For me, it was uplifting, in this time of doom and gloom, to see Tiger and his son playing golf at the PNC father/child event, as well as others like 86 year old Gary Player, 82 year old Lee Trevino, ageless Tom Watson, Henrik Stenson and his 11 year old son, and the eventual winners the incomparable John Daly and his son John Jr, who may well be a powerhouse on the PGA Tour in a few years. It’s a special game, isn’t it, that can accommodate players of different generations and backgrounds, holding forth, without a hint of embarrassment for lost skills, and harmonize to produce a very entertaining couple days of almost top level golf.
But, I must say, Tiger and Charlie most impressed me and buoyed my spirits. Charlie, at 12, has a golf swing as technically perfect as I’ve ever seen, and a game nearly as astute as his father’s was in his heyday. I don’t want to make predictions about this sport, but if this kid sticks with the game, we may be honored to see another player as good as or better than his GOAT father.
I know. Tone it down, Stephen. A lot, now unforeseen, can happen in his next few years. But I don’t think we ever thought another Tiger Woods would be at all possible in the future. But Charlie’s steadiness, his enthusiasm, his drive to succeed, and his raw talent, greatly impressed me. Technically we can all learn from his positions at address, at the top, starting the downswing, at impact, and at follow through. His distance and accuracy were uncanny for a youngster of his age. Charlie showed us graphically you don’t need the muscles of a Bryson or his father to be good at this game. You just need to strike the ball consistently on the sweet spot and have the club face pointing at the target at impact, as Charlie did shot after shot. And sure, he got a bit upset when a shot didn’t quite go as he hoped, but, like his father before him, he was able to express his emotions, then let it go and proceed to the next shot without much memory of the wayward shot. That is mindful golf, personified.
As for Tiger, I am most impressed by his returning to golf, let alone walking itself, ten months after a car accident that almost took his life or his leg. That took perseverance, determination, and downright grit. And his swing was pretty darn good, wasn’t it. His whole game was impressive. It’ll be awhile before he returns to Tour level golf, or at least a level that fits his expectations of himself. As he won’t request the use of a cart, Tiger cannot tolerate playing competitive golf at a level below his own expectations and desires. That, alone, will determine if we see him again on Tour. But, you know, that’s OK, either way will be fine, particularly after seeing his son perform. I’m impressed with how Tiger is accepting that his game won’t be quite the same, not the same distance, not the same accuracy. As we all must do, he’s adapting to his current age and condition of his body. That’s different from the Tiger of yesteryear. We can all learn from that quality of acceptance and adaptation. In the meantime, we’ve had the honor of witnessing one of the greatest golf careers in history. I’m content with that.
Now back to Charlie, if I may. All of us golfers are tinkerers, aren’t we. We’re always looking for ways to achieve more consistency, more accuracy, and, of course, more distance. We try to buy our way at times via new equipment or lessons, but mostly we observe the pros closely to pick up tips and techniques and try to apply them to our swings. Why not? It’s a complicated game that requires modifications as we age, physically and mentally. But in young Charlie Woods, we have player of raw, and, I might even postulate, peak talent, enthusiasm, and energy. He hasn’t yet been tainted with all sorts of advice that most of us experience as we age. So let’s take a closer look at his swing. Perhaps we can learn something.
First, Charlie’s got a really good idea of what club he needs and what he needs to get that ball as close to the pin as possible. He knows the distances each iron travels as his father did so well before him. That’s important for all of us, but it’s something I struggle with, of course, with the change of seasons, but also with the changes in my body as it ages and recovers from illness and injury. We have to assess and reassess how far our irons, on average, travel under real course conditions, and not just from the perfect lies of a range or TrackMan. It’s not an easy task. But obviously Charlie has learned well from his dad. So do whatever is necessary to know your irons, and know them well. Otherwise, your confidence suffers for lack of that information.
Charlie’s posture at address is spot on. I see his address as something in between a one plane and two plane address position, with a relatively straight line formed by his left arm and the shaft. His takeaway is smooth and one piece, with his left wrist flat throughout his backswing. He rotates and coils his body wonderfully. That flat wrist allows him to stay on plane as he starts the downswing and approach to impact with a clubface ready for action. His hips have cleared, his head is rock steady, and he is completely in the present moment, as most of his dad’s colleagues are at impact. Charlie’s follow through is pure poetry, or perhaps ballet: balanced, belt buckle pointing to target, and weight completely on his left side.
I don’t know about you, but I’m off to the range, inspired by this kid who has obviously followed his dad’s every physical move, on and off the golf course, as we saw and smiled at with clips of how the kids of these pros often have the same mannerisms as their dad’s!
Happy Christmas and New Year’s to you all. Enjoy. Be smart. Vaccinate. Mask. Stay healthy while helping others stay healthy as well. Oh, and check out my new book, Golf 360: For Current Players and Those Considering the Game, available at Amazon. Thanks for your attention and support.