Keeping 11- and 10-year-olds, as was the case last spring, away from the all-consuming world of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter may seem wise. There is a broader dynamic in this specific case: Woods’ global celebrity status is one thing, the abuses that can still be thrown at him – or his family – because of an infamous infidelity scandal in All. other. For every bit of adulation towards Tiger Woods the golfer, there is a beard on the cocktail waitresses.
Such is Woods’ quest for privacy that he gave his yacht this name. But something, gradually, has changed. Last April, Woods walked around and shouted towards Augusta National’s scoring tent while holding his son’s hand. It wasn’t long before videos of Charlie Woods’ golf swing – fascinating for such a youngster – appeared. Tiger was pictured caddying for Charlie as the youngster won junior golf tournaments. This success came in Florida, not the Isle of Man, as his nascent talent tacitly acknowledges.
This weekend in Orlando, a new propensity to open Woods will once again be underlined. The 15-time major champion will play alongside Charlie in the PNC, once the Father-Son Championship. The name of the tournament evolved after daughters, grandchildren, stepchildren and more performed alongside those who qualified as major champions or players. For the first time in history, live TV coverage will put more emphasis on Tiger Woods’ partner than Tiger Woods. It turns out that said partner is 11 years old. Team Woods are as short as 6-1 to win.
This event was the brainchild of Alastair Johnston, a longtime IMG executive, in the mid-90s. “I was at the senior players’ championship in Michigan, walking in the locker room,” says Johnston.
“Jack Nicklaus was on the phone talking to his son, Ray Floyd was on another phone talking to his son, Dave Stockton was on the third phone talking to his son. All of the sons were playing in junior or college tournaments and the guys were much more interested in that than telling the kids what they had been doing that day. I was in the car heading for Cleveland thinking, “If I could just put on a serious tournament with the bells and whistles of the PGA Tour, where these guys play with their families, wouldn’t that be great exercise and a contribution to golf? ‘ ”
Johnston was also a neighbor of Woods in Isleworth. When the Scotsman congratulated the emerging star on his 1997 Masters triumph based on his qualification for the Father-Son, the response was a puzzled look. Twenty-three years later, Woods is immersed in the conversation.
“I stayed in touch with people about how Charlie is doing,” says Johnston. “I had a list of ages of all of the former Tiger participants and Seve Ballesteros played with his 11 year old son. I knew it would resonate.
“It matches his rebirth, almost warm and cuddly but still competitive. And this is the essential; to make sure it’s really a competition, not an exhibition. These guys are serious.
Publicly at least, Tiger insists he just wants Charlie to “take advantage” of it. At stake is $ 1 million in prizes and the Willie Park Trophy, named after the first great champion to have a son who subsequently achieved the same feat. The winning duo also received matching leather belts, made in London and replicating what was once offered to Open winners.
Woods’ relationship with his father, Earl, was integral to his greatness. It was also brutally difficult at times, by Tiger’s own admission. The way a son would be brought up in golf has always been a subject of fascination. There has never been any portrayal of Tiger other than as a devoted parent.
Proving this isn’t a trivial topic of conversation, Jack Nicklaus addressed Charlie’s prospects. The 18-time big winner explained that Tiger insisted that his son has to develop with blade irons “so that he learns to play golf instead of learning with all those forgiving golf clubs.” The days ahead just might be another part of the educational process, as Charlie will inevitably be given a gentle entrance into the limelight if golf remains his chosen field.
“Tiger is playing with him, he will be there,” adds Johnston. “The competition is a rush, which helps, and we’re slightly delayed for the broadcast so no one is embarrassed. There will be no spectators this year.
“Maybe Tiger looks and says, ‘If my son wants to be who I am, he has to have a little edge with him, some confidence. Now is the time to work with him.
“But he wants to win a tournament with his son. He wants the same belt as his son so they can walk around as champions. This would only add to the levels of control; Woods’ contingent seems happy to live with that.