It was Tiger Woods like we’ve never seen him before. By which I mean smiling, mostly, while playing golf.
The 15-time major champion teed up at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club near his home in Florida alongside his 11-year-old son Charlie to take part in the annual PNC Challenge which pits major winners and a family member against each other in a two-day team scramble format.
Tiger beamed every time Charlie smashed his driver down the middle of the fairway, he chuckled as Charlie expertly twirled his club after each shot, he even struggled to contain himself when Charlie whipped out a trademark Woods fist pump after draining a birdie putt.
The pair, in their traditional Sunday red and black, of course, would go on to finish 7th in the 20-team tournament, five shots behind playing partners Justin and Mike Thomas.
“He’s not going to appreciate this at 11 years old,” Woods said after their second successive 62. “I didn’t when I was with my dad. As the years go by, you start appreciating it more.”
Dare I say it will be one of his most treasured memories when he looks back on a career with more than enough to choose from.
But we’re a cantankerous old bunch, golfers, aren’t we? Only we could suck the joy out of such a beautiful occasion.
We all had a bit of fun back in January when that clip of Charlie booming shots on the range came out. We all got excited when Charlie won a junior tournament by five shots. And we all let out a little cry of joy when we heard Charlie would be entering the PNC with his dad.
But then it came around, and we just weren’t happy. Why? Because there was too much spotlight on the young man. As if we expected anything else.
The disdain – which, it must be said, came from mainly this side of the Atlantic – was at some media outlets analyising his swing (he was playing golf), or comparing it to his dad’s (he was playing golf), or taking a closer look at his equipment (he was playing golf). You’d think the Golf Channel had sent camera crews into his bedroom while he slept.
Want to speculate on how many majors he’s going to win? Go for it. He may win more than his dad. Or he may never make it to the professional circuit. Indeed, he may not want to take his career on that path. Who cares? As long as he’s happy.
Spoiler alert: He’s Tiger Woods’ son. He’s dealt with attention in the past and he’ll deal with attention in the future.
The reaction would be understandable if he was being hounded by media in a junior event, but this is a high-profile end-of-year shindig playing alongside the best player to ever walk the earth – don’t @ me – so Woods knew this kind of attention would be on the pair.
Woods knows his son better than anyone, so who are we to tell him how to parent his own child? “I’m proud of how he handled everything,” he added. And so he should be. It was a joyous few hours of watching golf at the end of what has been an horrendous year. And I loved it.
Give the fans what they want!
Down the road in Naples, the LPGA season finale at the CME Group Tour Championship was marred by controversy when Women’s Open champion Sophia Popov missed out on one of the two sponsor’s exemptions in favour of Professional Friend of CME Group Natalie Gulbis. (Remember her?)
Popov was the world No 304 when she won at Troon, but she didn’t earn the necessary LPGA points because she wasn’t a member of the tour at the time.
Gulbis, meanwhile, hasn’t made a cut since April 2018 and had planned to retire this year until Covid struck. Since then it’s been 19 straight tournaments where she’s either missed the weekend of withdrawn after one round.
On Sunday she finished 72nd in a 72-woman field – 10 shots behind 71st-placed Brittany Lang.
I wish I could have seen LPGA commissioner Mike Whan’s face when he was informed of this decision.
But why would you have a reigning major champion in the field when you could hand a thoroughly deserving send-off to a true legend who has done so much for the game?
(There’s no sarcasm font. Why is there no sarcasm font?)
So who won?
Ah yes, a tournament was played. And it was World No 1 Jin Young Ko who stormed to the title thanks to a five-shot win in Florida.
Ko – who only joined up with the LPGA in November having decided to spend the year at home in South Korea due to the pandemic – topped the money list having played just four tournaments on that side of the Atlantic.
Sports Personality of the Year happened on Sunday night. (No, I didn’t realise until after it was finished, either.)
There’s a bit of a running theme in this week’s Slam, but it’s become something of an annual tradition watching Golf Twitter get up in arms about the lack of coverage our sport gets.
You can’t possibly be surprised about this. All three majors were won by Americans, the Open didn’t happen, the Ryder Cup didn’t happen. With so much that’s gone on this year, did you really think that a handful of wins from the likes of Lee Westwood, Mel Reid, and Georgia Hall – as great as they were – were going to be featured in a relatively short show?
That’s enough from me for one year. Let’s all chill out. It’s Christmas time. Have a good one, wherever you are, and I’ll be back in the new year for more cutting analysis. (Still no sarcasm font?)