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Charlie Woods, like Dad's legend, just continues to grow at PNC Championship

6 Min Read


Charlie Woods, like Dad's legend, just continues to grow at PNC Championship

Father-son Woods duo provide highlights in PNC Championship pro-am

    Written by Jeff Babineau @JeffBabz62

    ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s December in Orlando, and that means another season of the Tiger and Charlie show. Another edition of the exciting golf reality program starring Tiger Woods, arguably the most impactful golfer ever to walk the planet, and his 14-year-old son, Charlie, competing at the PNC Championship.

    Weather permitting (heavy rain is expected to arrive mid-day Saturday, and fall through the night into Sunday), the event begins Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m., with players going off two tees to hopefully get the round in. Tiger Woods and his son will tee off last off No. 1 at 8:22 a.m ET. alongside Mike and Justin Thomas.

    Once a championship designed to gather major-winning fathers and their sons during a sleepy time of the golf season, the PNC has expanded to include golfers and their daughters, golfers with their dads, even daughters with their dads. Steve Stricker, winner of three majors on the PGA TOUR Champions this season, is here for the first time with his high school daughter, Izzi; LPGA great Annika Sorenstam is at the Ritz-Carlton Club playing alongside her 12-year-old son, Will, a spitfire left-hander with plenty of spunk. LPGA standout Nelly Korda is here with her tennis pro father, Petr.

    Back to Tiger, whose co-star is getting quite tall these days. When Charlie first played here as an 11-year-old, he was a peanut, barely as tall as his driver. Now he is a young man, broad shoulders, filling out. He turns 15 in February, and it won’t be long until he is driving a car. There is almost 6 feet of him now, nearly as tall as his famous dad, and his game continues to grow exponentially along with his frame.

    To watch Team Woods play on Friday, was to realize that father and son have big expectations this week.

    Charlie Woods secures back-to-back birdies on No. 14 at PNC Championship

    “He’s still growing,” Tiger said Friday after the two completed a practice round. (Woods declined to meet with the assembled media, instead delivering his words to a tournament official; Charlie was not made available.)

    “You can see how much he’s grown from last year,” Tiger said. “It’s amazing how much has grown, has changed, and it’s a moving target with him, right? He’s grown somewhere near 4 inches this year, so his swing has changed, it’s evolved, clubs have evolved.”

    Mike Thomas, the PGA of America teaching pro, and his son and lead pupil, Justin Thomas, a two-time PGA champion, have developed a special bond with the Woodses, their South Florida neighbors, and have enjoyed their special window into watching Charlie grow up.

    “He’s not a little tyke anymore,” said Mike Thomas, smiling. Adds Justin, “I’m just glad he (Charlie) keeps moving back tee markers. He’s leading the tournament in inches grown.”

    Tiger and Charlie Woods card birdie with excellent approach at PNC Championship

    The two “rival” teams really love to playfully stick the needle into one another. Shortly after the Thomases won the 2020 edition of the PNC, they visited Tiger at his home in Jupiter wearing the champions’ oversized Old Tom Morris belts. (They look like something right out of the WWE.) The Thomases will continue a holiday tradition by playing alongside Tiger and son in the opening round.

    This tournament might be the only one where Tiger Woods can show up without all eyes solely on him. There is a genuine curiosity about Charlie, and the future ahead of him. It’s readily evident that he has added swing speed and ball speed. Tiger said there are several holes where he will hit first and let Charlie, playing up one tee, take a rip at the green. There aren't too many instances where a 15-time major champ gets out of the way for a 14-year-old.

    A lot of the younger kids here will huddle up and talk about their nerves, but Charlie looks to be a natural in the spotlight. On the first hole on Friday, a straightaway par 4 of 387 yards, Tiger pulled his opening tee shot a little left. Charlie striped his opening drive, hit a flighted wedge in tight, and rolled in the putt. Natural birdie.

    Both players appeared to be hitting it pretty well in a final tuneup on Friday. They declined the use of a cart, a nice sign of progress for Tiger, though they will be in a cart on Saturday when every dry minute is precious. Tiger was moving his driver pretty well, even choosing to hit driver off the deck on his second shot at the par-5 14th. Walking, Tiger explained, helps his surgically repaired back.

    “I just wanted to keep it loose and keep it going,” he said. “And we’re just having so much fun, it doesn’t really matter. We had a good time doing it.”

    Their day was filled with great snippets. Tiger chit-chatting with John Daly II on the practice tee and catching up for a few minutes with an old junior foe, fellow Californian (and TV personality) Carson Daly. Charlie stopped to do a SiriusXM radio interview with Will McGee between the ninth green and 10th tee, with two former No. 1s – Tiger and Annika Sorenstam – proudly watching on.

    There was Charlie’s solo birdie at the first, with dad just along for the ride, Tiger’s driver off the deck, and his towering mid-iron into the par-3 17th that fought through the wind and dropped just a few feet from the flagstick, as if it fell from the heavens. Charlie took care of the rest, making birdie, then stayed on the green to help his Dad with his putting alignment. Son teaching father.

    “We’re a team,” Tiger said, “and this event over the years has brought us closer together, and provided an atmosphere for us to be able to compete, but also bond as father and son.”

    For a man who competed on an island for so many years, is there anything better? Charlie has added impressive length, and at 14, he moves back a tee (purely an age rule), now playing this course from 6,576 yards. The extra yardage on Friday did not make him blink.

    Tiger will play the course from 7,106 yards and was bombing it nicely. His newly fused right ankle has left him walking without the pain he once had to endure, which makes Tiger’s year ahead very intriguing. He said at the recent Hero World Challenge that he hopes to play an event a month in 2024. At 48, (which he will turn on Dec. 30), six or eight big events would be a season Woods would love to have.

    Tiger has won Green Jackets, Claret Jugs, Wanamaker Trophies and pretty much everything else in between. This weekend, he and his rapidly rising son would really like to go home with one of those big red belts.

    For a man who has pretty much everything, and for a golfer who has won everything there is to win in golf, that big red belt would be the talk of the holidays. Not to mention a father-son memory to share for a lifetime.

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