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Williams had a feeling he wasn’t going to last

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (AP) - Even though he was angry Tiger Woods fired him, Steve Williams had a feeling the 12-year relationship between caddie and the world's No. 1 player was going to end.

Williams sat down in New Zealand for an interview with Graham Bensinger on Yahoo! Sports in which he looks back with some regret at not having left after Woods won the Australian Masters, and how he doesn't think Woods will break Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors.

Most interesting about the interview is that it was taped 10 days before Williams got himself in trouble in Shanghai, where Williams was getting roasted at a caddie awards party and made a racial comment that disparaged Woods.

Yet the answers in the interview were not biting. It didn't appear that Williams saw this as a chance to stick it to his former boss, such as when he gave the TV interview at Firestone after Adam Scott won and Williams called it "the best win of my life." Twice he refused to take the bait on his split with Woods, dodging one question on whether Woods lied by saying Williams was fired face to face.

"We didn't click when we both got back together, back in April at Augusta," he said. "We didn't click like we used to. You always know that things are going to come to an end sometimes."

Williams said he was disappointed because "in anything you do in life, you like to go out on a high."

"When I look back, perhaps after Tiger competed down here in Australia at the Australian Masters, it was a very memorable win. I really enjoyed that tournament," Williams said. "That was the last tournament he played before all the events transpired. Perhaps I should have left him then."

Asked if he thought that day about leaving, Williams said no.

"I didn't know what was going to happen," he said. "When I look back, maybe my gut feeling ... one part of me said that would be a good way to finish. It would be a good memory."

Woods has won 14 majors. As for the Nicklaus record, Williams pointed to Phil Mickelson's career record in the majors.

"Phil's a fantastic player. He has four majors, the next best number of major championships won besides Tiger in the time frame Tiger has been on tour," Williams said. "He has to replicate that kind of career. If Tiger didn't get injured in 2008 and had to have that long period away from the game, he very well could be there now.

"Regular competition and regular practice enables you to keep all your tools sharp," Williams said. "When you're not competing at a regular level, you're never ever going to be sharp. He's been unfortunate that he's had injury problems and personal problems that have kept him out of the game for periods of time."

Even so, it didn't sound as though he had entirely written off Woods' pursuit of Nicklaus' record.

"A guy that's that good, when he gets back in the rhythm and gets back in full fitness and full health, all those tools and all those assets, they get back to where they were very quickly," he said.

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GREATEST SWING: Rare is any mention of Mickey Wright without reference to Ben Hogan calling it the best he ever saw. That comment dates to 1984, when Rhonda Glenn went to Fort Worth, Texas, for a rare interview with Hogan.

Glenn used to work in television before joining the USGA.

"I was setting up (two) tape recorders and told him Mickey Wright said to say hello," Glenn said in an email. "He leaned back in his desk chair with a big smile and looked off into the distance. `Mickey Wright ... greatest swing I ever saw. Boy, what a swing!'"

Wright said she was "absolutely elated" when the comment got back to her.

"How would you feel someone like him said that?" she said. "I loved Hogan. I went out of my way to join Shady Oaks in the 1960s just to watch him every day. He became friendly with me, very complimentary. He was a real sweetheart. He may have been the `Wee Ice Mon,' but he wasn't in person. He had beautiful blue eyes, and he was a lovely person."

That led to a question of Wright, however, on the best swing she ever saw.

In an essay published by the USGA this spring, the 76-year-old Wright mentioned the rhythmic beauty of Louise Suggs, the "pure, wild joyous beauty" of Seve Ballesteros and the mechanical beauty of Hogan.

In an interview, Wright also listed Gene Littler, who she first knew at La Jolla (Calif.) Country Club, and Billy Casper. She returned later in the interview to Phil Mickelson.

"Phil Mickelson has the best golf that there is, except that he gets past parallel at the top," she said. "If he didn't pass parallel ... I wish he'd figure out not to do that. It's a beautiful swing. I know he must know it."

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LPGA TOUR FINALE: The LPGA Tour season ends this week with the Titleholders at Grand Cypress Resort, with a $1.5 million purse and very little on the line. This year, in large part, has been the Yani Tseng Tour.

Tseng, with seven wins on the LPGA Tour, will be going for her 12th win worldwide. It would be the most in golf since Annika Sorenstam won 13 times in 2002, including 11 on the LPGA Tour.

No one has been so dominant in women's golf since Sorenstam until Tseng's big year, and it can be measured in more than just trophies. She wrapped the points-based Player of the Year award more than a month before the season ended. Her lead in the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average is nearly a full stroke _ 69.56 to 70.54 _ over Na Yeon Choi.

Tseng has earned $2,886,656 to lead the money list. That's more than the next two players _ Cristie Kerr and Stacy Lewis _ combined.

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ASIAN AMATEUR: The biggest win last week might have come in Japan, when Asian Amateur champion Hideki Matsuyama rallied on the back nine and closed with an eagle for a 68 to win the Taiheiyo Masters by two shots.

The 19-year-old became only the third amateur to win on the Japan Golf Tour, and he beat a field that included Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and Ryo Ishikawa.

"I wanted to be just the low amateur here, but to my surprise, I won," Matsuyama said. "The experience of playing at the Masters, the biggest stage of all in golf, has helped me play as usual even in an intense final round like today."

Matsuyama tied for 27th at Augusta National this year. As winner of the Asian Amateur, an event sponsored by Augusta National and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, he will return to the Masters in April.

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DIVOTS: Rickie Fowler suddenly has a busy end to his season. He plans to play next week in the Australian PGA Championship at Coolum, before returning across the Pacific for the Chevron World Challenge. ... The Scottish Open will return next year to Castle Stuart, where Luke Donald won in an even shortened to 54 holes because of rain. Still to be determined is finding a title sponsor for the tournament after Barclays decided not to renew.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: Seven players on the International team at the Presidents speak English as a second language _ Ryo Ishikawa (Japanese); Y.E. Yang, K.J. Choi and K.T. Kim (Korean); and Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Charl Schwartzel (Afrikaans).

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FINAL WORD: "Anybody that ... jumped off that wagon, they jumped off way too quick. I have a feeling he's going to make people eat their words." _ John Cook on Tiger Woods.

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