Tiger and Charlie Woods ready to compete at father-son PNC Championship
After 24 years, the golf world will see a different side of Tiger Woods competing in this weekend’s PNC Championship in Orlando, Florida.
As a father.
That’s not as easy a transition as one might think.
Woods will likely be as nervous walking to the first tee Saturday of the father-son event as he was at the start of any final round of his 15 major championships. There’s something about combining family with work — and we’re not talking about the Sopranos — that brings a little edge to these friendly competitions.
We've seen tough, talented athletes struggle when their work environment becomes a family affair. It doesn’t matter the sport. Legendary Dolphins coach Don Shula didn’t always act in the most pragmatic ways when his sons David and Mike’s coaching careers were being discussed. It’s a parental instinct instilled at birth.
Shula wasn’t their boss. He was their father.
It’s one thing for Tiger to hug Charlie (and the rest of his family) behind the 18th green when he unexpectedly won last year’s Masters. It’s another thing to count on his 11-year-old son to get up-and-down from behind the green to save a shot and keep a round’s momentum going.
And there will be pressure on young Charlie this weekend. Not to win. But to perform close to his father’s usual brilliance in clutch moments.
No doubt this is going to be one of the most-watched events of the so-called silly season. TV ratings will be huge when 20 former major champions team up with a family member to play a best-ball format, especially when one of the 20 teams has the last name of “Woods.”
How strong is the DNA in young Charlie?
Apparently, quite strong.
For one thing, Charlie shares his father’s personality on the golf course when they are playing just for pride. Major champion Justin Thomas, who grew up idolizing Woods, couldn’t wait to tell reporters that Woods’ son also likes to use the proverbial needle on the golf course.
“For some reason, Charlie just always wants to beat me, it doesn’t matter what it is,” Thomas said. “Although he’s never beaten me in golf or a putting contest, he still talks trash just like his dad. We’ll have that, like, inner tournament within a tournament, try to shut his little mouth up, but it will be fun.”
Woods doesn’t deny his son’s brashness. Nor does he mind it.
“He’s a little chirpie,” Tiger said, “like his dad.”
Asked how their cut-throat games have fared lately, Woods said, “I’m still winning, for now. He’s starting to understand how to play. He’s asking me the right questions. It’s been an absolute blast just to go out and compete with him. He reminds me so much of me and my dad growing up.”
What are the odds of Charlie having a taste of a career his father enjoyed? About as long as Bryson DeChambeau’s drives.
The only father-son teams to win major championships were Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris and Willie Park and Willie Jr. That was only about 150 years ago.
Eight father-son combinations have won PGA Tour events, and you would be hard-pressed to name half of them (the Burkes, Kirkwoods, Heafners, Boroses, Geibergers, Stadlers, Tways and Haases).
Gary Nicklaus almost joined them, but he lost a playoff to Phil Mickelson at the 2000 BellSouth Championship.
Charlie has won two events on the South Florida PGA Junior Tour, with dad carrying his bag. Tiger likes what he sees. He even has his son use forged clubs because they require a solid strike.
“I wish I had his move,” Woods said. “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. Those days are long gone. I have to re-live it through him.”
The PNC Challenge is one of golf’s coolest events, its origins traced to Vero Beach from 1995-1998 when it was known as the Father-Son Challenge. Charlie is fortunate he gets to play his first one at 11. Jupiter’s Mark Calcavecchia won the 1989 British Open and this year marks the first time he gets to play in the event with son Eric. Area Hall of Famers Greg Norman and Nick Price also are playing with their sons.
The event has been dominated by South Florida residents. Raymond Floyd of Palm Beach won the event five times – three with Raymond Jr., two with Robert; Jack Nicklaus won it with Gary once; so did Palm Beach Gardens residents Bob Charles and David Charles. And Bernhard Langer won it twice each with sons Stefan and Jason.
This year the event was rebranded to the PNC Challenge with major champions now allowed to invite their father, daughter, grandson, etc.
But most of the attention will be on a son. An 11-year-old son.
Get used to it, Charlie.
Grande Lakes, Orlando
TV: NBC 2:30-5 p.m. (Saturday), 3-6 p.m. (Sunday)