As he prepared to welcome the players participating in this week’s Chevron World Challenge benefiting the Tiger Woods Foundation and other charities, Tiger Woods, the tournament’s host, probably did not think he would be issuing a terse statement aimed at defusing a controversy between himself and his longtime rival Phil Mickelson.
That, however, was exactly what Woods did on Monday, a day after Mickelson had issued a statement of his own responding to off-color, critical remarks about him that were attributed to New Zealander Steve Williams, Woods’ longtime caddie.
“I was disappointed to read the comments attributed to Steve Williams about Phil Mickelson, a player that I respect,” Woods said in the statement. “It was inappropriate. The matter has been discussed and dealt with.”
Williams shed his well-documented aversion to speaking on the record to reporters last week.
At an event in New Zealand, Williams was quoted by the Taranaki Daily News on Saturday as saying: “I wouldn’t call Mickelson a great player ... ’cause I hate the prick.”
The next day, Williams told the Sunday Star-Times the quote was accurate while adding he was surprised his comments made during a charity event had reached the public.
“I was simply honest and said they [Mickelson and Woods] don’t get along,” Williams said. “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 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.”
In a statement on Sunday, Mickelson referred to his caddie, Jim MacKay, who is nicknamed Bones.
“After seeing Steve Williams’ comments, all I could think of was how lucky I am to have a class act like Bones on my bag and representing me,” Mickelson said.
Mickelson’s management team had responded earlier in reaction to what it said were “grossly inaccurate and irresponsible statements” made by Williams.
A three-times major champion, left-hander Mickelson has long been regarded as the likeliest challenger to the dominant Woods.