Zoeller's ex-caddie recalls how Woods broke the ice

Mon Apr 4, 2016 12:58pm EDT
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By Andrew Both

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - With the Masters' Champions Dinner just one day away, Fuzzy Zoeller's former caddie has disclosed a remark made by Tiger Woods that broke the ice after his employer's controversial comment had put their relationship in the deep freezer.

While Woods was on the course in the final round on his way to a 12-stroke victory at the 1997 Masters, his first major title, Zoeller made remarks with racist connotations about what Woods might serve at the following year's Champions Dinner.

Zoeller told reporters: "You know what you guys do when he gets in here? You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it."

The Champions Dinner, where the defending Masters champion chooses the menu, is traditionally held on Tuesday at Augusta National, two days before the opening round.

Zoeller, his comments apparently finished, was walking away from the assembled media scrum when he suddenly turned back and added: "Or collard greens, or whatever the hell they serve."

Fried chicken has become a racial stereotype in the United States when referring to African-Americans - a reference to the days before the abolition of slavery when chicken was believed to be a staple part of the diet.

The backlash at what many considered to be a racist remark cost Zoeller financially in the form of several canceled sponsorship deals, and personally in the form of damage to his reputation.

It took Woods more than a week to release a conciliatory statement, in which he said he had "concluded that no personal animosity toward me was intended", but that hardly meant the comment was forgotten.   Continued...

Tiger Woods of the U.S.  with Fred Couple's caddie, Cayce Kerr (L), on the tee of the third hole during the first round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio May 30, 2013.  REUTERS/Matt Sullivan