Williams also done for the year after Tiger's gutsy win

Updated: June 19, 2008, 4:49 PM ET
By Wayne Drehs | ESPN.com

When the golf cart departed the seventh green at Torrey Pines on Monday afternoon, carrying Tiger Woods, Steve Williams and both of their wives to the U.S. Open trophy presentation, the caddie knew his season was over.

"I kind of had a premonition that might be it," Williams told ESPN.com Wednesday night. "I had an inclination that a certain surgery might be required. And then Tiger told me, 'We're done for the year.'"

But what a way to go out. Williams said Woods' grueling five-day, 91-hole performance at Torrey Pines, at a time when he was battling a torn ACL and double stress fracture in his left tibia, was the highlight of a caddying career that has spanned three decades.

"When we stood on that first tee on Thursday, my biggest question was how he was going to walk these holes," Williams said. "He couldn't walk nine holes. And now he was going to walk four days of 18 holes? I just didn't see how that was going to happen.

"But Tiger is the toughest mental character I've ever come across. If he stands on that first tee, I know we're going to complete that tournament no matter what. The word quit doesn't even cross his mind. That's just the way he is. It's remarkable."

Williams said he and Woods were helped considerably by their tee times. An early-morning tee time on Thursday followed by a midafternoon tee time on Friday allowed Woods ample time to elevate and stay off his throbbing knee.

Once on the course, Williams said he spent most of his time encouraging Woods who, despite grimacing, not once complained to Williams that he was in pain.

"Tiger never complains. That's one of his greatest attributes," Williams said. "If he's prepared to play in a tournament, he's going to take the consequences. I'm a bit of a fast walker and there were a few times that he told me to slow down a bit so he could walk at my pace, but that was it."

Williams said Woods' knee was most aggravated by tee shots, so after each drive on the back nine, he would encourage his boss by reminding him to keep pressing on because he was almost finished.

"I would tell him, 'Hey, you only have five more tee shots or four more tee shots. Suck it up one or two more times and you'll be finished. You can do this.'"

On the 72nd hole Sunday, needing a birdie to force a playoff, Woods hit his tee shot in the bunker and left his second shot in thick rough 101 yards from the pin. It was there that Williams believes he had one of the greatest calls of his career, encouraging an exhausted Woods to use his 60-degree wedge, a club he usually hits 85 yards, for his approach from 101.

"While he was standing over that ball, my heart was beating pretty hard," Williams said. "But I figured he only had one chance -- to hit that 60-degree club as hard as he could and squeeze a little more distance out of it. And that's exactly what he did. It landed just beyond the pin, had some spin on it and came right back towards the hole."

From there, Woods drained a 12-foot putt, forcing Monday's playoff against Rocco Mediate, which he won on the sudden-death 19th hole. Afterward, as Williams and his wife raced to catch a flight, Woods called his caddie's cell phone to voice his appreciation.

"He told me a few words that I will never, ever forget," Williams said. "It's something that I'm going to forever keep between me and Tiger, but it meant the world. What he said will always stick in my mind."

With Woods done for the season, Williams is finished as well. He will miss his first major championship in 30 years when next month's British Open rolls around, but he looks forward to spending more time with his wife and son.

"It's one of those things," Williams said. "We just had eight weeks off, and I didn't miss the golf tour one bit. The time with the family will be great. And, in the long run, this is something that will help Tiger enhance his career and get him going healthy again."

Wayne Drehs is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at wayne.drehs@espn3.com.