SHANGHAI // The golf world was shocked on Saturday after Steve Williams, the outspoken caddie, made an apparently racist remark about Tiger Woods, his former boss, at an awards dinner.
Williams disparaged Woods during the annual caddies' awards at the US$7 million (Dh25.7m) HSBC Champions in Shanghai on Friday, overshadowing the action at Asia's flagship event.
He made the remark when asked about his controversial celebrations following a victory by his new employer, the Australian Adam Scott, at the Bridgestone Invitational in August.
Williams described Scott's victory as the "best win of my career".
Addressing the room after being handed a tongue-in-cheek "celebration of the year" plate, Williams, 47, stunned players, fellow caddies and sponsors with the remark about Woods.
Williams, who made an estimated $3m during his career with Woods in what was one of the most successful partnerships in the history of golf, later issued an apology on his website, kiwicaddy.co.nz.
"I apologise for comments I made last night," he said. "I now realise how my comments could be construed as racist. However, I assure you that was not my intent. I sincerely apologise to Tiger and anyone else I have offended."
Williams is known for his outspokenness and gruff personality.
At a previous private function he made a crude remark about Phil Mickelson, and he has made a series of backbiting remarks about Woods since their acrimonious split. He carried Woods's clubs during 13 of the 14 major championships won by the American, who is of African and Thai heritage.
Scott, ranked No 8 in the world, was among several top-10 players, including Rory McIlroy, in the 100-strong audience in the banqueting hall when Williams made his remarks.
Scott, 31, teed off on Saturday with Williams at his side as the storm around the caddie's comments gathered strength. The Australian goes into the final day in third, three shots behind Fredrik Jacobson, the leader.
"I disagree that he should be sacked," Scott said when asked about the future of his bagman.
Mark Steinberg, Woods's former spokesman and manager, said it was "sad" for Williams to bring racism into his bitter falling out with the golfing legend.
"I was with Tiger last night when he heard the news. We got multiple calls from people who sounded like they were leaving the caddie party," Steinberg said. "Tiger obviously wasn't there. He doesn't know exactly what was said. But if multiple reports, which all seem to be accurate, are true, then it is sad it has come down to this.
"It's a regrettable comment and there's really nothing that Tiger can do or say. He's just going to move on."
Many players refused to comment but Graeme McDowell, the Northern Irishman, agreed with Scott that Williams should stay in his post and said the caddie's comment was not racially motivated.
"I don't think Stevie Williams was trying to be racial. I don't think it was a racial comment," McDowell said. "I think he was trying to be funny and make a joke of it."
McIlroy also said Williams's apology should suffice.
"It's just unfortunate that there's been such an argument between a player and a caddie," the US Open champion said. "I've heard that since then Stevie has apologised for his comments and everyone can just move on."