THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - Tiger Woods said Monday he was disappointed by his caddie's disparaging comments in New Zealand newspapers about Phil Mickelson, whom Woods referred to as a "player I respect."
Steve Williams was quoted in the Taranki Daily News as saying he wouldn't call Mickelson a great player "because I think he's a (expletive)." Contacted by the Sunday Star Times, Williams confirmed making the comment.
"I was disappointed to read the comments attributed to Steve Williams about Phil Mickelson, a player that I respect," Woods said in a statement. "It was inappropriate. The matter has been discussed and dealt with."
Williams began working with Woods in the spring of 1999 and has been on his bag for 13 of his 14 majors.
Mickelson's management company issued a statement Sunday evening to respond to what it called "grossly inaccurate and irresponsible statements" by Williams. It included a comment from Mickelson.
"After seeing Steve Williams' comments, all I could think of was how lucky I am to have a class act like Bones (Jim Mackay) on my bag and representing me," Mickelson said.
The comments figure to bring even more intrigue to the Woods-Mickelson rivalry, and to a relationship that is hard to pin down.
They have never been particularly close, and they appeared to be even more distant when they lost both their matches as partners in the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills, where they rarely spoke to each other.
But they exchange friendly barbs in the locker room, and both have paid each other compliments over the years. Mickelson credits Woods with a spike in prize money, and when Mickelson had his worst season on tour in 2003, Woods said Lefty had too much talent to end his career without a major and that his wedge game was the best in golf. Mickelson went on to win a major each of the next three years.
Williams was not at home Monday and could not immediately to be reached for comment.
He told the Sunday Star Times that his original comment about Mickelson was not in an interview.
"I visit a lot of golf clubs and do a lot of speaking for charity, and that is one of the questions I get asked the most \u2013 what is Tiger's relationship like with Phil Mickelson," Williams told the newspaper. "I was simply honest and said they don't get along. You know what it's like. You're at a charity event and you have a bit of fun.
"I don't particularly like the guy myself," he said. "He pays me no respect at all and hence, I don't pay him any respect. It's no secret we don't get along, either."
Mickelson's management also took issue with a story Williams told the Taranki Daily News about a fan heckling Mickelson's physique, saying the caddie plugged in Mickelson's name to an incident that happened years ago.
That famous story involved Colin Montgomerie at Bethpage Black in the 2002 U.S. Open.
Woods is to speak Wednesday at the Chevron World Challenge, where he is the tournament host. He has not played since winning the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines \u2013 where he and Mickelson played together the first two rounds \u2013 and likely will not see Mickelson until Woods returns, presumably in March.
What he discussed and how he dealt with Williams remains unknown.
Woods credits his caddie for reading a crucial putt for par at Medinah in 1999 that helped Woods win the PGA Championship, and for talking him into a 60-degree wedge out of the rough on the 18th hole at Torrey Pines this summer, where Woods made a 12-foot birdie putt to force a playoff against Rocco Mediate in the U.S. Open.
Williams is only the second full-time caddie Woods has employed since he turned pro in 1996. The other was Mike "Fluff" Cowan, who was replaced in February 1999. Some believe Cowan was fired for giving interviews and seeking publicity, but Woods simply was looking for a caddie who better fit his high-energy levels.
Williams has had several run-ins with fans, media and tour officials, never caring what anyone thought.
He threw a $7,000 camera into a pond at the Skins Game when a photographer working for a corporate sponsor took a picture in the middle of Woods' swing out of a bunker on the final hole. He also wrested a camera from a fan \u2013 an off-duty police officer \u2013 at the U.S. Open in 2004. Williams routinely was fined by the tour for wearing shorts that were not approved.