Would you ever think you'd hear the G.O.A.T. say, "I don't really care about my game.” But it all makes sense, when you hear the second part of the quote, “I'm just trying to make sure that Charlie has the time of his life and is able to enjoy all of this.''
The whole golf world and pretty much anyone that keeps their eye on pop culture or sports saw at the end of 2020, 11-year-old Charlie Woods compete and play with his dad Tiger for the first time at the PNC Championship. It was a beacon of light and universal inspiration, providing moments of joy, in an otherwise bleak environment.
Photo Credit: MIKE EHRMANN/GETTY IMAGES
But that is what golf did for this past year...provide a ray of light in an otherwise dark world. We were able to enjoy the sport we love, while still being safe, which was a nice respite from the dark reality that surrounded us.
Tiger and Charlie allowed us that escape that we all needed as we wrapped up the year, but the significance of them hitting the greens together extended far beyond golf. For the majority of us, we have vivid memories of Tiger and his father, Earl, as Tiger excelled, winning tournament after tournament, breaking records, and transforming golf. Even if you weren’t an avid watcher or fan of the sport, you knew Tiger. And you probably knew about his dad and their strong bond.
Now we got to see the 15-time major champion again showcase a strong father-son relationship, but this time with his own son, Charlie, the youngest golfer ever to compete in the PNC Championship. Many were surprised when Tiger signed up to play in the event that is reserved for major champions and a family member.
Tiger, who grew up in the spotlight, has taken a different approach with his kids, keeping them mainly out of the public eye. However, it was quickly evident that Charlie had skills and a love for the game. When playing from tees that measure approximately 5,800 yards, he routinely found fairways with 200-yard tee shots, hitting his 3-wood in the 180-yard range and from 100 yards hitting a pitching wedge.
Obviously playing in a golf tournament is different than playing at home. As Tiger said, “The idea was to make sure we had fun,'' after a 62 in the scramble format left them four shots behind the leaders,Matt Kuchar and his 13-year-old son, Cameron.
Tiger added, “He enjoyed being out there. The fact we got off to such a quick start, him hitting some of those incredible shots.”
Incredible indeed. It was hard for Papa Woods to hide his pride when Charlie's drive, 3-wood approach and short putt meant an eagle -- all on his own ball -- at the third hole.
The tournament was Tiger’s idea and Charlie wasn’t really aware of the tournament, but he does enjoy playing with his dad. This was crucial when Tiger was injured and sidelined from the game, as his kids thought of him as a “YouTube” golfer since they couldn’t really remember the last time they watched him play live.
But all that changed in 2018 when Tiger returned after back surgery and won three tournaments, including the 2019 Masters where he famously hugged his son, like he hugged his dad after winning his first Masters in 1997. We don’t think there was a dry eye to be found anywhere...truly a great moment in sports and one that will be always be remembered.
Of course there were some trash-talking and shenanigans out on the course, when Charlie hit a tee shot well to the right on the 13th hole during the pro-am prior to the tournament, Mike Thomas, father of Justin Thomas, left Charlie a note near his ball that read, “Draw Hole.” But Charlie kept it to return the favor...when Mike’s ball landed in a bunker on that same hole, Charlie pulled out the note and put it near Thomas’ ball.
And not to leave Justin out of the fun, Charlie gave him grief him for his opening tee shot, and at one point during the pro-am asked his dad if he caught the tee shot “toey,” referencing having hit the ball off the toe.
Justin noticed Charlie’s competitiveness and said, “He’s special.” He often plays with Tiger when he is at home in South Florida."
He added, “He's got game. But he's just so young. I just hope he keeps enjoying it.''
After this historic tournament, the main headline and story coming out of it wasn’t the G.O.A.T. playing with his son, it was a lesson we can all learn as parents or individuals: only do it if you enjoy it. The day you don’t enjoy it, stop.
I know for me, my parents always told me the day I didn’t enjoy being a competitive figure skater, I could stop. You need “heart” as much more or more than hard work to succeed in anything.
Thanks Tiger and Charlie for that awesome reminder as we start 2021.