SYDNEY (AP) - Greg Norman has defended caddie Steve Williams over his racial slur about Tiger Woods, saying the comments were "stupid" but that he doesn't believe Williams is racist.
Norman, speaking Monday at The Lakes, where he'll begin play in the Australian Open on Thursday, also said Williams' current employer Adam Scott should ignore calls to release him. Scott later issued a statement reiterating he will stand by Williams, and saying that he considers the issue closed.
At a caddies' awards party Friday in Shanghai, Williams talked about a television interview he gave following Scott's win at the Bridgestone Invitational, saying "it was my aim to shove it up that black a------."
"We've all made stupid comments at stupid times, unfortunately his stupid comment became global news," Norman said. "I know he probably regrets saying it but I guarantee you in that room on that night there was probably some heavier things said."
Norman, who had Williams on his bag for several years in the 1980s, replied "no, not at all," when asked Monday if Williams was racist.
Scott said in a statement later Monday that he believes "there is absolutely no room for racial discrimination in any walk of life, including the game of golf."
"I have discussed this matter directly with Steve and he understands and supports my view on this subject. I also accept Steve's apology, knowing that he meant no racial slur with his comments. I now consider the matter closed. I will not be making any further comment."
Woods and Scott are also playing in the Australian Open, which has attracted a strong field due to the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne next week.
Norman disagreed with possible, but extremely unlikely, moves to pair Woods and Scott together this week in Sydney for the first two rounds of the Australian Open. It was also suggested to Norman, the captain of the International side for the Presidents Cup, that he might send Scott out against Woods in the team event in Melbourne.
"Everybody wants me to pair Adam and Tiger next week, right, and I'm sure there was a question about pairing Adam and Tiger this week," Norman said. "Of course, everybody wants to see it. I don't think it's the right thing to do from a promotional aspect, No. 1, because it should just be an automatic draw.
"I don't think there is any issue between Tiger and Adam at all."
Norman said any feud between Woods and Williams needs to be sorted out.
"Because of the temperature that was going on between the two of them, anything that is said or not said is going to exacerbate whatever that feeling is," Norman said.
"I hope it gets resolved. Golf doesn't need it. Golf needs Tiger back playing great golf like he used to. Golf needs the cohesiveness that's always existed.
"There's always been underlying currents, not everybody loves everybody and the people who dislike each other; we just have a tendency of parting our ways and not seeing each other. But to have it play out like it's played out has been a bit sad for the game."
Norman, asked if golf has a problem with racism, said: "No, not at all; never seen it; never seen it at all."
Woods was in Melbourne on Monday at a corporate day. It's the city where he last won a tournament: the Australian Masters in November 2009.
Weeks later, news of his infidelities surfaced, followed by a divorce, injuries and swing changes.
On Monday, Woods told a Melbourne radio station that he's seeing a gradual improvement in his game. The radio interviewers were warned not to ask any questions about Williams.
"I've had a ruptured ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), I've had a broken leg, a torn Achilles, and strained ligaments over the last five years," Woods said. "I've been rehabbing for so long I haven't been able to train. I'm hitting faster, more explosive, my speed's come back. I'm hitting the ball distances I know I can hit the golf ball again. It's getting fun."
Woods played with cricket great Shane Warne, Warne's fiancee and English actress Liz Hurley and billionaire businessman James Packer at the private Capital Golf Club.
Woods flew back to Sydney later Monday. He'll conduct a media conference at The Lakes on Tuesday morning where he's expected to comment directly for the first time on Williams's remarks.