If Tiger Woods has given the world a glimpse of anything deeply personal during his remarkable career, it’s been his affection for his late father, Earl.
For a guy so closed off and cold, traits that served him well in winning 15 major championships, Woods would pull back the curtain on his feelings occasionally when he talked about his relationship with his Pops.
That’s not to diminish the role his mother, Kultida, continues to play in his life – Woods gets much of his tenacity and spirituality from her – but he learned golf from his dad, whose verbosity seemed overheated until much of what he suggested about his son came to pass.
That’s why seeing Woods play with his 11-year old son Charlie in the PNC Father-Son Championship this weekend may be the warmest story of this golf year.
There was a time when it seemed unimaginable because Woods has guarded his privacy so tenaciously. It would be natural and understandable to want to shelter and protect his children, which is why the announcement that Tiger and Charlie will be teammates this weekend was so surprising.
Of the many things Woods has done in his career, this will be one of the coolest and, no doubt, one of the most personally memorable for him.
Think about it for a second.
Does it put a smile on your face?
Don’t be surprised if the television ratings are better than those of some more familiar events – because of Tiger and Charlie.
Among the themes surrounding Woods the past couple of years is how he’s a seemingly different person than he was in his prime. It’s true, at least outwardly. He’s warmer, he seems comfortable with who he is and where he is in life and, more than anything, he loves his two kids.
“I wish I had his move. I analyze his swing all the time.”
Tiger Woods, on His son charlie
If Woods never seemed approachable before, he does now. We can leave it to the psychologists to figure out what led to the perceived change – being nearly 45 years old is a big part of it – but it’s as if he’s taken Walter Hagen’s advice to stop and smell the roses.
The story Gary Player told about Woods’ hosting the Champions Dinner at Augusta National last month was revealing.
“Tiger was really remarkable at the dinner this year as a host,” Player said. “It was very heartwarming listening to him speak.
“He said he was on the way to the golf course and he had to stop because he had tears in his eyes and paused for a little while on the road because a lot of memories were going through his mind very quickly, as I interpreted what he was saying, and to have won the tournament again with his children there.
“He paused for a while and he spoke very, very well, and it was a lovely evening.”
Jack Nicklaus said, “I’ve never seen Tiger that way but it was good.”
Think back to April when the Masters was postponed and, with it, the dinner Woods had been scheduled to host. The menu included steak, sushi and fajitas (that’s what he served last month) so he did the next best thing.
Woods posted a photo on social media of him, his two children and his girlfriend, Erica Herman, having their own champions dinner at his South Florida home. As host, Woods wore his green jacket.
With his arms around everyone, Woods looked like the happiest guy in the world.
“Masters Champions Dinner quarantine style. Nothing better than being with family," Woods wrote alongside the photo.
Woods told Golf Digest recently that the decision to play in the Father-Son event with Charlie grew out of their time together during the pandemic lockdown. The more they played together, the more they liked it.
Growing up in California, Woods played father-son events with his dad. Now he’s the old guy.
Who better to learn from? Ultimately, it won’t be about winning this weekend, though the two of them will be in full grind mode between smiles.
“He’s starting to understand how to play. He’s asking me the right questions,” Woods said in a GolfTV interview. “I’ve kept it competitive with his par, so it’s been just an absolute blast to go out there, you know, and just be with him. It reminds me so much of me and my dad (growing up).
“I wish I had his move. I analyze his swing all the time. I wish I could rotate like that, and turn my head like that and do some of those positions but those days are long gone and I have to live it through him.”
That’s where the new Tiger finds himself now.
It’s a happy place to be.