Shaking hands but staying cold!

Tiger Woods lines up a putt as his former caddy Steve Williams looks on at the Royal Melbourne. AFP

Williams succeeded only in humiliating himself when making the now notorious racist comment about Woods at a caddies awards dinner in Shanghai two weeks ago.

But if Williams was chastened by the gaffe, it was not evident when he and Woods stepped onto the first tee at Royal Melbourne on Thursday, the two men in public view together for the first time. He looked his old boss firmly in the eye during a business-like handshake initiated by Woods. There was not a hint of goodwill between them.

“Yeah, I put my hand out there to shake it, and life goes forward,” Woods said later. “There’s some great things that Steve and I did, and that’s how I look at it.
“I know he probably looks at it differently than I do but life goes forward and I’m very happy with what we have done in our career together.”

The pair may have publically buried the hatchet a week ago in a chance meeting in the hotel gymnasium before the Australian Open. Sadly, though, still waters run deep. Which is a shame given both men were such good friends. In happier times, each was in the other’s wedding party.

On this occasion, however, the tension was palpable as Williams, now carrying Adam Scott’s bag, KJ Choi, Steve Stricker and Woods headed down the first fairway.
The other three caddies -- as decreed by the game’s world order -- were anonymous.
Although their paths did not really cross on the first four holes, there was no attempt by Woods or Williams to speak to one another.

At one point during the match, Williams appeared to sarcastically inquire of a tournament official if he felt there was any tension out on the course.

Having Woods in a match against Scott on day one was a promoter’s dream, necessary to get the hype out of the way, US captain Fred Couples and his International team counterpart Greg Norman had said.

It was uncomfortable eno­ugh anyway. It would have been excruciating if it had been set down for the first time in an all important singles match on Sunday.
Whether it was the presence of Williams or not, Woods was off his game. Not right off, but just a little and that is generally more than enough at Royal Melbourne and it’s slick greens.

Tiger was on the scowl rather than the prowl and admonished himself for leaving the ball above the hole with his approach to the concrete-like fourth green.

Stricker and Woods, unbeaten when they played together in the last Presidents Cup, found themselves, improbably, five down after nine holes and ended 7&6 on the 12th, Woods’ worst defeat in Presidents Cup competition.

“We were just obviously slightly off,” the 14-time major champion said. “We hit some good shots down there and he would be a foot in the rough or I hit a sweet drive back there on 11 that’s over the green and he has no shot.”

“We found ourselves on the wrong side of the slopes and when that happens on this golf course, it’s hard to make up shots,” said Woods, who seemed glad the match was over.

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