The first question Tiger Woods faced at the PNC Championship was an easy one: Do you get the sense that you’re the second most watched person out here? “Yeah,” he said. “Nothing wrong with that.”
For the man who’s been the biggest draw in golf for the last 25 years, it was an acknowledgement that he’d been surpassed by his 13-year-old son, Charlie, his teammate for the 36-hole tournament taking place this weekend at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. Unfortunately for Tiger, it wasn’t the only way he’s been outdone by his offspring: The 15-time major winner also recently admitted that while playing at home, Charlie had outdriven him on one hole.
This issue of father-son competition raises the billion-dollar question: Could Charlie one day out-earn the old man?
Tiger’s career rake runs to an estimated $1.7 billion, so good luck kid.
Of course, it’s a different world. Next fall Charlie should enter high school, a realm currently coming to grips with NIL money, which could jump start the son’s asset accumulation. “Charlie is in rare air, just from name recognition alone,” said Sam Weber, the senior director of communications at Opendorse, an NIL platform. “He’s similar to Arch Manning, Bronny James and even Shaquille O’Neal’s sons in that way.”
How does that sort of family legacy translate to cold hard NIL cash? “He’s probably looking at seven figures as soon as he’s eligible,” Weber said, adding that it “would be surprising if the brands that have been prominent in Tiger’s career would not want to join the fold. You can almost see the Nike commercial with the two of them.”
There are a few hazards to clear before Charlie and his chaperone can begin to “Just Duo It.” First, Florida law prohibits high school athletes from taking NIL money, though this may be less of an obstacle than it first appears. The law could change or Charlie could forego high-school golf and simply play on one or more of the junior golf circuits available. He’s even eligible to qualify for the U.S. Junior (which Pops won thrice).
The other slippery slopes are those of desire and ability. As much as he seems to enjoy showing his stuff for the cameras, Charlie may not want to spend the rest of his days whacking the turf with a metal stick and chasing a little white orb around the landscape. “It doesn’t really matter how good you are at 11, 12, 13 years of age,” three-time major winner Padraig Harrington recently told Golf Digest on the subject of young Woods. “It’s how much he loves the game when he’s 22 years of age. … It’s fascinating to watch now, but it will come down to how much he really loves the game for how successful he is.”
Then there’s performance. Despite the perfect form and silky smooth mechanics, Charlie may not turn out to be as solid as the block from which he was chipped. Truth told, no one in the recorded history of man has swung a mashie as well as Charlie’s dad, and not that many more have been able to earn a living doing so. The PGA Tour funnel grows so narrow that there’s no dishonor in failing to squeeze through.
Still, evidence that Charlie has the right stuff continues to accrue. His swing has already been clocked at a faster-than-tour average 117 mph, according to Golf Channel. This year he played four events on the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour, and recorded finishes of 1, T1, 2, and 10. At the Notah Begay III Junior National Golf Championship in November he shot a career-low round of 68, which included his first eagle, and tied for fourth in the Boys 11-13 group, all while Tiger toted his bag.
Then there was last year’s PNC—a two-round scramble in which a major winner (from any tour) pairs with a family member—where he stole the show with both driver and putter as Team Woods finished a close second to the Daly Clan, featuring John and John II. (The younger Daly plays at Arkansas and is making the most of his own legacy via an NIL deal with the restaurant chain Hooters.) Charlie Woods’ brand value is still being determined. “At this stage he compares more to Bronny James than Arch,” Weber said. “Arch is the five-star, guaranteed pro, while Bronny is more that four-star who definitely has a chance but is further from a sure-fire bet.”
Oddsmakers disagree somewhat. Last March, Bookies.com put Charlie’s odds of winning a PGA Tour event by age 21 at +350 (7/2) and by 30 at +200 (2/1).
Advertisers certainly seem to consider him money in the bank as well. Pre 2020, the PNC aired on tape delay, but the ratings have leapt at Tiger and Tiger Jr., reaching an average of 2.29 million viewers last year after bottoming out at 594,000 in 2019. This year, 10 hours of live coverage will run across Peacock, Golf Channel and NBC, and Golf Channel even ran out two hours of action from the Friday pro-am.
“He’s not a risk for advertisers because of his name recognition alone,” said Weber. That also applies to NIL patrons looking to influence the next generation of the sansabelt set, which is why Charlie could cash in even if he never plays pro golf.
Of course, he doesn’t need the money, and if he chooses another career path, he’ll be prepared. “He hasn't practiced as much as he has the last couple years,” explained a Stanford dropout. “He's had midterms, and those are more important than golf.” Okay, Dad, whatever you say.