Tiger Woods ready for U.S. Open, thanks to son Charlie playing big role in preparation

It’s been a while since Tiger Woods teed it up in a U.S. Open. It’s also been 19 years since he last competed at Pinehurst No. 2, where he finished runner-up to longshot winner Michael Campbell.

So, to help re-familiarize himself with the course and better prepare for golf’s toughest test, Woods has a ‘new coach’ accompanying him at Pinehurst this week.

That would be his 15-year-old 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,” Woods said Tuesday.

“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. I tell him what to look for, especially with putting. He gave me a couple of 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.

“I just want to see the balls rolling. He reminds me every now and again, which is great. We have a great relationship and rapport like that, and it’s a wonderful experience for both of us.”

Tiger Woods and son Charlie walk during a Tuesday practice round ahead of the U.S. Open.
Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The greens have become the preeminent topic at Pinehurst No. 2 this week, so Woods has spent ample time ensuring he has the proper speed down.

The ‘turtleback’ shapes of these putting surfaces diminish the actual size of the greens and also ricochet golf balls down beneath the surfaces. That leads players to chip from precarious positions while forcing them to decide: do I putt from off the green? Or do I chip it? If so, with what club? A wedge? 3-wood? 4-iron?

“There are a few areas in which I would putt. There are also a few areas in which I would use my 56 or 60 [degree wedge],” Woods said.

“I have used up to a 4-iron bump-and-running it, and I’ve tried a few woods out there. I didn’t like the way that reacted. But some of the areas are more grainy than others. I think that’s one of the things, for me in particular, I need to watch out for, is some of the chatter that you might get coming up the hills and how much speed you’re going to have coming up and then over the next ridge.”

Woods and everyone else in the field must execute the speed correctly, or big numbers loom. It only takes one hole to ruin a championship; just ask Nelly Korda about the 12th hole at Lancaster Country Club.

“There’s a lot of different shot selections, and the grain is going to play a big part of it,” Woods further explained.

“The last few days playing practice rounds—I’m guilty as well as the rest of the guys I’ve played with—we’ve putted off a lot of greens. It depends on how severe the USGA wants to make this and how close they want to get us up to those sides. But I foresee, just like in ‘05, watching some guys play ping-pong back and forth. It could happen.”

Hopefully, for Woods’ sake, he does not have a ping-pong experience this week. But he has his son Charlie helping him navigate it all, a special circumstance no matter the outcome.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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