First there was the swing analysis. This 10-year-old’s move, reminiscent of Rory McIlroy in so many ways, earned gasps from across the world of golf. That Charlie Woods, son of arguably the greatest player of all time, seems a natural is probably no surprise at all. Yet a rare glimpse of the child, striking balls on a crowded range in south Florida, was sufficient to create a social media frenzy. That his doting dad, Tiger, was watching on made the scene all the more appealing. Photographs subsequently appeared showing Tiger caddying for Charlie in this junior event.
In the time since there have grown alternative sentiments. Is it fair, for instance, that the original film, filmed from behind trees and patently without the Woods clan knowing anything about it, exists at all? Is it a sad reality, rather than in any way endearing, that Charlie cannot enjoy the most simple of youthful pleasures without global focus? At the age of 10, regardless of the sporting legend by his side, nobody can be adequately prepared for these instances. Already, predictions are being made about the major-winning potential of Charlie Woods.
The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Tiger is famed for his endless if futile, pursuit of anonymity when outside the ropes. This is an individual who named his yacht “Privacy”. Last year, when asked what his two children thought of an amusing on-course incident the 15-time major winner replied that they hadn’t seen it. Why? “I don’t let them go on social media,” he replied. If this is an understandable, if slightly sad, snapshot into the world of Tiger Woods it is also perhaps now unnecessary given he has completed one of the finest sporting comebacks in history. His reputation is strong.
Still, Tiger thinks it wise to keep his offspring detached from an element of society all their friends will be immersed in. Tiger has earned fame and fortune partly because of the commercial phenomenon he could only drive by having eyes on him but he was that tiny percentage of sports people not permitted to be normal from a young age. Woods’s father, Earl, chased publicity for his prodigious talent from the moment Tiger started swinging clubs. If Tiger is adamant an alternative approach is wise, even before we contemplate this age of mass exposure, nobody can really blame him.
Yet what transpired on Sunday wasn’t a deplorable invasion of privacy. Charlie and Tiger were in a relatively public setting, rather than working through putting drills in their kitchen. The sight of an adoring dad – Tiger’s dedication to his children has never been in doubt – with a boy who portrays elements of genius made people smile. The same, with tears too, transpired as an ecstatic Tiger hugged Charlie having played the final green of last year’s Masters.
Tiger frequently pinpointed his children – he also has a daughter, Sam – as the key motivators on his latest and successful comeback from serious injury. “I think the kids are starting to understand how much this game means to me and some of the things I’ve done in the game,” he has explained. “Prior to comeback, they only knew that golf caused me a lot of pain.”
Amid said comeback, Sam and Charlie mingled in crowds at tournaments without any apparent problem or elements of intrusion at all. That a video of Charlie’s swing earned traction actually owes plenty to the privacy he and his sister have been granted. Whether a change in that approach was needless or harmful is probably for the Woods family to decide.
When Tiger begins this year’s competitive schedule next week in California, he will be asked not only how highly he rates his son’s ability – expect a nondescript reply to that one – but whether he objects to Charlie being thrust into the spotlight.
There may well be an understanding that, when he competes, attention is natural. If respectful in nature that needn’t be problematic, but it remains intriguing that children of other legends – Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson – haven’t become champion golfers, or threatened to be.
Woods, McIlroy and others were recognisable faces by television audiences long before they became major champions. This was on the obvious basis of parental consent, which distinguishes their situations from events of the weekend. Nonetheless, if any of Lionel Messi’s sons display a youthful aptitude for dribbling and shooting it seems obvious this would enter a broader domain.
Woods Jr as a golfing success would be a story for the ages. Knowing of that possibility does no real harm, so long as the follow-up isn’t incessant.