Tiger Woods’ secret weapon this week at the U.S. Open? It could be his ‘Player Support’

PINEHURST, N.C. — Fifteen-time major champion Tiger Woods has a 15-year-old as his eyes and ears this week at the 124th U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 – son Charlie.

“I think having Charlie out here is very special. To have the father-son relationship that we have and to extend it into this part of both of our lives, he’s playing a lot of junior golf, and I’m still playing out here,” Tiger said.

Charlie has been inside the ropes and on the range with a player support badge, making him the closest thing Tiger has to an official coach.

“As far as his responsibilities, it’s the same. I trust him with my swing and my game. He’s seen it more than anybody else in the world. He’s seen me hit more golf balls than anyone,” Tiger explained of Charlie’s role. “I tell him what to look for, especially with putting. He gave me a couple little side bits today, which was great, because I get so entrenched in hitting certain putts to certain pins, I tend to forget some of the things I’m working on.”

Photos: Tiger Woods at the 2024 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2

Tiger, a three-time U.S. Open champion, played a practice round on Tuesday with Max Homa and 25-year-old Australian pro Min Woo Lee with Charlie by his side every step of the way.

“It’s neat for him to see the guys that he watches on TV and YouTube and TikTok, whatever the hell it is that they do,” Tiger said. “He was very excited today to watch Max and Min Woo and watch them hit golf balls. They’ve talked to him quite a bit, especially Min Woo and him. I think they’re closer in age than I am to anybody else. It’s great. It’s great for us to be able to share these moments together.”

Tiger, 48, hasn’t competed since missing the cut last month at the PGA Championship with a 36-hole total of 7-over 149. In his past 22 starts in majors, he has missed the cut 10 times and withdrawn twice. Still, he expressed confidence that his body is getting stronger from injuries suffered in February 2021 car crash and that he’s capable of contending this week.

“I do,” he said. “I feel like I have the strength to be able to do it. It’s just a matter of doing it.

“This golf course is going to test every single aspect of your game, especially mentally, and just the mental discipline that it takes to play this particular golf course, it’s going to take a lot.”

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Woods finished T-3 at Pinehurst in 1999 and second in 2005 but missed the 2014 U.S. Open here. He said this is the first time he’s been back since the famed Donald Ross layout underwent a restoration by Coore-Crenshaw ahead of the 2014 Open won by Martin Kaymer. In preparation for the course’s turtleback greens, Woods has been spending extra time at home with his putter but said that can only do so much.

“Nothing can simulate what we have here this particular week, the amount of little shots and the knobs and run-offs, and either using wedges or long irons or woods around the greens or even putter,” he said. “There’s so many different shots that you really can’t simulate unless you get on the property. That’s one of the reasons I came up here last Tuesday.”

How challenging will the greens be? “It depends how severe the USGA wants to make this and how close they want to get us up to those sides,” he said. “But I foresee just like in ’05 watching some of the guys play ping-pong back and forth. It could happen.”

Woods also will be receiving the USGA’s highest honor, the Bob Jones Award, during a ceremony on Tuesday evening. Tiger and Jones both won nine USGA titles, sharing the record for the most USGA championships. Tiger would like nothing more than to break that tie and become the first to reach double digits.

“I think anytime you’re in association with Mr. Jones, it’s always incredible,” Tiger said. “What he did in his amateur career, winning the Ams and the Opens and then obviously creating Augusta National, the fact that I get a chance to be honored with his award tonight, it’s very special.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek