The golfers lamenting Tiger Woods’s indefinite leave from the PGA Tour because he is their cash cow are out of bounds. Only two people are truly dependent on Woods, and earlier this year, he could not stop smiling when he talked about them. His 2-year-old daughter, Sam, and 10-month-old son, Charlie, brought out Woods’s softer side in interviews. When I covered Woods early in his career, the only warmth he exuded in news conferences came from the vibrant reds of his signature Sunday shirts.
This year was different. Returning to competitive golf in late February after a nine-month injury-induced absence, Woods drew me in with a smile that started in his eyes when he talked about his children. When he was asked about the birth of Charlie or how he occupied himself while recovering from knee surgery, his eyes grew moony and his voice was lilting — a marked departure from his monotone.
He talked about cutting practice short to spend time with Charlie. He expressed delight in the rapid development of Sam. “I didn’t realize how much I loved being home,” he said.
This melting glacier of a golfer was so much more interesting, and likable, than the ice man who had won 14 major titles. Woods’s global warming required further examination, so I tracked him around the course in a kind of scavenger hunt in the first months of his six-win campaign. I was searching for more clues to flesh out the Clark Kent alter ego of golf’s Superman, and I collected enough material to write two articles. After a late-night accident last month and Woods’s subsequent admission of infidelity, the headlines of those articles read like punch lines: “The Family Guy Is Back on the Course” and “All Eyes Are on Tiger, the Father.”
Woods’s parenting role model was his father, Earl, who was committed to rearing him after having two sons and a daughter in a failed first marriage. Earl, a retired Army officer, attributed the divorce to military obligations that took him away from the family. Asked how he would manage to be there for his children when golf takes him away from home so much, Woods told me, “It’s going to be a lot more difficult, there’s no doubt.”
Maybe it is impossible. Perhaps Woods was destined to be like his father, only not in the way he had hoped. Over lunch on the veranda at the Masters one year, Earl Woods said, “I’ve told Tiger that marriage is unnecessary in a mobile society like ours.”
The way Woods talked about his children, I was sure he was going to prove his father wrong.