely expected that, in Thursday's first round, he would play with Adam Scott, the new boss of Williams, who rocked the sport with his outburst at a function here at the HSBC WGC Championship on Friday night. But the Australian Open's tournament director declared last night they would not allow the event to be hijacked by a controversial Woods-Williams pairing of sorts.
"No chance," Tony Roosenburg said. "Tiger and Adam would not have been playing together anyway. The players will not be distracted."
Roosenburg was, however, honest enough to admit the tournament office has not been filled exclusively with angst these past few days. There has been plenty of excitement as well since Williams caused outrage when explaining on stage at a caddies awards night why he was so animated after his first win with Scott. "My aim was to shove it up that black arsehole," Williams said.
"I don't think it's doing the Open any harm," Roosenberg said. "Certainly not – it's adding another dimension. Was I looking for this sort of build-up? No, but you take it when you can get it. The media conference with Woods will now be bigger than it was already."
Woods will speak to the press late tonight and it will be interesting to hear what he has to say about Williams's comments and, indeed, about the reactions of Scott and golf's authorities. Yesterday, Tim Finchem, the commissioner of the US Tour, and George O'Grady, chief executive of the European Tour, released a joint statement which accepted Williams's apology on his website as sanction enough.
"The International Federation of PGA Tours feels strongly there is no place for any form of racism in ours or any other sport," they said. "We consider the remarks of Steve Williams, as reported, entirely unacceptable in whatever context. We are aware that he has apologised fully and we trust we will not hear such remarks again. Based on this, we consider the matter closed, and we will have no further comment."
Their verdict baffled many. It must be presumed the Tours feel "strongly" about racist remarks – but not strongly enough to administer any punishment. The Tours have the power and mechanisms to ban Williams. Scott welcomed the decision not to and seemed angry and bemused when he was asked whether he was effectively condoning the racial slur by not dismissing Williams.
"I had Steve issue an apology," the Australian said. "What more was I supposed to do?" That was interesting as it meant that even the extent of Williams's contrition is now dubious. "Look, I don't think digging for a story out of me on this is a very good idea," Scott said.
There was no digging required; Fred Couples made sure of it. The major champion is the US captain in next week's Presidents Cup match against the International team in Melbourne. Woods and Scott are on opposite teams and, as Scott insists Williams will remain as his caddie, there is a fair chance the pair will come face-to-face. Thus, the equivalent of the Ryder Cup would be upstaged.
Couples believes Scott should not even allow this to be a possibility. "If that was my caddie he wouldn't be caddying for me today," Couples said. "You read [Williams's comments] and you say: 'Those aren't comical'."
Scott, however, believes they were part of a "humorous evening", the content of which "should never have left the room". That is, despite there being more than 200 people in a crowd containing some of the world's best players, as well as members of the media and top golfing officials and employees of the sponsor, HSBC.
Woods is known to be "disappointed" and, if he reveals at the press conference that he was offended, then the pressures on Scott and the powers-that-be will intensify to extremely persuasive levels. Whether Williams likes it or not, the probability is that his future rests in the hands of his former employer.
Woods was due this morning to play at a corporate day in Melbourne in the company of Shane Warne and his fiancée Liz Hurley and will afterwards open Warne's new bar. Then, he will travel to Sydney to a players' cocktail party at The Lakes. Scott will be there. They could share a lively discussion.
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