It’s time now for the PNC Championship, and though the ‘father/son’ moniker is a thing of the past, let’s face it, a certain father/son duo is the only reason the wider golf world will be tuning in.
No, it’s not the Matt and Carson Kuchar pairing – no disrespect to 13-year-old Carson intended – it is of course, Tiger and Charlie Woods. Two years ago, 11-year-old Charlie had his own ‘hello world’ moment, and clad in his father’s trademark red and black, club twirled his way onto the scene.
My better half is no golf fan, though she’ll admit that it’s vastly preferable to watching soccer – I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been asked when the World Cup finishes – but even she was enthralled by the ‘Mini-Me’ version of Tiger.
As golf fans, because of what he means to the sport, we’ve been quick to forgive and forget when it comes to the great man, but those less enthused with the game, and especially the female cohort, are not necessarily so gracious.
And understandably so. The public shaming Tiger endured was, of course, all his own making. Ex-wife Elin’s ordeal was arguably worse, and that is what sticks in the minds of a considerable section of society. But watching Tiger interact with his son, and seeing the adulation the youth clearly has for his old man, was enough to melt even the coldest of hearts.
Not that I’m suggesting my better half is cold-hearted, because on the off-chance that she reads this, I’d be in for a frosty Christmas, even with the coming thaw – no, I’m speaking generally here. It’s a credit to Elin Nordegren that Woods has a healthy relationship with his children – contrary to Shakespearean lore, this scorned woman did not use the kids as spears with which to jab her former husband, and it’s all the better for the golf nuts among us.
I’m naturally curious to see how Charlie Woods is progressing – rumour has it he’s bombing it past his dad in practice, which is no mean feat considering Tiger was clocked at 182 mph ball-speed on the range at Pelican last week, but it’s still odds against that he’ll ever play his way into the big leagues. I’d love to see it, of course, but it’s a huge ask.
But because of Charlie, we’ll get to see Tiger playing golf. And any chance to see Tiger Woods play golf should be cherished, because realistically, each and every time he tees it up could be the last.
Watching Tiger hobble across the Swilcan Bridge at The Old Course back in July brought little joy, miles outside the cut-line, and a pale shadow of his former self. But as painful a watch as that was, just months prior, his battling performance to shoot 69 – for context, Rory McIlroy playing alongside Tiger shot 71 that day – was one of the genuine highlights of the season.
Yes, there’s more than a degree of selfishness involved. The joy I got out of rooting for Tiger to make the cut, and the subsequent elation when he succeeded probably paled in comparison to the toll it took on his body, as his later withdrawal after shooting 79 in round 3 in visible pain showed, but I don’t for one second think he regretted it.
Tiger knows he’s lucky to be alive. Anybody’d be fortunate to survive hitting a tree at 75 mph and then rolling the car several times. He’s lucky he’s able to walk at all. He knows that too. Every day he’s able to go out and play golf is a blessing.
He’ll probably never win again, and that’s ok. Prior to this accident, when he was just playing with a reconstructed knee and fused back, it was a near miracle that he was able to come back and do what he did at Augusta in 2019. Majors are the most gruelling tests in golf, and that was proof that Tiger was no ordinary human being, but even extraordinary human beings have their limitations.
If Tiger’s major career henceforth – and realistically, his future as a competitive golfer is likely to be majors and little else – consists entirely of Friday cutline battles, I’m totally here for that. As somebody who grew up watching Tiger take the game to whole new levels, he’s already given me enough priceless memories to last a lifetime.
He owes me nothing, but I owe a lot of my love for golf – and my profession – to him. I know the end is near, I’ve made peace with it. But I still want more; nothing will change that.
So this evening, I’ll be glued to my couch, I’ll crack open a few beers and I’ll watch Tiger Woods playing golf. Even in a so-called hit-and-giggle, there’s nothing quite like it.
And with Charlie there too, I might even have company – though he’s bigger now, so maybe the novelty will have worn off.