Golf: Mickelson remark at bit of fun, says a sorry Williams

New Zealand caddie Steve Williams regrets making disparaging remarks about American golfer Phil Mickelson, and hopes it is the last shot played in a controversial episode which quickly spanned the globe.

Williams, who caddies for world No 1 Tiger Woods, found himself the central figure in an escalating incident after referring to Mickelson as a prick.

The comment, made at a charity function in New Plymouth, was reported by the local newspaper and later picked up by The Guardian newspaper in London.

It bounced back down the wires to New Zealand where a Sunday newspaper confirmed the accuracy of the original report, then detoured to the United States where international news agency Associated Press (AP) contacted Williams at his New Zealand home.

All the while Mickelson criticised Williams and Woods said he was disappointment at his bagman's comments.

Williams moved to downplay the entire affair, telling AP he regretted opening his mouth in the first place.

"I don't deny that him and I don't get along," Steve Williams told AP.

"I shouldn't have said it, but no harm was meant. I was just having some fun."

Williams was originally quoted as saying he would not call Mickelson a great player "because I think he's a prick".

He later confirmed making the comment and said it was no secret they did not get along.

Woods criticised his caddie and said he would handle it privately.

"I was disappointed to read the comments attributed to Steve Williams about Phil Mickelson, a player that I respect," Woods said in a statement.

"It was inappropriate. The matter has been discussed and dealt with."

Mickelson's management company also issued a statement, responding to what it called "grossly inaccurate and irresponsible statements" by Williams.

It included a comment from Mickelson.

"After seeing Steve Williams' comments, all I could think of was how lucky I am to have a class act like Bones (Jim Mackay) on my bag and representing me," Mickelson said.

Williams, who is coming up on the 10-year anniversary of working for the world's No 1 player, said he was speaking at a charity dinner for his foundation when he made the comment.

"I was on stage doing a Q & A with the crowd when the question came up about playing with Mickelson in the Ryder Cup," Williams said, referring to the infamous Woods-Mickelson pairing at Oakland Hills in 2004.

"It was a lighthearted conversation. One guy asked me about the tee shot Phil hit on the final hole when I said it."

Woods and Mickelson lost both their matches, with Mickelson hitting a three-wood off the 18th tee into an unplayable lie that cost them the foursomes match against Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood of England.

"There was never any conversation about Tiger and Phil - it was me and Phil," Williams said.

"The whole thing has been taken way out of context. I shouldn't have said it; I agree with that. People say funny things all the time at these things.

"It was not meant to be any harm. It was one of those lighthearted, funny things."

Williams said he has spoken to Woods, but declined to discuss their conversation.

He said he has not spoken to Mickelson, but would if he had his phone number.

"I'd just tell him the situation - that it was a charity event, a fun event, and it's no secret me and you don't get along," Williams said.

- NZPA


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