Controversy stalks Tiger
St. Andrews - Criticism from caddie Steve Williams and more sex scandal fallout swirled on Wednesday around Tiger Woods like the brisk winds blowing across the Old Course on the eve of the British Open.
Top-ranked Woods, seeking a 15th major title and third consecutive British Open victory at the famed birthplace of golf, will be paired with England's Justin Rose and Colombian Camilo Villegas when he tees off on Thursday morning.
Since admitting to having multiple affairs in a cheating scandal that ruined his iconic image and led to a five-month golf hiatus, Woods has not captured a crown, the deepest into a campaign he has gone without taking a title.
"I would like to win no matter what," Woods said. "It really would be nice."
Woods won the 2000 and 2005 British Opens at St. Andrews and is considered a favourite despite his troubles off the course, having shared fourth at the Masters and US Open.
"I haven't gone this long into the season without winning a championship," Woods said. "But I'm looking forward to getting out there and playing."
Woods has struggled with his putting this season, so much so that he has tossed aside a putter with which he won $90 million in favour of a new putter made by his major sponsor in hopes of solving the greens of St. Andrews.
"His game hasn't been up to stretch, but he's well aware of each area and what he needs to work on," Williams said. "The one part of Tiger's game this year that has been very sub-standard is his putting."
Williams, a New Zealander who has carried Woods's bags for most of the golf star's career, noted his boss' woes in an interview on the PGA Tour website, one that had the British press pondering the caddie's future with Woods.
"Tiger has had a lot of ups and downs with his putter," Williams said. "He's renowned as a good putter based on the fact that he holes a lot of putts when you have to but there has been no consistency in his putting. It has been poor in every tournament. It has been frustrating, no two ways about it.
"He knows what he has to do to perform well. I've made it very clear to him what he has to do and that the onus is going to be on putting."
The comments are unlikely to be much of a shock for Woods, though. He said when revealing his putter switch that he spoke with Williams about the idea.
"Something Stevie and I have been talking about over the years together, is what can I do on slower greens," Woods said. "I always seem to struggle on them but this week has been a little bit different."
Woods was also hit by a report from gossip website TMZ regarding a claim by porn star Devon James that her nine-year-old son was fathered by Woods.
The website earlier reported Woods challenged the claim in court, saying DNA tests showed another man had a 99.9 percent chance of being the father. But a new report said the man claims in a letter that he never had a DNA test.
Williams said the nagging sex scandal has made Woods' comeback much tougher.
"The circumstances of 2010 are obviously well-publicized and that has made it very difficult," Williams said.
"I understand Tiger has got a lot of problems. From a caddie perspective, you have to stand by your player and help him through these situations.
"When you caddie for someone like Tiger, you come to expect a lot of good things. I'm used to seeing a lot of good golf. When you're not seeing that for an extended period of time and not seeing a lot of improvement, that's what is frustrating.
"But there's still some golf to be played."