JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Tiger Woods and Steve Williams were together for 12 years and some 250 tournaments, a player-caddie relationship that produced 72 wins, 13 majors and a friendship so strong that each served in the other's wedding.
It ended Wednesday with a stock line from Woods that players use when firing a caddie -- "It's time for a change."
The announcement on his website only deepened the mystery around Woods, who has fallen to No. 20 in the world and hasn't played since May because of injuries to his left leg that first were described as "minor."
In the 20 months since Woods was caught having multiple extramarital affairs, he has lost four major sponsors, changed swing coaches, was divorced from his wife and now has cut loose his caddie.
"I want to express my deepest gratitude to Stevie for all his help, but I think it's time for a change," Woods said. "Stevie is an outstanding caddie and a friend and has been instrumental in many of my accomplishments. I wish him great success in the future."
Woods did not say who would replace Williams -- one of only two caddies he has employed on a regular basis -- or when he might return to golf.
"Needless to say, this came as a shock," Williams said in a statement posted on his own website.
Williams, who previously worked for Greg Norman and Raymond Floyd, worked the last three tournaments for Adam Scott. That included the U.S. Open and British Open, which Woods skipped while trying to let his left leg heal.
"A player has the right to fire a caddie at any given time," Williams told The Associated Press from his summer home in Oregon. "And for a player when he's not playing at his best for extended period of time, it's not uncommon to change caddies, coaches, psychologists or bring on a psychologist. We all know the business. I have no problem being fired. But I'm disappointed in the timing of it."
When asked over the weekend at the British Open if he was still working for Woods, Williams grinned and said, "Why would you ask a question like that?" He never answered the question, but gave no indication that he would not caddie for Woods when he did return.
Turns out he had known for two weeks, and kept quiet out of respect for Scott.
Williams said he met with Woods in a board room at Aronimink after the final round of the AT&T National on July 3, and Woods told him they would no longer work together. Williams said they agreed not to say anything until after the British Open, to keep from being a distraction to Scott.
More than a caddie, Woods and Williams had been close friends. Both got engaged while on safari after The Presidents Cup in South Africa, and they were in each other's weddings. Woods played the New Zealand Open in 2002 as a favor to Williams (he also received a $2 million appearance fee), and he took an interest in Williams' race car driving by taking part in a celebrity race on the dirt tracks of New Zealand.
The relationship began showing signs of strain after Woods crashed his car on Thanksgiving night, followed by stunning revelations of serial adultery.
Despite their friendship, Williams went months without hearing anything from Woods. And it became awkward at times because Woods' ex-wife and Williams' wife were close friends.