Proud dad Tiger Woods all smiles as son Charlie makes impressive PNC debut
ORLANDO, Fla. – Following a lifetime living his best life within a competitive bubble, Tiger Woods had a chance to relish a different view during Saturday’s opening round at the PNC Championship.
The ever-present, 1,000-yard glare was replaced by curious eyes and an unrestrained smile.
Note to all of those Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup captains who have struggled through the years to find Tiger a team partner with chemistry: Charlie Woods is your man.
Playing with his 11-year-old son may not have brought out the best in Tiger’s golf, but it certainly delivered an engaged partner. Tiger’s interest Charlie’s game went well beyond the competitive realities of the two-man team event, which the Woodses are playing for the first time. The theme this week was to embrace the moment and enjoy the opportunity – and there was plenty of both.
“I really don’t care about my game. I’m just making sure that Charlie has the time of his life and he’s doing that. I’m making sure he is able to enjoy all of this,” said Woods, who along with his son finished the day tied for sixth place after a first-round, 10-under 62.
From the outset, Tiger’s focus was squarely split between his game, which he admitted hasn’t received much attention since his last start at last month’s Masters, and his son’s play, with the elder Woods set up behind Charlie on every shot. As the 15-time major champion would say, it’s a second set of eyes – or maybe he was just enjoying what a swing without restrictions and physical limitations looks like.
What he saw was impressive to the extreme.
Team Tiger used young Charlie’s drive at the par-4 second hole. It was a theme that, at least partially, had to do with the shorter tees (about 5,800 yards) Charlie played. But relative distance shouldn’t be confused for Charlie Woods’ impressive execution.
Team Tiger used young Charlie’s drive at the par-5 third hole and his second shot, a 3-wood from 170 yards that trundled to 4 feet. Charlie made the putt, the only eagle of the day at the third, for good measure.
The younger Woods hit his approach at the sixth hole to 12 feet after his father airmailed the green with his wedge, and Charlie walked in a 5-footer for birdie at the ninth to move the team, which was donned in matching uniforms, to 8 under and within three strokes of the lead.
The 11-year-old hit his approach to 15 feet at the 11th hole and 12 feet at the next hole.
If this was one of those scramble events that required every player to hit a certain number of shots, it would have been Tiger, not Charlie, who would have been grinding late in the round to get on the board.
How impressive was the sixth-grader’s ball-striking on Day 1? Before his tee shot at the 13thhole even landed in the fairway, the younger Woods turned to his father, who was some 100 yards back on the tournament tees, and gave him a thumbs up. Tiger never hit his drive. No need to.
“It was some of the most incredible golf shots,” Woods laughed. “He had the best time to be out there in this environment. I’ve seen this all along. A lot of the shots he hit I’ve seen this entire year.”
There was no word on what, if any, side action Charlie Woods had with Justin Thomas, who is playing the event with his father, Mike, this week and has a long-standing competition with Tiger’s youngest. But whatever is on the line, the major champion and former world No. 1 will begin a nervy Sunday tied with the Woodses at 10 under.
In a brilliant twist of how comfortable Charlie Woods is on this stage, after hitting his clutch drive at the 13th hole, he left a note in the bunker where Mike Thomas’ tee shot had ended up.
“It started in the pro-am. Charlie drove one through the fairway and my dad was playing in front of them and he’d hit it through the fairway and into the trees. My dad wrote on a piece of paper ‘draw hole’ on it and put it under his ball,” Thomas laughed. “In typical Woods fashion, he kept the piece of paper, and when my dad hit it in the bunker he put the exact same piece of paper behind his ball.”
It’s too easy to forget that Charlie Woods is only 11. His game, his demeanor, his moxie is all hidden behind a mop of hair and an innocent smile. Tiger knows because it’s always been there, but now he has watched it.
On Saturday, he stepped outside his ironclad competitive cocoon.
He was a father, a teammate, a coach and, like so many others, a particularly interested bystander.