Golf: Former Kiwi caddy Steve Williams sees improved attitude in Tiger Woods

Steve Williams and Tiger Woods at the 2010 Open Championship
Steve Williams and Tiger Woods at the 2010 Open Championship.

Former golf caddy Steve Williams has noticed a change in Tiger Woods after the American's victory at the US Masters this week.

Kiwi Williams and Woods formed one of the game's greatest combinations for 12 years, when the latter won 13 Major championships and established himself as a generation's top player.

But the pair fell out in 2011, soon after Woods' marital infidelities were exposed, and Williams went on to assist Aussie Adam Scott to the world number-one ranking and his first Major victory - the 2013 Masters.

Williams, 55, told Players Voice that he broke his personal rule of never watching golf on TV to witness Woods' latest triumph over the weekend - and noted a huge change in the player's demeanour.

"What really caught my attention was the celebration that came after he won," Williams said. "The outpouring of emotion is testimony to the fact that winning his 15th Major was harder than winning his first one.

"It's a special moment in his career, after he'd gone through a really tough time personally and with his back injury.

"To have successful surgery - and there's no guarantee the surgery was going to be successful - that has enabled him to not only play golf, but to be able to keep physically working on his fitness was a major milestone for him."

Just as important was how his rivals received his victory - and how he, in turn, responded to them.

"What I thought was outstanding were the number of players who lined up to congratulate him, as he walked off," Williams told Players Voice. "That was a great thing to see - Bubba Watson, Justin Thomas, Ian Poulter, Zach Johnson, I lost count of how many were there.

"They all understand what Tiger has done for the game and what he means to the game, and they understand that while the win is great for Tiger, it's also great for the game.

"But the celebration also showed a real chance in Tiger. I was impressed with how open and friendly he seemed.

"We all mellow with age - that's part of the process of getting older, but this was a significantly different Tiger."

Williams explained that after Woods returned from his scandal, he promised to improve his attitude towards fans and be more respectful of the game, but wasn't able to achieve that so quickly.

"There's now a very obvious change in his attitude, and I think that's got a lot to do with the passing of Arnold Palmer in 2016," said Williams. "Tiger was a huge fan of Arnold Palmer.

"Arnold had so much charisma and time for the fans - and deep down, I think Tiger wanted to carry on Arnold's legacy."

Now that Woods is again on track to challenge Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 Majors, Williams believes his resurrection is just the spur golf needs, as it struggles to maintain its foothold in the ever-expanding sports market.

"Looking at golf from a little place like New Zealand, we know the number of golf rounds played every year is decreasing, more courses closing than opening.

"To get Tiger back into the picture - with the way he polarises the game - one of the wider aspects of his success is that more kids will come back into the game."



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