Tiger Woods has attempted to draw a line under the race row sparked by Steve Williams by insisting his former caddie is “not a racist” and has apologised for his comments.
Williams, who was sacked by the ex-world number one during the summer after 13 years together and is now caddy for Australian Adam Scott, told the audience at a caddies awards dinner in Shanghai on Friday that the aim of his celebration when Scott won a world championship in August was “to shove it right up that black a*******”.
But Woods, speaking publicly about the incident for the first time, told a media conference at the Australian Open: “Stevie is certainly not a racist — there's no doubt about that.
“It was a comment that shouldn't have been made and certainly one he wishes he didn't make.”
Woods and Williams met this morning to discuss the controversial comments, and Woods is now keen to move on from the issue.
“We talked this morning,” said the American, who has slipped to number 58 in the world rankings. “We met face-to-face, and we talked it through. We shook hands. Obviously it was the wrong thing to say. That's something that we both acknowledge now. We'll move forward.
“He did apologise. It was hurtful, but life goes forward.
“It's one of those things. We'll see what time does.
“Time does heal wounds and we'll see how that goes.”
Williams served as Woods' caddie for 13 years, and for 13 of his 14 major wins, before a fractious parting of ways this summer.
Asked how their relationship had deteriorated so badly, Woods said: “I don't know that one.
“For me personally, it was a tough decision to make to go in a different direction.
“Personally, I don't know how it could have happened the way it did, but it did.”
Williams will not face sanctions from the PGA Tour, but Woods chose not to comment on the rights and wrongs of that decision.
“Well I don't make policy, I'm not part of the governing bodies and it's up to them,” he said.
“I believe they've released a statement but it's up to them to make sanctions or whatever on that subject.”
A joint statement on Sunday from European Tour chief George O'Grady and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem on behalf of the International Federation of PGA Tours read: “The International Federation of PGA Tours feels strongly there is no place for any form of racism in ours or any other sport.
“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.”
On the course, Woods isn’t concerned by his slip down the pecking order of the world’s elite.
“I've been here before, I changed my game in '97. I just won the Masters by 12 and decided to change my game and it took me two years,” he said.
“Then I didn't get it until '99 and I think I had a pretty good run after that.
“So hopefully this will be very similar.”