Australian Open getting extra attention after ‘comment’

SYDNEY: Outspoken caddie Steve Williams is due in Sydney this week with organisers of the Australian Open saying his racial slur about former boss Tiger Woods has added “another dimension” to the tournament.

New Zealander Williams, who was Woods’ caddie for 13 of his 14 Major titles before being sacked earlier this year, uttered the comment during an awards dinner on Friday night in Shanghai.

His remarks were widely condemned but his current employer, Australian Adam Scott, has refused to fire him and he is set to carry the world number eight’s bag at this week’s event in Sydney.

Woods is also playing but the possibility of Scott and Woods being paired up on Thursday and Friday has been ruled out.

“It has nothing to do with the incident that was spoken about over the weekend. It was never going to happen anyway. No chance,” tournament director Tony Roosenburg was quoted as saying in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph yesterday.

In separate comments carried by the Sydney Morning Herald, Roosenburg admitted the row sharpened interest in the tournament.

“It is a very sensitive subject and I’m certainly not commenting on that,” he said about the Williams slur.

But he went on: “I don’t think it’s doing the Open any harm. Certainly not, it’s adding another dimension.

“Was I looking for this sort of build-up? No, but you take it when you can get it. The Tuesday media conference (with Woods) will now be bigger than it was already.

“We as promoters are excited that Tiger is coming. It’s a massive coup for Sydney.”

Williams, 47, posted an online statement on Saturday apologising to Woods and admitting his comments “could be construed as racist” after learning of the uproar.

Woods has been in Perth over the weekend on private business and was expected in Melbourne yesterday, reportedly for a round of golf with cricketer Shane Warne, his fiancee Liz Hurley, and media and gaming tycoon James Packer.

The troubled star has not won since the 2009 Australian Masters in Melbourne and will be hoping The Lakes course, regarded as one of the best wet–weather courses in the region, can help turn around his fortunes.

The Australian Open also features Woods’ fellow Americans Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson, and Australians Geoff Ogilvy, the defending champion, and two-time Major runner-up Jason Day.

It is played the week before the Presidents Cup in Melbourne, with captains Greg Norman and Fred Couples also competing in Sydney. – AFP

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