It is probably not a coincidence that Team Thomas and Team Woods played together on Saturday in the PNC Championship, and both duos now have earned their way into the lead grouping on Sunday at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Orlando.
Even on national television, there is a comfort playing with buddies—no matter how relentless and laughably brutal their needling can be—and 13-year-old Charlie Woods made that clear after the first round, when his dad, Tiger, allowed him to be interviewed for the first time in their three PNC appearances.
Of playing with Justin Thomas and his dad Mike, who have become very close to the Woods family, Charlie said to NBC reporter Steve Sands. “It makes it a lot less nerve-wracking in the final stretch because we always throw shots at each other, and it’s just very fun.”
It makes us wish they are mic’ed up like the players are during The Match.
“It’s literally nonstop,” Tiger said of the trash talking. “It starts pre-round, before we even get here the texts were flying. The warmup, the jabs are coming out. And then through the round there were jabs, a couple of notes left here and there, a couple of things said that we loved.”
The families also seem to push each other in their play. While Tiger and Charlie stormed to a start of 28 on the front nine en route to shooting 13-under 59, Justin and Mike went 28-29 for a 57 that gives them a two-shot lead on Team Woods and Vijay Singh and his son Qass.
“We certainly root for them when we are out there, too,” Mike Thomas said, “but you also kind of feed off each other. Balls start going in the hole.”
Charlie described the experience as like playing with family, and he was thoughtful to include the caddies—Joe LaCava; his son, Joe, who is looping for Charlie; Jani Thomas, Justin’s mom; and Jim “Bones” Mackay.
Told that Charlie had spoken of them as kin, Justin smiled and feigned surprise: “Charlie said that? Wow. … I didn’t even know if he honestly liked us, so I’m glad to hear that he said that.”
Added Mike to laughter: “He was working his way towards being in the family, but apparently he’s in.”
Justin said he ribbed Charlie all day by calling him “Snoopy” because he’s wearing a Snoopy hat for the tournament. The Thomases also threw a few quips out when Charlie hit some putts way too hard. Never mind that the kid was limping around on a bum ankle. Even holidays aren’t off limits for the trash talk.
“They got the [winning PNC] belt a couple years ago. They rubbed it in our face over Christmas dinner,” Tiger recalled. “They are in a great position to possibly do it again on Christmas dinner, but we are going to have a little something to say about that.”
In this “family,” it’s a whole lot to say.