Tiger Woods’ long-time caddie Steve Williams insists he had no knowledge of any of the player’s extra-marital relationships.
World-respected American sports columnist Rick Reilly recently claimed he found it “hard to believe” that Woods’ caddie, agent and close friends knew nothing of the player’s “transgressions”.
But the New Zealander, who has carried the world number one’s bag for the last decade, today stressed he played no part in covering up the infidelities.
“I had no knowledge of what Tiger’s indiscretion was,” Williams told the Sunday News in New Zealand.
“I am an honest person. I had no knowledge of what was going on. If I did, I would say I did.”
He continued: “What people fail to realise is I [just] work for Tiger Woods.
“I live in New Zealand, I travel to and from New Zealand to caddie for Tiger Woods. I am not with him 24/7. Whilst I am a very good friend of his... I don’t know what he does off the course. Some nights we go to dinner. His indiscretions have probably been [when he wasn’t playing].
“When he is not competing, I am back in New Zealand. I have no knowledge of what he is doing.
“Yes, I talk to him on the phone, ask him how his practice is going, how he is hitting the ball, how his family is, [but] I don’t know what he is doing, just like he doesn’t know what I am doing.”
Woods announced on Friday that he would take an “indefinite break” from golf after admitting his infidelity for the first time.
The 33-year-old, who is married to Swedish former model Elin Nordegren, has been swamped by a series of affair allegations since crashing his car in mysterious circumstances on November 27.
Williams backed Woods’ decision to focus his attention on saving his marriage and remains committed to the troubled star.
“Tiger just said he needs a break and I don’t want to put any pressure on the guy,” he said.
“He will know in his mind, and his family will know in their mind, when it is the right time for him to return to playing golf.
“He will have the right people counselling him and between the people that counsel him, his wife and his immediate friends, when he is ready to come back he will be ready to come back.”
He added: “I have always stated that my last caddie job will be caddying for Tiger.
“I am committed to him. I understand he needs a break to sort his personal stuff out. And I will be there for him when he wishes to return to play.”
Meanwhile, Peter Alliss, for many people the voice of golf, believes that if Woods does not play for the next six months he might never play again.
Alliss, a former Ryder Cup player who has been television’s best-known commentator on the game for over 30 years, has described Woods as being in “dreadful turmoil” and just wonders what the future holds.
“I don’t envy anybody involved in this – it’s all very horrid and very public,” the 78-year-old said on the BBC website.
“It must be remembered that this is the time of the year when he has in the past taken time off.
“He’s very seldom ever played in tournaments in the month of January or February – occasionally he’s popped out and played one or two – but usually Tiger’s year begins in earnest about the middle of March.
“But if he doesn’t play for the first six months of next year then he might have decided he’s come to the end of the road.
“He’s going to have to put up with a lot of nonsense and ridicule and comment for the next 20 to 30 years and it depends how well he tackles that.
“He’s in a very, nasty awkward position of his own making, I’m afraid.
“He’s giving himself breathing space. If we learn come the end of February that he’s not going to play in The Masters at Augusta in April and maybe not in our Open Championship in July then it’s getting very serious.
“Then you have to wonder about all sorts of things that we’re not privy to - his state of mind, whether he wants to continue, whether he’s thinking of early retirement.
“All sorts of things come into the equation. How his marriage is going, what his home front is looking like.”
Alliss continued: “He’s got very few friends in my opinion. Very few people have got into the inner sanctum, so nobody really knows him.
“Every psychiatrist and psychologist are jumping out of the trees saying he should do this, he should do that, but Tiger’s got to do it for himself.
“Tiger, if he decides not to play, will be a tremendous loss to the game because it’s a proven fact that he’s put people on the gate, there have been more stories written and more photos taken.
“He’s a wonderfully gifted player. But that’s happened before – we’ve had wonderfully gifted players before who have not got into this sort of situation, but they have passed through time.”
European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie believes the scandals surrounding the game’s best player “will impact on every tournament Tiger plays”.
He said: “Let’s hope the tabloid press finishes quickly and we get on supporting good golf. He is suddenly, I hate to say, more normal now.
“There is a mystique which has been lost now and let’s hope that golf isn’t damaged by that – and it shouldn’t be.
“There was an aura and that wall, if you like, has been split slightly, so there are cracks and I feel that it gives us more opportunity of winning these big events now.”
Former women’s world number one Annika Sorenstam, who used to exchange text messages with Woods whenever either won a major, has commented too.
Sorenstam, now retired and a mother, said: “It’s tragic. I think this whole thing is tragic.
“I am in touch with his wife Elin now and then. Me and my husband Mike have been out dining with Elin and Tiger on a few occasions. Perhaps it won’t happen as often now.”