The Loop

Why Tiger Woods' hug with his son was so memorable

December 16, 2013

From the Dec. 16 edition of Golf World Monday:

We were sitting on the desk of Golf Central the Sunday night of Tiger Woods' seven-stroke victory in this year's WGC - Bridgestone Invitational, getting ready to sum up the 79th victory in Woods' career, when something unpredictable happened. Walking off the green, following a machine-like performance that was reminiscent of his greatest years, Tiger found himself being upstaged.

This has been a year for memorable hugs, starting with Angel Cabrera at the Masters when the Argentine threw his burly arms around his son after staking a 7-iron on the 72nd hole at Augusta, and then Adam Scott after the Aussie sank the winning putt.

Phil Mickelson had an emotional group hug behind the 18th green at Muirfield after winning the British Open, which included his wife, his children, his caddie Bones Mackay, his college coach and longtime manager Steve Loy and his coach Butch Harmon. And then there was what Jason Dufner called the "bro hug," when Keegan Bradley pulled a U-turn heading to the airport in Rochester, returning to Oak Hill in time to throw his arms around the PGA champion.

But there was something about the moment when Charlie Axel Woods broke free behind Firestone's 18th green, ran to his dad, jumped into his arms, and wrapped his arm around his neck, that made it unique.

Moments like this aren't created. They just happen. And more than just Charlie's being there for the first time at one of his dad's wins, this moment became an opportunity for Tiger to reveal a side not often seen in his news conferences.

"Sam was there when I won the U.S. Open in '08, and she loves to look at the YouTube videos," Woods said of his 6-year-old daughter. "She loves looking at that, and Charlie has never had that, never felt what it's like to be with the trophy."

The Woods kids have seen the trophies in Tiger's home on Jupiter Island, all 105 he has collected since turning pro in 1996, and some before that when father Earl was following Tiger around as an amateur. Don't think they didn't notice as Daddy went winless from 2010 through most of 2011.

"They always say, 'Daddy, when are you going to win the tournament?" Woods explained. "It was a few years there, or a couple years, I hadn't won anything in a while. Last couple years have been a little bit better, and they always want to know, 'Are you leading or not?' That's always a stock question. 'Not leading? Well, are you going to start leading?' Well, I'm trying."

Whether he's trying too hard in the majors is a question for the psychologists and golf analysts. But with his 38th birthday coming up, Woods can't help but see the competitive window closing as the circle of life closes in around him. Career-wise, he lost some prime years due to his own indiscretions and his body breaking down, but in 2013 he made up for lost time with five victories, two layer of the ear awards (PGA Tour and PGA of America), another Vardon Trophy and regaining the No. 1 ranking.

If he goes on to break Jack Nicklaus' record, don't be surprised for Tiger to one day share that his children were his two greatest motivators.

As he said at the end of the year, "It's exciting for me to have my two kids now starting to understand what Daddy does."