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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Taking the rare middle ground on the PNC Championship

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On a weekend where last-minute shopping, a trio of All-Ireland Football Finals, and an unhealthy amount of alcohol took precedence, televised golf was very much in the back seat.

Consequently, tracking Stephanie Meadow and Leona Maguire’s progress in the LPGA’s CME Globe showpiece meant old-fashioned leaderboard checks and – like most of us, I expect – I ordinarily couldn’t care less about the PNC Championship. Social media had other ideas, however.

We all know that Tiger Woods makes headlines wherever and whenever he surfaces, so his participation in one of the “silly season” events was catnip for the Twitterati, but for once the 15-time major winner took a back seat of his own as his 11-year-old son trended on various platforms.

There is definitely something disconcerting about in-depth analysis of a pre-teen’s golf swing and projecting him as a future pro and major winner, but I’d be lying if I said that curiosity hadn’t stopped me taking interest in most of the playing clips to pop up on my timeline. He is the seed of the greatest player of all time, and is clearly showing a strong aptitude for the game, but Twitter being Twitter, invariably the vast majority of “takes” I encountered were on the extremities.

On the one hand, we had the “hook this into my veins” mob, glued to footage of Tiger and cub arriving at the course, working together on the range and putting green, and dissecting what equipment the youngster carries. If you think this is a bit much and a little concerning, then we’re in agreement, but again, welcome to 2020.

On the other hand, were the “holier than thou” proselytisers, reliably “tut-tutting” each and every post and thankfully reminding us that “he’s an 11-year-old kid,” requesting that he be allowed a normal childhood, and questioning the parenting skills of Woods and ex-wife Elin for allowing their son be placed in the spotlight.

Well, here’s the way I see it. Few children are able to genuinely share a sporting stage with their parent or parents in a competitive environment. Footballers can’t do it, nor can boxers, basketball players or cyclists. Golfers can. There are few things I’d rather as an 11-year-old than to compete alongside my father against some of the best players in the world, especially if I’m capable of holding my own and challenging for a victory.

Interviewed afterwards, Tiger described the weekend as “memories for a lifetime” and few could doubt the veracity of his words. Watching your son draw a 3-wood to three-feet before draining an eagle putt with the world number three looking on and the television cameras rolling is the kind of proud-dad moment that virtually no other father can realistically hope to experience. Perhaps Charlie Woods will go on to play and win on the PGA Tour (or wherever the top players are plying their trade in the next 10 or 15 years) but the realistic odds are against it, and this could well prove to be the highlight of his career.

Just days before going under the knife for spinal-fusion surgery, Woods famously told Jack Nicklaus that he felt his playing days were over as he hobbled his way to the table at the Masters Champions Dinner in 2017. Tiger is truly in bonus territory at present, and few will be more aware that each and every time he tees it up could be the last. If his body allows it, then expect Tiger and Charlie to play this event on an annual basis, but there are no guarantees that this wasn’t a one-off appearance.

So if you’re now scouring the dark recesses of the web for additional Charlie Woods content, seek help, and if you’re accusing Tiger and Elin of poor parental choices, then consider your virtue well and truly signalled. The rest of us in the middle ground are happy that father and son shared a special experience.

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