The Tiger Woods racism row looks set to overshadow this week's Australian Open after it was revealed that the former world No1 and his ex-caddie will be kept apart at the tournament in Sydney following Steve Williams' racial remarks against Woods.
Woods is preparing to make his first appearance in Sydney and was widely expected to be paired with home favourite Adam Scott for the opening two rounds in a high-profile pairing.
However, tournament director Tony Roosenburg ruled out the possibility after Williams described Woods as a "black a***hole" on Friday night.
Williams' current employer, the Australian Adam Scott, attracted further criticism over the weekend after he said his caddie meant no racial slur against Woods when he made the comment about the 14-time major champion at an awards dinner in Shanghai on Friday.
"I believe there is absolutely no room for racial discrimination in any walk of life, including the game of golf," Scott said in a statement issued today by tournament organisers.
"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."
Williams, who split from Woods in July, made the remarks as he accepted an award from BBC presenter Andrew Cotter at the 4 Nov. event attended by caddies and players at Shanghai's Le Meridien hotel.
The New Zealander was receiving an award for the year's best celebration - a nod to his tongue-in-cheek remark that Scott's victory at the Bridgestone Invitational in August was 'the best win of my career' - despite winning 13 majors with Woods.
Asked what the celebration was about, Williams said: "It was my aim to shove it right up that black a**hole."
Williams apologised the next day, saying he could see how his comments could be interpreted as racist and the U.S. and European Tours appeared to draw a line under the incident on Sunday, after they considered the matter closed despite Williams' "entirely unacceptable" remark.
Nevertheless, Scott's failure to sack Williams and the insipid response by the golfing authorities means the story will undoubtedly add fuel to the fire ahead of this week's tournament in Sydney.
But Scott, despite increasing pressure to dismiss Williams, remained unmoved on Sunday, saying: "I don't see it being an issue moving forward."
Scott has argued that Williams' comments should not have left the annual caddies' function - which was stipulated as being strictly "off the record" by organisers - and that the context had not been fairly represented. He grew frustrated on Sunday when asked if he was ignoring racism by refusing to discipline Williams. "Look, I don't think digging for a story out of me on this is a good idea," he said.
And two-time major champion Greg Norman appeared to back Scott's judgement, saying that Williams, who previously worked for him, isn't a racist.
"We've all made stupid comments at stupid times," Norman said at a televised news conference.
"Unfortunately his stupid comment became global news. 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."
Golf's Racial Divide
However, the abject response of the golfing authorities highlights the inability of the sport to confront the issue of race within its current set-up.
Tiger Woods' emergence on the PGA Tour was supposed to open the sport up to black children and teenagers around the world. Yet fifteen years later black professionals on the PGA circuit still represent less than 1 per cent of America's 28,000 pros.
From 1996 onwards the golfing world sought to distance itself from the issue of race, as Wood's rise to the top appeared to counter every negative stereotype of golf as the domain of white, middle-class men.
As Laurence Donegan wrote back in 2008: "It [race] is also the source of self-delusion in the golf world, where the issue of race - or to put it another way, the "whiteness" of golf - is either dismissed as a "non-issue" or countered by arguing that golf can't be racist because its best player is black."
Now, with the former world No1 languishing down in 58th in the rankings, the awkward truth that needs to be address is that Tiger has not changed the colour of golf, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Of the current crop of players on the PGA tour, there is precisely one other African-American golfer - 23-year-old Jason Bramlett, who got his Tour card this season. Vijay Singh, the other prominent player on the PGA tour with black skin, is Fijian.
Meanwhile, Woods' emergence was supposed to be the catalyst for a revolution in the golf world, one where scores of professional black golfers would follow, and the elitist, country-club image of the sport (particularly in America but also throughout the world) would be dismantled.
Today, 50 years after the end of the PGA's Caucasians-only rule allowed black men to play on the tour, there are still fewer than 85 African-American PGA club professionals. If one adds Hispanics and Asians (263 and 196 PGA members, respectively), then minorities comprise less than 2 per cent of all PGA pros. This is despite the fact that blacks, Asians and Hispanics comprise 21 per cent of golfers in America, according to the National Golf Foundation.
Williams' remark on Friday may indeed have been taken out of context, but the ease with which the comment was made highlights the rocky foundation on which golf's racial divide currently rests and is an explicit reminder that golf has an issue with race, a problem it appears reluctant to look inwards and address.