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How good is Charlie Woods? Putting his young junior golf career into perspective

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David Cannon

December 17, 2023

ORLANDO — Charlie Woods burst onto the national golf stage three years ago when, at age 11, he joined his father Tiger in playing the PNC Championship. This marks the fourth consecutive time Team Woods has competed at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club to end the year.

Over that span we’ve seen Charlie make his first eagle, shape shots both ways, display a mighty recoil with his driver and drain long birdie putts all while displaying many of the same mannerisms we’ve seen from his Hall of Fame father over the past 25 years. This year, now 14, Charlie stepped back a tee and is playing from the same distance as the likes of John Daly, Jim Furyk, Nelly Korda, Vijay Singh and Steve Stricker.

“I think his speed has gone dramatically up since last year,” Tiger said when assessing Charlie’s game. “But I think that more than anything, it's just the fact that he's grown so fast. The aches and pains of growing, just teenage life.”

Charlie is bigger and stronger. On Saturday during the first round, he carried a drive 320 yards, with the ball ending just over the back of the green on the par-4 12th hole.

“I sort of didn’t have the speed that he has at that age,” Tiger said. “But also, I didn’t have the equipment, either. The equipment is so different.”

One thing that is difficult to quantify from watching Charlie on television each year is how his skills compare with other junior golfers in the country. He’s seen alongside the most famous golfer on the planet hitting great golf shots, and annually, whether on social media or from people in the gallery, there are those who contend that he’ll have a long successful PGA Tour career and even potentially win major championships like his old man.

While that could happen, it’s also wise to pump the brakes and realize how far Charlie has come in a relatively short time. Afterall, he mostly played soccer growing up in South Florida and it wasn’t until 2020—when COVID-19 locked down the world—that Charlie found a deeper passion for golf and started to take the game more seriously. That was only three years ago.

“People need to quit comparing him to other kids who have been playing competitive golf for more time,” said a Golf Digest Top 50 Teacher in America. “People need to wait and see where he is in five years, 10 years.”

Of course, that’s nearly impossible because his last name is Woods. But the point is valid.

This was Charlie’s first year playing a full competitive junior schedule, playing mostly state and regional competitions.

Junior Golf Scoreboard, which has ranked junior golfers since the late 1990s, has Charlie ranked No. 1,326 out of a database of 10,616 juniors. He’s the 86th-ranked player in those same rankings for the Class of 2027. In the 16 events Charlie played that are recorded in the JGS system, he collected two victories and his low score of 66 came in September in the second round of the Notah Begay III Florida Regional qualifier win at Mission Inn in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., the same place where he shot 78-76 last month to help his high school team win the Class 1A Florida State Championship, which is not a part of the JGS rankings.

Speaking of high school, Florida is a talent-rich state that produces many Division I golfers each year. Charlie ranked 80th overall in high school in Florida this season out of 4,088 boys in the iWanamaker ranking system. He was the ninth-ranked freshman in Florida out of 657 and ranked 28th out of 1,420 in Class 1A, where his Benjamin school competes.

“Charlie is ultra-talented and while he is still newer to competitive golf he has the opportunity to excel long term because of the wealth of experience he can tap into and the opportunity to learn from the GOAT on how to play and prepare,” the aforementioned Top 50 Teacher said. “So many juniors never get exposed to that. In fact one of the things I’ve found is that young players who grow up around really good players have an edge on learning to play. He obviously has a huge leg up in that department.”

What will be interesting moving forward is to see how Charlie might compare to his peers if exposed to more national competition. To date, he has not competed in any AJGA events (he became eligible when he turned 13) nor has he attempted to qualify for any USGA national amateur events, most specifically the U.S. Junior Amateur, an event Tiger won three consecutive years from 1991 to 1993.

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Mike Mulholland

Said Tiger: “I provide guardrails for him and things that I would like to see him learn and address, but also, then again, I'm trying to provide as much space as I can for him. Because there's so much of the noise in our lives that people are always trying to get stuff out of us, and my job as a parent is to protect him from a lot of that stuff.

“Also, then again, as a teenager, I want him to try and become his own man at the same time. So it's a challenge as a parent and to provide that—that atmosphere for him, to learn, to grow, and have that freedom, meanwhile understanding that there's so much noise looking into our lives at the same time.”

A philosophy that appears to be working beautifully so far.

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Charlie Woods, by the numbers

Florida State High School (iWanamaker)

-Ranked 80th overall out of 4,088 players
-Ninth-ranked freshman out of 657
-Ranked 28th out of 1,420 in Class 1A

Junior Golf Scoreboard

-Ranked No. 1,326 out of 10,616 players
-86th in the Class of 2027

Results of 16 events on JGS rankings

Jan. 7-8, IMG Junior Honda Classic (81-77, 21st place)
Feb. 25-26, HJGT South Florida Junior Open (75-71, 2)
March 4-5, HJGT Jensen Beach Spring Junior Open (79-82, 6)
March 18-19, SFPGA Medalist Tour (78-78, 19)
April 22-23, HJGT PGA National Junior Open (77-82, 18)
April 29-30, SFPGA Medalist Tour (75, 8)
May 6-7, SFPGA Medalist Tour (83-75, 15)
June 3-4, HJGT Major Championship (72-71, WIN)
June 19-20, SFPGA Championship (75-81, 33)
June 22-23, SFPGA Nicklaus Junior Championship (79-75, 20)
Aug. 2-4, SFPGA Junior Cup (75-68-76, 10)
Aug. 19-20, FJT Sandridge Open (74-79, 13)
Sept. 2-4, SFPGA Labor Day Classic (80-70-82, 35)
Sept. 23-24, Notah Begay Florida Regional (71-66, WIN)
Nov. 4-5, Notah Begay Junior National Championship (73-74-68, 35)
Dec. 2-3, SFPGA Tour Championship (69-73, 5)
(HJGT: Hurricane Junior Golf Tour; SFPGA: South Florida PGA Section; FJT: Florida Junior Tour)