After the 2018 Open Championship, with his voice cracking and the exhaustion of major championship contention on his face, Tiger Woods started to talk about his kids. They had come to Scotland to watch Woods during an improbable comeback year, defined as successful simply because he was able to stay upright and play competitive golf. Now he had finished near the top of the leaderboard at a major, holding the final round lead at one point before Francesco Molinari ran away from him and everyone else at Carnoustie.
Tiger’s kids greeted him as he came off the 18th green and hugged him, and Woods was asked about the encounter.
“I told them I tried,” he said, emotional in a way we hadn’t seen after a major since the 2006 Open, his first major win after his dad died. “I know that they know how much this championship means to me and how much it feels good to be back playing again. It’s so special to have them aware because I’ve won a lot of golf tournaments in my career but they don’t remember any of them. For them to understand, what I was doing early in my career, the only thing they’ve seen are my struggles.”
I thought of this Tuesday night after Tiger tweeted out his “Champions Dinner quarantine style” photo. Putting the Masters trophy on the table, draping the green jacket on your shoulders, and hosting your own backyard Champions Dinner is a fairly strong statement, as far as measures for showing your kids who you were and what you could do.
Masters Champions Dinner quarantine style. Nothing better than being with family. pic.twitter.com/xPK769CWCf— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) April 7, 2020
I saw Tiger at home looking happy — genuinely happy, or as “genuinely” as we can know Tiger. His kids, in Masters green, were smiling. Tiger lives a not-at-all relatable life, and it’s been that way since he was a toddler. This photo doesn’t suggest otherwise; in fact, the backyard golf hole in the background is a conspicuous reminder of how different he is from the rest of us. But there’s a sliver of relatability when you think of Tiger as a parent.
Despite rumors, presumptions, and educated guesses during his injured years, the Champions Dinner is also the one place where Tiger reportedly said that he was done with competitive golf. Nick Faldo, who was in the room in 2017, told the story: “I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, ‘I’m done. I won’t play golf again.’”
Three years later, Faldo and others on ice until November, Tiger is on his back patio holding his own champions dinner and grinning with his kids and his jacket. Initially, I reacted to it with amusement. There was the homebound facial hair evolution, the head hair devolution, and the green jacket over Dri-FIT ensemble, which was expected.
Then, after some more upsetting news during this stressful and shitty time period, I came back to the photo and I felt real happiness, not just a blithe smirk. Sitting at a dinner table in a green jacket may not be relatable, but many of us have been happy with family in a triumphant moment. It was good to see Tiger, at home, happy with his kids and still celebrating. The hugs coming off the 18th green last April were just the start of his flexing for his kids, showing them what he used to do at work before they were alive or old enough to understand.
A Champions Dinner that subs out Fuzzy for family and a pricey wine tab for a case of Monster was another reason to smile.