Tiger and Charlie finished second to John Daly and his son, John Daly II
It’s always about Tiger.
But the crux of it at least, the reason why the ratings released on Wednesday revealed that a record 3.2 million of us were glued to our TVs last Sunday afternoon from 3:30 to 3:45 p.m. ET (right in the middle of the NFL schedule) to watch the PNC Championship, was to became enamored with a 12-year-old playing alongside professionals.
We were in awe of what it must be like to be that kid.
To be Tiger Woods’ kid.
It wasn’t just sports entertainment, as the tournament took in its most viewers in 21 years; it was reality television.
It’s about Charlie, of course. With stylish hair, a perfect swing and a cool-as-a-cucumber approach to the whole thing, Charlie presents himself all too well for a kid who has been through both the best and worst of American fame.
To have a father who was one of the most accomplished athletes in American history has to come with some pressure, and for that, Charlie was easy to root for.
Now add a few chapters where the kid’s dad has a lifetime’s worth of affairs suddenly revealed in 2009, the year Charlie was born, then crashes his car, ends up on the cover of the New York Post for 20 consecutive days, checks into a rehab center specializing in sex addiction, loses many of his sponsorships, pays his wife, Elin Nordegren, a reported sum of over $100 million in divorce, years later is arrested for a DUI, has a toxicology report confirm he was on five different drugs at the time, and a few years after that presses the gas pedal all the way down and throws his car into a median at 75 mph, shattering his right leg into pieces.
To be the child of all that, we cannot comprehend. But to be the child of a parent who self-destructs with drugs and sex? To be the child of a parent who was once wildly successful but loses their career? A lot of us can understand.
When everything falls apart, we learn from what’s left.
After he nearly killed himself in the February accident, Tiger’s relationship with his son, though we’ll never know the intimate details that only those two will understand, appears to be a meaningful one.
Using a golf cart rather than walk the course, and playing with a heavy limp, it was news enough that Tiger was upright, much less hitting bombs off the tee.
It was easy to ponder Tiger’s journey to the top of the mountain and then his tumbling down off of it, perhaps because he was bored, it’s been surmised, or because he couldn’t help himself, or because he’s an imperfect human like the rest of us who, after being subjected to both overwhelming praise and intense criticism in the eyes of the public, sometimes fall apart.
At times it looked like Tiger purposely looked away after Charlie did something remarkable. Or he’d walk by him, casually give him a tap on the fist while neither of them made eye contact. They looked calm and content on a beautiful day under the Florida sun, chasing history, the next great shot, the championship and the legacy Tiger built that will almost certainly never be matched.
As much as Tiger could offer Charlie independence on the course, he did. He seemed like a father eager to give his son an opportunity. Tiger didn’t hold his hand; he gently pushed him ahead and waited to catch him when he fell
Tiger was there for Charlie, and Charlie there for Tiger.
Chasing John Daly and his son, John Daly II, who finished first and just two shots ahead of Tiger and Charlie, the Woods family approached the par-3 17th hole desperately needing to birdie to have a chance.
Charlie went first, and his tee shot was so perfect — he stuck it a few feet from the pin for arguably the best shot by anybody on that hole all tournament — Tiger needed to do nothing. He took a shot anyway and ended up on the wrong side of the green.
Charlie went up and tapped in for birdie. They didn’t use a single shot by Tiger on the hole.
Perhaps that’s why these two connected with the rest of us so easily and with remarkable potency last weekend.
We could feel Charlie doing it on his own. We could feel him growing up with each shot, maturing a little while dealing with each series of steps to the tee box. As we listened to the people on the other side of the rope yelling out advice or words of encouragement while Charlie put his head down and kept marching forward, we could feel the isolation of what it’s like to be him.
None of us will ever know. But damn is it easy to root for him.