After more than a decade standing shoulder to shoulder inside the ropes with him, Steve Williams knows Tiger Woods more intimately than most.
So, when the Kiwi caddie says he reckons the former world No.1’s return to major-winning ways was inspired by the passing of Arnold Palmer, you have to think he might be on to something.
Writing for Australian website The Players Voice, Williams, who caddied for Tiger between 1999 and 2011, said: “Back in 2010, when he returned to the public spotlight after his well-documented scandal, we had a deal that he was going to try to be more open and friendly with the fans – to be more respectful of the game and to be less bad-tempered. As much as he tried, it was hard for him to change his stripes so quickly.
“But there’s now a very obvious change in his attitude and I think that’s got a lot to do with the passing of Arnold Palmer in 2016.
“Tiger was a huge fan of Arnold Palmer. He loved playing Arnold’s tournament at Bay Hill and there was always added motivation for him to win there knowing that if you walked off the final green, Arnold would be standing there waiting to congratulate you. It was very special to Tiger.”
Williams added his belief that carrying on Palmer’s legacy of charisma and time for supporters has become more important to Woods in recent years.
“I’m thinking that when Arnold passed away there was a realisation in Tiger that golf had lost a guy who was the most popular player ever,” he said. “It was about a year after Arnold died that Tiger started his comeback after his back surgery and I think he may have decided that with his second chance he wanted to be remembered the way Arnold was remembered.
"I do think the passing of Arnie had a change in that respect.”