Augusta "patrons" too classy to heckle Woods, says caddie

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Tiger Woods will be judged by his golf rather than taunted for his extra-marital affairs when he returns to action at next week's U.S. Masters, according to his caddie Steve Williams.

New Zealander Williams told TVNZ on Tuesday that the crowd at Augusta National would be too respectful to barrack Woods who has admitted he was nervous about the reception he would receive after his four-month break from the game.

"They (Augusta) are very specific with whoever they let in there, so they are genuine golf fans," said Williams.

"I don't really expect any of those people having any problems. I think they will be very happy to see Tiger playing at Augusta where he's been successful."

Woods, 34, has not played this year following revelations that he had a string of affairs. The world number one, a four-time Masters champion, has said he is undergoing therapy for sex addiction.

"The people that are going to watch Augusta, they call them patrons there not spectators. They are all golf fans and it is a very difficult tournament to get in," added Williams.

"It is the only golf tournament in the world there is waiting list to get in to."


"Just focus, I think that is going to be the big thing," he said. "Tiger hasn't played competitively in four months, hasn't played any warm-up tournaments going into a major championship.

"They (majors) are difficult tournaments at the best of the times so having not played a practice tournament or a pre-tournament, it is going to be difficult.

"So just to keep his focus on what we are doing, that is going to be the foremost thing in my mind," he said.

Williams, looking relaxed and tanned in a T-shirt bearing the insignia of Woods's sponsors, said the player's two recent televised interviews show his readiness to return to action.

"Basically, I think his intention is that he is getting himself ready to play. Tiger doesn't play in golf tournaments unless he believes he can win.

"By granting those media interviews and taking those questions about the Masters indicates to me that he really is getting ready and feels like he is going to be able to compete," he said.

"Every player has got a view of that differently but Tiger's key strength as we all know is his mental strength and he is going to need it all through this period. I believe going back to his Buddhism is going to help that," he added.

Woods will face the media on Monday next week, a departure from his usual Tuesday news conference, before the start of the year's first major.

He will be the only player to hold a news conference on that day, according to a schedule released by Masters officials.

The world number one has not competed since his victory at the Australian Masters on November 15.

The Masters runs from April 8-11.

(Writing by Jon Bramley; editing by Justin Palmer)