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Tiger Fires Caddy 'Fluff'

To the surprise of few, Mike "Fluff" Cowan has been sent packing.

Cowan, who has spent the past 2 ½ years caddying for Tiger Woods, the world's top-ranked golfer, has been rumored to be on shaky ground for several weeks. He did not work for Woods when he won the Buick Invitational last month or at the recent World Match Play Championship.

"Fluff and I have discussed this over the past few weeks and we both feel it is in our best interest to part ways," Woods said Monday in a prepared statement. "I appreciate the support which Fluff has provided and recognize the contributions Fluff has made to my success as a professional. But it is time to move on, and I feel confident we will remain friends."

Woods also announced he has hired Steve Williams as his new caddie. Williams has spent the past 12 years carrying for Raymond Floyd, and previously worked for Greg Norman, among others.

"I insisted that this be handled the proper way," said Woods, who will use Williams next week at the Bay Hill Invitational. "I don't want it to seem as though we were going behind anyone's back."

Cowan, whose fluffy mustache and gruffy exterior helped him earn celebrity status, previously worked for Peter Jacobsen, and could rejoin him. With Jacobsen's permission, Cowan first joined Woods late in 1996 and the duo teamed for seven PGA Tour victories, highlighted by the 1997 Masters.

According to reports, Woods and Cowan had a major falling out at last month's Nissan Open in Los Angeles. When Woods used high school friend Bryon Bell to caddie for him the following week at the World Match Play Championship at La Costa, speculation increased.

Woods fueled the fire when he was asked if Cowan would pack for him next month at Augusta.

"I don't know," he said, clearly agitated about the subject. "Probably."

Hardly a ringing endorsement.

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