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Steve Williams wins big New Zealand race

At least one person could not have been more thrilled that Tiger Woods skipped the Mercedes Championships -- his caddie.

Steve Williams, a race car driver in New Zealand when he's not toting the bag for the world's No. 1 player, won the New Zealand Super Saloon Championship this week with a dramatic rally that would have made his boss proud.

"It's the No. 1 event in racing in New Zealand," Williams said from his home in Auckland. "As I told Tiger, now I know how he feels when he wins the Masters."

Williams, who races stock cars on dirt tracks, had not been able to compete in the Super Saloon because it's the same week as the season-opening Mercedes Championships on the PGA Tour. But when Woods decided not to play at Kapalua because he wanted a long break, Williams was free to drive.

It was held Monday and Tuesday at Baypark in Tauranga, and Williams thought he was done after a collision sent his car airborne and on top of another car during the first of two qualifying heats.

"That realistically ended my chances," he said. "I started the second heat in the back of the grid and had to finish first or second to get into the finals. I made it past the second car in the last 50 feet. The best driving of my life."

After two more qualifying runs Tuesday for starting positions, Williams was on the inside of the front row. He took the lead on the third of 25 laps and led the rest of the way.

"I wouldn't have been able to compete if Tiger played in the Mercedes," Williams said. "To get in the way I did, then have the best drive of my speedway career, it was awesome."

Of course, no story involving Williams would be complete without an incident with photographers.

He said the top three finishers gather in the infield to spray champagne and do interviews, but Williams saw the photographers and had other ideas.

"I wanted to spray the champagne at the camera guys," he said. "But I slipped on the track and threw my back out."

January 5, 2006


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