What a media frenzy when Tiger Woods and son Charlie played together at the PNC Championship last month.
Padraig Harrington said “This is the first tournament I’ve ever played in that Tiger Woods is playing in that he’s not the star of the show. He should note that himself. We’re all going down that range and everybody is stopping to watch son Charlie.”
The obvious reaction that week was to paint Charlie – dressed in Nike, club twirling and mimicking so many of the mannerisms of his 15-time major-winning dad – as a “mini-me” version, a chip off the old block.
“Who wouldn’t want to be like your dad if your dad was Tiger Woods?” Justin Thomas said.
Cue the crazy talk that Charlie was going to revolutionize the game while breaking all of his dad’s records.
Charlie’s action shows raw promise and it is evident that he not only has his famous father’s golf genes but his ‘feels,’ and perhaps most importantly, a love for the game.
A future star in the making?
Let us allow this weekend to be about a father and son bonding on the golf course. Justin Thomas, who is something of a big brother to Charlie, put the 36-hole exhibition into the proper perspective.
“He’s just 11 years old. He does not need to be compared to Tiger. He doesn’t need to be compared to anybody,” Thomas said. “He just needs to enjoy the game and hopefully we will be able to help him enjoy Saturday a little bit more.”
Many of the offspring of the legends of golf attempted to follow in their father’s footsteps with limited success. Gary Nicklaus was dubbed “The Next Nicklaus,” on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and while he earned a PGA Tour card, the closest he came to winning an event, let alone 18 majors, was a playoff loss at the hands of Phil Mickelson.
Tiger has been on stage practically since he could walk. He was asked at his pre-tournament press conference how he determined that now was the appropriate time to expose Charlie to the bright lights of NBC/Golf Channel coverage and the accompanying media scrutiny.
Tiger said “Charlie’s been playing in junior tournaments and out in front and having people video him. This is a different world that we live in now and everyone has a phone, and everyone has an opportunity to video,” Woods said.
To his credit, Tiger did not expose Charlie to any press conferences. That can wait. Listening to Woods answer questions, he seemed uncomfortable with the attention surrounding his son this week. He repeated the phrases “fun” and “enjoy” multiples times and deflected any questions that might raise expectations for Charlie to be golf’s next superstar.
“Whatever sport he decides to do and as long as he has the passion for it, I’ll be happy for him,” Tiger said.
The most encouraging words for Charlie’s future in the game maybe that it was Charlie who pleaded with his dad that he wanted to play in this competition. When PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan asked Charlie what other sports he played, Charlie told him he was focused on golf, leading Monahan to wonder if he hit balls every day. Charlie smiled and said he did.
“It’s deepening our bond,” Tiger said of teaming with his son this week. “It’s not about anybody else. It’s about us.”
As it should be.