Fourth of July, Or Father's Day?
The road that takes you into Tiger Woods goes through his late father. That winding path travels through Vietnam and Earl Woods's years as a Green Beret. The "Tiger" in Eldrick "Tiger" Woods is even taken from one of Earl's wartime friends. The competitor in Woods is the product of that demanding military dad. Woods's ramrod bearing and refusal to show weakness under pressure is not Stanford but his lifelong informal education as the son of a lieutenant colonel.
Father and son also were linked in their calling to charity. Earl sometimes went off the deep end when he crowed about the social impact his boy might someday have. You could forgive Earl's change-the-whole-world hyperbole because the impulse was genuine, the hope deep. So with this back story, Tiger Woods came to Washington yesterday with a smile and a mission.
"This is a dream come true . . . a pretty momentous day for us. I just wish my father could have been here to see it," said Woods, who will host an annual PGA Tour event that will raise money for his charitable foundation and pay tribute to the military around the Fourth of July in the nation's capital.
"Given my father's history in the military with the special forces, to host a tournament for our charity that is held on the nation's birthday in the nation's capital, it was basically a no-brainer for us to say, 'Yes,' " said Woods, who sees Washington not only as the center of American politics but as the home of the Pentagon that cut his father's orders.
"Anyone who is on active duty will get free admission. I'd love for them to come out and enjoy the tournament, given everything they are sacrificing for us," said Woods, who also will let in all children younger than 12 for free.
"My father probably would have shed a few tears today," Woods said later. "One of the reasons I wanted to do this in Washington is to draw attention to the people who put their lives on the line for us. He did that for 20 years. They are half a world away. Sometimes they feel lonely and ostracized. And we don't want them to feel that way."
That word, "ostracized," carried far more weight for Earl's generation of Vietnam veterans than for those who have served or are serving in Iraq. But Woods's values and priorities always ran back to his family.
Tiger Woods and Washington have come together so quickly, with virtually everything falling into place serendipitously in the past five weeks, that it is almost hard to grasp what has happened: Tiger now has every intention of holding his signature event, like Jack Nicklaus's Memorial, in Washington for the rest of his career.
"Oh, that is our intent," he said. "We want this to be our home event. And I hope this can eventually be a springboard for us to go global with our foundation work."
What has delighted both Woods and the tour is that, by an accident nobody anticipated, Washington and the Fourth of July suddenly seem like the natural and authentic home for Woods's event, thanks largely to Earl's well-known impact on Tiger.
Unlike Bobby Jones, Nicklaus and Byron Nelson -- each of whom established well-known invitationals -- Woods is not associated with any particular town. He has been a world citizen since he won the 1997 Masters. In recent years, he has been shown on his city-block yacht or magnificent home over the ocean. His image hardly resembles Ohio Jack or good ol' Arnie.
Yet in a blink, multicultural Washington, close to power-lunch politics and world embassies but also near wounded soldiers at Walter Reed, looks like a fit -- almost the only fit -- for the larger-than-life Woods and his foundation's long-term ambitions. Whether Woods is simply sincere or a superstar strategist -- or, like those few who reach his stature, perhaps a bit of both -- he and Washington are quite a combination, especially with imperial Congressional Country Club hosting the event's first two years.