Tiger's caddy regrets kicking camera

Posted: Friday, July 02, 2004

The caddie for Tiger Woods said he was wrong to kick over a news photographer's camera during the U.S. Open, blaming his snap decision on hearing too many clicks from too many cameras at the wrong time.

''I lost my cool,'' Steve Williams said Thursday in a telephone interview from the Western Open, where Woods is playing this week.

''I shouldn't have done that.''

But he offered no apologies for taking a camera away from a fan at Shinnecock Hills, and no guarantee that he wouldn't do that again.

''I'm not being a bully,'' Williams said. ''I'm just doing what I have to do to make our jobs easier.''

Woods has come under intense scrutiny over the last four months, especially when he failed to contend at the Masters and U.S. Open to extend his streak to eight majors without winning.

Much of the attention is built around his split two years ago from swing coach Butch Harmon, who said during the U.S. Open that Woods' swing is nowhere close to where it was during his record-breaking 2000 season.

Williams said more photographers are coming onto the practice range to try to shoot Woods' swing sequence, making it difficult for them to practice.

Photographers clicked four times during his tee shot on the 18th hole during the final practice round at Shinnecock, causing Woods to pick up his ball and curse them under his breath.

It all boiled over in the second round at the U.S. Open, when Williams walked across the 10th tee and kicked the lens of photographer John Roca from the New York Daily News.

In the final round, Williams spotted a man taking pictures behind the second tee.

He walked into the crowd and took the camera, which belonged to an off-duty police officer.

''I don't regret taking the camera off the guy,'' Williams said. ''I don't know how he got it on the grounds.

"If all the security and marshals were doing their job, it wouldn't happen. I'm not sorry about that.''

Golf prohibits fans from bringing cameras onto the course once a tournament begins.

However, it happens and several incidents led to Williams' goon-like tactics at Shinnecock.

During the final round of the Memorial in late May, Williams placed the golf bag in front of a special camera designed to analyze golf swings.

At the U.S. Open, he spotted a photographer taking pictures of Woods' swing on the practice range and positioned himself and his bag in front of the camera.

''We get to the practice tee on Friday and there must be 50 to 70 people sitting not far behind us, and this guy has a swing-sequence camera and I go over and asked him to refrain while we're practicing,'' Williams said. ''So we go to the 10th hole for the first tee shot. Tiger gets on the tee, the guy announces his name and he's standing behind the ball in his pre-shot routine. He's just about to step to the ball and the camera goes off.''

Williams said he had no problem with the national photographers who routinely cover tournament golf.

''They do their job 100 percent properly,'' he said. ''It's the people that come every now and then, to a tournament like the U.S. Open, that are difficult to deal with.''

Woods has backed up his caddie, saying recently that he ''went too far.'' But he urged tournament officials to take a tougher stand on fans with cameras and news photographers who click at the wrong time.

''Hey, it happened,'' Woods said Wednesday. ''Steve felt bad for what he did. He got a little frustrated, and he did something he probably shouldn't have done.''

Williams is a no-nonsense caddie from New Zealand who previously worked for Raymond Floyd and Greg Norman. He has been on Woods' bag for five years and their relationship is strong; he rarely mingles with anyone else tournament officials, fans, the media. He is, however, prone to making rash decisions when it comes to protecting his boss.

Two years ago at the Skins Game, a photographer who was not credentialed took a picture while standing some 20 feet behind Woods as he played a bunker shot. It cost Woods the final skin, and Williams took the law not to mention the lens into his own hands.

He took the man's camera and dropped it on a steep bank, allowing it to roll into a pond. Williams was fined by the PGA Tour, and Woods said he gladly paid the unspecified amount.

Commissioner Tim Finchem told reporters in Chicago earlier this week that the tour has upgraded its security, and he encouraged players and caddies to ''use that route.''

''Under certain circumstances, it's understandable that a player or caddie takes matter into his own hands,'' Finchem said. ''If there's 10 situations, they'll be handled 10 different ways. And some of those will be ways which the public or the media look at it and say, 'This is inappropriate.'''

Williams said the negative press doesn't bother him.

''Look, you're trying to do the best job you can for your player,'' he said. ''Sometimes I might overreact. But all these people making comments, how about they spend a week with us?''

He heard some heckling during the pro-am round Wednesday at the Western Open.

''Some guy was taking a photo of Tiger and said, 'Hey, Steve, can I get your photo? Oh, I forgot, you don't like cameras. I should hide this,''' Williams said. ''I actually thought that was quite funny.''



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