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Woods plays down racism row

STEVE Williams has risked alienating himself further within the golfing world by making light of his racial slur against Tiger Woods.

The New Zealander, recalling his infamous “black a*******” remark at the annual caddie awards dinner in Shanghai last Friday night, claimed: “Everyone laughed their heads off.”

Tiger Woods has since said that the provocative slur by Steve Williams was hurtful and regrettable but “not racist” and |has accepted an apology from his former caddie.

In an interview to cast doubt on the sincerity of his public apology, Williams told an Auckland radio station that the seriousness of his comment had been exaggerated.

The caddie, who accompanied Woods to 13 major championship wins over 12 years, also strongly disputed allegations that he was a racist, stressing that the multi-racial make-up of New Zealand society made this impossible.

Describing what he called the ”locker-room environment” of the caddies’ banquet, Williams said: “My comments were by no means the worst that were passed. There was a lot of profanity and a lot of other kind of remarks, but just because I made comments about my former employer, it gets blown way out of proportion.”

According to Williams, the ribald nature of the event, staged during the HSBC Champions at Sheshan International, left him oblivious to the firestorm his racially-charged outburst would generate.

“I wasn’t the first person up |on stage, having listened to some of the profanity that was used, and then to the HSBC spokesperson, who got up and made a speech.

“To listen to some of his comments which were very funny, but way worse than mine. No one mentioned anything about what he had to say. I didn’t give it a second thought, to be honest with you. They’re making a mountain out of a mole hill.”

Williams was adamant his cultural background rendered him free of any racist thoughts.

“You make one comment like that – in a room, having a bit of fun – and how does that make you a racist? We live in a country that’s a multi-racial society.

“We owe a lot of our history and tradition and culture to a lot of the Polynesian communities. I don’t know how you can say anyone from New Zealand is racist.”

Woods met with Williams this morning in Sydney and shook hands with the New Zealander.

“Obviously, it was the wrong thing to say – something we both acknowledged,” Woods said. It was hurtful, certainly. But life goes forward.

“We talked it through. Steve is certainly not a racist. There is no doubt about that. It was a comment that should not have been made. It was one he wished he did not make.”

Asked about the source of the apparent animosity with his former caddie, who accompanied Woods to 13 major championship wins over 12 years, he said: “That is between Steve and me.”