Woods denies poaching LaCava


Tiger Woods yesterday issued a statement which answered the criticisms of his former coach, Butch Harmon, who said he was "disappointed" with the manner in which the 14-time major winner hired his new caddie.

Joe LaCava told Dustin Johnson he was leaving him to work for Woods after the final round of the Tour Championship on Sunday. Johnson immediately informed Harmon, his coach, who then broke the news in his role as Sky Sports analyst. Harmon was plainly upset.

"The thing that bothered me the most was TW not calling Dustin and asking if he could talk to Joe," said Harmon, under whom Woods won his first eight majors. "That's the way it's done. I'm a little disappointed with the way Tiger handled it. But I'm not surprised."

On his website, Woods sought to put the record straight. "Mark [Steinberg, his agent] and I were approached by a lot of people, including Joe, who expressed an interest in becoming my caddie," Woods said. "Out of deference for the FedExCup Playoffs, I decided to wait until they were concluding to have substantive talks. We then spoke to Joe and came to an agreement."

LaCava confirmed he had instigated the appointment. "I contacted Tiger... because this is a unique opportunity to be part of something very special," he said. "Tiger and I have been friends for a very long time, and I know what he can do."

Woods's website went on to reveal he had called Johnson straight after LaCava had told Johnson. Woods then spoke to Fred Couples, his close friend for whom La Cava caddied for two decades. Concern was raised in the American media how this would affect team morale at the Presidents Cup in November. Woods and Johnson will be team-mates on the American team which is captained by Couples. Harmon, however, does not foresee a problem at Royal Melbourne. "Dustin's not the type to hold a grudge," he said.

Since Woods sacked Steve Williams, his caddie of 13 years, in July, the rumour mill has been at full speed over his replacement. With Woods ranked 45 places below Johnson, the world No 5, Harmon expressed his "shock" at LaCava's decision. "He has the right to go and work for anyone he wants," said Harmon, who fixed up LaCava with Johnson. "It's just that Dustin Johnson is a young kid and he's an ATM machine to work for, the way he makes a lot of money. Tiger Woods is Tiger Woods, and I understand that, but it is a little bit surprising. None of us saw this coming."

Yesterday Johnson was on his way to St Andrews for this week's Dunhill Links event (a friend was always going to carry his bag in Scotland), while Woods was preparing for next week's Frys.com Open in San Jose. This will be Woods's first event since he missed the cut at last month's USPGA Championship.