PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — This Sunday is one of the most important days on the golf calendar, an occasion to identify and honor some of the most influential people in the professional game. In other words, it is time for the pros to say, “Thanks, Mom.”
Mother’s Day this year coincides with the final round of The Players, which also is a huge date on the schedule because it is the most revered tour event outside of the majors. It is more than appropriate, given the way mothers have shaped golf careers, starting with the most successful one in this generation.
“I probably wouldn’t have gotten to this far without her because she was the one who took me to all the golf tournaments,” Tiger Woods said on Friday, after having scrapped to shoot 1-under-par 71.
If Kultida Woods drove home the point with her son that he had better take the bad with the good, Tiger made her proud on Friday. He took his struggles in stride. “This is just part of the job. We have to figure out a way to put it together and I have not done that consistently this year so far,” he said.
His late father, Earl, is often credited with having built Woods into arguably the greatest golfer of all time. But the son knows that the discipline that benefited his golf game did not come solely — or even mostly — from the former Green Beret. There was room for negotiating with only one parent, and it wasn’t Earl.
“My mom was the tough one. When you talk about discipline, the Asian culture is a little bit different,” Woods said of the woman known as Tida, who is from Thailand. “That’s what I was raised on. My mom was definitely that way. She was tough but extremely loving and so supportive.
“My dad was working. My mom is the one who had to drive me to all the golf tournaments,” he said. “She would drive an hour just (for me) to play nine holes in a peewee league. So, she made a lot of sacrifices for me to get here, and I can’t thank her enough for it.”
As for whether she was a good chauffeur, he added, “She’s fast.”
Woods’ mother is more norm than exception. Jason Day, who shot 5-under-par 67 to go 8 under for 36 holes, said when he was asked what his mom, Dening, meant to his development as a golfer: “Oh, everything. Man, oh man, everything. She took a second mortgage on the house to be able to send me to (an Australian golf academy). She’s one person who always believed in me.”
He won last week, showing an improved game after a rough 2017. Last year, he was worried about Dening’s stark lung cancer prognosis. He brought her to the U.S. from Australia, arranged for surgery at a top hospital and proudly watched her bounce back.
“She’s so strict, but that’s a mother,” he said. “I know my dad was hard, but I’m a lot more afraid of my mom than my dad.”