Tiger Woods has heard quite enough bitterness from his former caddie, Steve Williams. Yesterday Team Tiger struck back, vehemently denying the Kiwi's claims that Woods lied when telling the press he had sacked Williams "face to face".
Williams made the assertion after the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, which was won by his new employer, Adam Scott. Not content to take a swipe at Woods on national TV by calling it "the greatest week of my life" – discounting the 13 majors he won with Woods in the process – Williams later dropped a further bombshell to journalists.
At last Tuesday's press conference, The Independent asked Woods whether he had fired Williams "face to face". "Yes," replied Woods, before explaining how he had summoned Williams at the end of last month's AT&T National and did it "man to man". "That is incorrect," said Williams, who also claimed he had been dismissed because he dared to caddie for Scott while Woods was injured. "I was told on the phone we needed to take a break. And in caddie lingo, that means you're fired. Simple as that."
That plainly infuriated the Woods camp, with his manager, Mark Steinberg contacting EPSN. "Tiger flew from Florida to Philly to visit AT&T National and also for the express purpose of personally and officially telling Steve that they would no longer be working together," he said. "Tiger felt strongly about meeting face to face. Any assertions to the contrary are simply false."
The dispute is sure to rumble on as the circus arrives here for the USPGA Championship. While the crowd at Firestone were chanting Williams' name as Scott strode out for a four-shot victory over Luke Donald, the general reaction within the game was bemusement that Williams had thrust himself forward to steal the spotlight. After earning more than twice as much as Woods in Ohio (his 10 per cent of the $1.4m [£855,000] winning cheque, eclipsing Woods's $58,500 for finishing 37th), the 47-year-old talked of being "a great front-runner" and said: "I have won again."
Christina Kim, the LPGA pro, was the most fervent objector. "Steve surely doesn't seem bitter at all," tweeted Kim. "Greatest week of my life. Good job congratulating Adam, who hit the shots, you knob." Other caddies were also incredulous, one telling The Independent: "We're not supposed to be the superstars, are we?" Paul Azinger, the former Ryder Cup captain, accused Williams of "breaking the unwritten rule of caddies not talking to the media".
Because of that there was to be little anger on behalf of the media. "I guess caddying for Tiger, I've probably been a bit unfair to the media sometimes," he told the scrum of journalists behind the 18th green. "I realise I owe you guys something, so it's no problem."
Will it be a problem for Williams? Only if Scott is annoyed. And the Australian is famously laid-back. Woods gives his next press conference tomorrow, but Scott, the freshly minted world No 9, will not be watching. "I'm not involved in it at all," he said, "and they know that I'm just out here to do my job. They'll figure that out themselves. They're both men."
Out Of Bounds: Caddie faces backlash
Twitter's golfers were less than impressed with Steve Williams' outburst:
Williams breaks the unwritten caddy rule, by talking to the press. Most don't, a few do at times when appropriate. #notapopularguy
(Paul Azinger, former US Ryder Cup captain)
Steve Williams new book out this week "My 13 Majors and How Tiger Helped Me get Them"
(Parker McLachlin, US Tour golfer)
Steve Williams surely doesn't seem bitter at all. 'Greatest week of my life.' Good job congratulating Adam, who hit the shots, you knob.
(Christina Kim, LPGA golfer)
And from the football world...
I bet Steve Williams had planned that interview on 18th tee! Poor effort when the fame and fortune he has was down to Tiger.
(Michael Owen, Man U striker)