Tiger Woods’ long-time caddie Steve Williams says he cajoled his former boss into setting a target of winning 21 majors in his career.
American Woods, 46, has won 15, three behind Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18.
Speaking to BBC Sport for an ‘All about Tiger Woods’ podcast, Williams said: “Tiger wanted to get to 20.
“I said 21 is my favourite number, so let’s make it 21 and when you get to 21 you’re not seeing me again. And he said that’s because I’m retiring too.”
Williams, who was Woods’ caddie for 13 of his major victories between 1999 and 2011, talked candidly about their relationship on and off the course, winning the ‘Tiger Slam’ and chasing Nicklaus’ record.
It is the latest episode in the BBC Radio 5 Live series that has been building up to next week’s 150th Open Championship at St Andrews.
“We had a special relationship,” said New Zealander Williams, who had previously caddied for multiple major champions Greg Norman and Ray Floyd. “He was best man at my wedding and we had a special bond.
“But I felt a tremendous amount of pressure caddying for Tiger. A successful week is just a win.
“Some guys are happy to be top five, top 10. If he doesn’t win, he’s not happy and when you get certain lengths of time when he’s not winning, it’s a tough job because you’re feeling the pressure.”
However, the pressure was never greater than when Woods was chasing the ‘Tiger Slam’ at the Masters in 2001. He had won the US Open, Open Championship and US PGA Championship in 2000 and needed to win at Augusta National to become the first player to hold all four of the modern major titles.
“He was adamant there was an opportunity with the rotation of courses that it could happen,” said Williams.
Woods won his first US Open at Pebble Beach by a record 15 strokes and then became the youngest player to complete the career Grand Slam by claiming his first Claret Jug with victory at St Andrews by eight shots before defending his US PGA title at Valhalla.
“He’d just won the US Open by 15 strokes and the first thing he was thinking of was St Andrews,” continued Williams.
“Amazingly, he played better at St Andrews than he did at Pebble. Those were the two best weeks in terms of overall performance.
“When you’re caddying for someone like Tiger who’s on top of the game, it’s something else. He was just focused on winning major championships. His whole goal was to eclipse Jack’s record, that’s what he wanted to do and his desire and work ethic to try and achieve that goal was second to none.”
Of all their wins together, Williams says it is hard to match the two Open victories over the Old Course at St Andrews – Woods won the second of his three Claret Jugs in 2005 by five strokes
“Nothing compares to that walk up the 18th, it’s the greatest walk in golf,” said the 58-year-old.
“That big grandstand on the left, people lined up on the road on the right, hanging out of hotel windows. If you’re fortunate enough to come across that Swilcan Bridge and be in a situation where you’ve got the Open Championship in hand, that is a very special walk and fortunately Tiger and I have enjoyed that walk a couple of times.
“When The Open is held at St Andrews, it just goes up another notch, it’s a special place.”
Williams also believes navigating the Old Course is “the greatest test between a caddie and a player”.
He added: “It is the ultimate test, because depending on wind direction and hole placement you play down opposite fairways and they all have bunkers you can’t see and you’ve got to know exactly where those bunkers are.
“And you’ve got to know exactly where those pins are and which angle to come in from. It’s great when the wind blows because it makes it a real challenge.”
The challenge for Woods at St Andrews this time will just be competing as he continues his return after the car crash that almost ended his career in February 2021.
For Williams, he is content to remember the good times.
“Tiger was obsessed with breaking Jack’s record,” he said. “We put every ounce of energy into that and I didn’t see any reason up until the stage where it all unfolded that he wasn’t going to eclipse Jack and it’s a shame it didn’t happen.
“I don’t think any other player is going to be in a position to try and while he didn’t, he gave it an unbelievable run, won four in a row and 15 majors. What more can you say?”