ORLANDO, Fla. — A yardage book protruded from his back left pocket, the golf glove dangling from his right when he walked on the greens. Throw in the Nike swoosh on his jacket and an inter-locking grip, and Charlie Woods appeared a miniature version of his famous and accomplished father.
Trying to take it any farther than that is not what it’s about this week at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club as Tiger Woods elected to play with his 11-year-old son in the PNC Championship, an annual late-season, 36-hole event that matches a major championship-winning player with a family member. The tournament begins on Saturday with 20 teams.
In describing the situation Thursday following a pro-am round, Tiger repeatedly invoked a form of the word “enjoy” as he described what the essence of this exercise is all about.
“It’s so much fun to see him enjoying the game,” Woods said. “That’s the whole idea. Enjoy hitting shots and creating those shots. It’s so cool for me to see him enjoy the sport and feeling the shots and hitting it as solid as he is hitting it.”
The format for the tournament is a scramble, which was also used during the pro-am, and there was one instance on the 11th hole where Charlie hit his short approach to a few feet for a kick-in birdie — while Tiger hitting from the same spot was nowhere within birdie range.
Such is the game that allows for such variances. Woods, and the other major winners in the field, are playing from the championship tees while there are regular and forward tees also in use. Charlie is playing up front — from the same place where legends Lee Trevino, 81, and Gary Player, 85, will tee it up from this weekend.
“I would love to see (Charlie) play well, I’d love to see him hold his own but at the same time he’s only 11 years old, he doesn’t need to be compared to Tiger,” said Justin Thomas, who is playing with his father, Mike — and will be grouped with the Woods team on Saturday. “He doesn’t need to be compared to anybody He just needs to enjoy the game.”
Thomas has seen a good bit of Charlie over the years as he lives near Woods in South Florida. And his dad, Mike – a PGA of America club pro — has spent some time working with the younger Woods as well, something Tiger noted and appreciated.
“He likes to needle me a little bit and I have to remind myself that he’s 11 years old sometimes,” Thomas said. “I need to remind myself that I need to watch what I say. They are very similar. Who wouldn’t want to be like your dad if your dad was Tiger Woods? He definitely has all the mannerisms. I’ll be his second-biggest supporter out there after Tiger.”
This is a far different entry into the game than the way Woods himself was introduced some 40 years ago. By age 11, Tiger — who turns 45 on Dec. 30 — had a multitude of trophies in his bedroom and had competed in numerous child and junior events.
Tiger’s father, Earl, was known for guiding his son to greatness, although he stood by and let Tiger decide how much he wanted to play.
“My dad never pushed me to play golf, or run track or cross country,” Woods said. “Any of those things. It was about spending those moments. And whatever Charlie decides to do, whether it’s golf or not, as long as he enjoys it.
“It’s all about him enjoying his moments. That’s what we were doing. And having these bonding moments. As long as he does that, I’m happy for him.”
The course measures just under 7,000 yards for the pros, with the front tees playing to about 5,800 yards.