Unruly fan behavior scars Charlie Woods’ PGA Tour qualifying round: Report

Charlie Woods, in a bid to play in his first PGA Tour event, reportedly encountered more than a par-70 golf course.


According to a Palm Beach Post story written by Emilee Smarr, the 15-year-old son of 15-time major winner Tiger Woods played through multiple incidents of unruly fan behavior on Thursday during a Cognizant Classic pre-qualifier at Lost Lake Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Florida. Among them:


— Fans walked alongside Woods on the fairway, ignoring requests from tournament officials to stay on the cart path. They prompted one fan to ask an official: “Who are you? The fire marshal?”


— A grandmother admitted to pulling her granddaughter out of school in the hopes of Woods noticing her;


— A fan asked Woods if he would sign How I Play Golf, a book written by his father, after he walked off the 12th green. When an official denied the fan, the fan yelled, and as Woods teed off on the 13th hole, the fan shouted: “I live here.”


— Fans pursued a Woods ball hit out of bounds and into bushes and palm trees.


In the end, Woods shot a 16-over 86, and he did not advance to the Cognizant’s main qualifier on Monday. According to the Palm Beach Post story, Woods was also followed by a two-man security detail, one of whom was a Martin County sheriff’s deputy.


A message to the club from GOLF.com was not returned on Friday. When asked about the atmosphere on Thursday, a man who answered the phone said they were caught off-guard by reports and believed things had appeared “smooth.”


Woods’ entry had created a stir when it was announced Wednesday morning via the PGA Tour. The high school sophomore had never played in a Tour event, though he has played with his father in the past four PNC Championships, a scramble event where major winners play with family members.       


Before play in that event last year, Woods had also tied for 17th in the boys 14-15 division at last fall’s Notah Begay III Junior Golf National Championship — with Tiger Woods caddying for him. Charlie had also been a part of a state-championship winning golf team at the Benjamin School, a private institution in Palm Beach Gardens.  



During one of the tournament rounds, Harbeck was chatting with Charlie on the 8th hole, a straight-away par-5 lined by condos down the right side. “I look up,” Harbeck recalled, “and I’m watching all these doors to the condos opening up and all these people come out because they knew he was there.” On the second day, after inclement weather had suspended play, more than a hundred players, coaches, spectators and members took shelter in the clubhouse. Harbeck gathered his team at an out-of-the-way corner table, but Charlie still was sought out for pictures and autographs. Fans flock to Charlie on the course, too. At one event, an armada of 30 golf carts awaited him on the first tee.      


At another match, Harbeck said a couple of photographers tried to access the course but because Harbeck didn’t know them, he turned them away. At public-course host sites, paparazzi wrangling is trickier. “You can’t stop anyone from coming, and if Tiger’s there, it’s crazier,” Harbeck said. “Trust me, there are people in trees taking pictures. Microphones in his face.” After the first couple of weeks of the season, Harbeck learned to alert host sites in advance of the interest that Charlie stirs up, which he said led to some courses beefing up their security.


As for Tiger Woods’ assessment of his son’s game, he said at the PNC that his biggest development had come through course management. Woods described it as “understanding how to hit shots.”


“I enjoyed caddying for him and being there with him,” Woods said, “just to talk through shots with him and have him understand what I would see or how — the thought process I would have going through shots. He would bounce things off of me, and give him my take on certain things.


“And sometimes he doesn’t see it the way I saw it, which is fun, but I think it’s the understanding of how to hit the proper shot at the proper time. And that’s what all kids have to learn is when do I hit a certain shot at the right time, or how do I take stuff off a shot, how do I hit it a little bit harder, what do I need to do.


“You can do that at home all you want, but under tournament conditions, it’s just so different. And being able to share that with him, share my experiences with him in game-time mode, I think that it was great for both of us because I think we both are able to learn from it and grow from it. I think I learned to be a better teacher with it, and I think that he became a better player because of it.”


Charlie Woods’ pre-qualifier round followed the elder Woods’ whirlwind week at last week’s Genesis Invitational, where he was making his first Tour start since last April at the Masters, only to withdraw during Friday’s second round due to what he later described as the flu. On Monday, Woods had introduced his new apparel brand, Sun Day Red, and on Thursday, he had opened his season with an up-and-down one-over 72 at Riviera Country Club that included five birdies, six bogeys — and a shocking shank on the 18th hole that he later blamed on a back spasm.



On Friday, though, Woods played six holes, teed off on the 7th and withdrew, carted away by PGA Tour rules official Pete Dachisen. Uncertainty followed. Mark Dusbabek told Golf Channel viewers that the WD was not due to his back, but because of an illness. An ambulance and two fire trucks appeared at Riviera. Medical professionals entered and exited the clubhouse every few minutes. After a while, the fire trucks and ambulance left. 


They were followed later by Woods. At about 3:40 p.m. local time, Woods exited, driven away by an official in a red Genesis coupe, and Rob McNamara, a longtime Woods confidante, released this question-and-answer statement via the PGA Tour communications team:


Question: “With the WD, was it purely illness? Was it — just explain it.” 


McNamara: “Yeah. So he started feeling some flu-like symptoms last night. Woke up this morning, they were worse than the night previous. He had a little bit of a fever and that, and was better during the warm-up, but then when he got out there and was walking and playing, he started feeling dizzy. Ultimately the doctors are saying he’s got some — potentially some type of flu and that he was dehydrated. He’s been treated with an IV bag and he’s doing much, much better and he’ll be released on his own here soon.” 


Question “Just to confirm, with all the EMT trucks, you know, everybody, the personnel here, everybody was thinking there was a lot of seriousness going on. So nothing structural as far as back or ankle or …” 


McNamara: “Correct, correct. Not physical at all; his back’s fine. It was all medical illness, dehydration, which is now the symptoms are reversing themselves now that he’s had an IV.”


After his round, playing partner Gary Woodland said Woods didn’t look “right.” He said he was quieter, and he expressed hope that Woods would be OK.



Gideon Canice

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