Tiger's moment with son offers glimpse of normalcy

By Jason SobelAugust 5, 2013, 7:48 pm

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – I once asked Tiger Woods to name the worst thing about being Tiger Woods.

This was years ago, when he was in the midst of shattering records, when he was winning major championships just by showing up. It was before Thanksgiving night in 2009 and all of the ensuing scar tissue.

This was when Tiger was on top of the world, universally beloved for his golf game. There was hardly a television commercial break that didn’t include him pitching product while showing off his pearly whites for the camera.

From an outsider’s perspective, there wasn’t much to dislike about being Tiger Woods. There weren’t many who wouldn’t have traded places with him, if not for all those zeroes in the bank account, then at least for the ability to hit a cut 6-iron from 215 yards into a tucked hole location.

And so I asked him: “What’s the worst thing about being Tiger Woods?”

He didn’t hesitate. Didn’t even blink.

“Anonymity,” he said. “Something I think I lost when I left college.”

Memories of this response came flooding back Sunday afternoon at Firestone Country Club. After dismantling the field to win in a seven-stroke walkover, Tiger gave the requisite wave to the fans, offered up a few comments for a live interview and bounced off the 18th green in the direction of the scoring trailer.

He had only reached the practice putting green when he heard a voice. He turned around and what he saw prompted a smile that was kilowatts beyond anything he’d offered after any birdie on the course.

As his 4-year-old son, Charlie, ran toward him, Tiger elicited a look of sheer joy that we’ve never seen from him in public before.

Even before tarnishing his image, he was always fiercely private with his personal life. Tiger lived in a cocoon more comparable to a privileged celebrity than anyone else in the golf world. He valued his personal life so much that he even named his yacht “Privacy.”

In the time since, he has worked to put up even greater barriers between himself and the outside world, keeping a safe distance from those who gawk at him, whisper about him and judge him.

And that’s why Sunday’s celebration was so startling.

He didn’t meet up with his son in the back room of the clubhouse. He didn’t have a car pull around and whisk the two of them away for a private celebration.

Instead, right in front of the cameras and microphones and all of those people against whom he put up those barriers, Tiger reached down and picked up Charlie, pulling him in for an embrace.

It was a boundless moment of normalcy for a man who has struggled to let people see that side of him. It was a moment of comfortable candor for a man who has so often been uncomfortable sharing his private life in public.

It didn’t stop there, either.

In his news conference after the victory, Tiger spoke about what this one meant (“Something I’m very proud of is how many tournaments I’ve been able to win consistently”) and how he’d prepare for the upcoming PGA Championship (“I’m just going to take it easy for probably the next day or so”). Gracious if not perfunctory responses to some of the day’s biggest queries.

Then he was asked about what it meant to have Charlie there with him.

“This was the first win he’s ever been at,” he said. “That’s what makes it special for both of us. He’s never seen me win a golf tournament.”

If you listened closely, you could almost hear Tiger getting a little choked up. A man who has forever lowered the shade against the window to his soul opened it up just enough to show us how much this meant to him.

Like any proud father, he continued talking about Charlie, offering lengthy anecdotes that he’s always previously seemed reticent to share.

He talked about how Charlie and his older sister Sam often ask if he’s leading a tournament. About how they know the difference between a par and a birdie. About how cute it is when Charlie makes a putt at home, then pumps his fist, just like his dad. About just how good it felt to be hugged like that after the win.

These may be standard stories for any golfer not named Tiger Woods, but the comparisons ring hollow. None of his peers have struggled to show this personal side in a public setting. None of them have put up such momentous barriers between themselves and the outside world.

None of them have ever claimed that the worst thing about their lives was a lack of anonymity.

That’s what I thought about as Charlie rushed ahead to give him a hug. It’s what I couldn’t stop thinking about as the two of them walked together toward the scoring trailer, the little boy never letting go of that embrace around his father’s neck.

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.