Cheyenne Woods Tiger’s Niece

Cheyenne Woods Not Just the Niece – Hits Gold Down Under

Many of us carry the burden of laboring in another’s shadow too far and for too long, but for Cheyenne Woods, it’s a special case. Her full name is NOT “Cheyenne Woods Tiger’s Niece,” but that’s the way it must feel sometimes, considering the star power and skill level of her famous uncle. This week, however, Cheyenne Woods took a big step toward creating her own spotlight, rather than playing as an also-ran with a good genetic profile for golf. She won the Australian Volvik RACV Ladies Masters down under…where it’s still warm, I might add.

woods 1I must admit to not having given Cheyenne Woods enough of a look when she came into the public’s consciousness a few years ago. On an intellectual level, I realized that she was a two time All-American from Wake Forest, and had gathered around thirty amateur victories. Turning pro, she won a mini-event on a minor tour, and that was nice. I just didn’t suspect that it would go too far beyond that, with all the Pettersen and Lewis types running around winning things they way they  have.

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It was always clear that Cheyenne could play the game, and play it well, but the odds of lightning striking twice in the same family tree on a winning level? I just didn’t figure it would happen. Odds were that Cheyenne Woods would play in the LPGA for a few years, make a little money, occasionally make a little stir on the leader board, then retire with a “Gee, wasn’t that fun?” career. That sort of ambivalence, however, does not appear to be a part of the Woods family genetic code.

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Holding off Australian super-kid Minjee Lee by two strokes, Cheyenne won the tournament by reminding us of a hallmark Woods habit – dominate the par 5s. She certainly did that in the final round, with birdies on the last two. The real tip-off that she is a true Woods, however, came with a couple of missed putts, and there it was. A photo of the post-putt pout made so famous by the present patriarch of the family, so authentic that you could have superimposed one member onto the other – they were identical.

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There’s no way I could really know, but in Cheyenne’s competitiveness, I don’t see the extra anxiety that surrounds (or used to) Tiger’s belief that he was intended to win everything, week in and week out. I don’t get the sense with his niece that losing a tournament means that something’s gone haywire in the universe, but she does have the desire and the fire to pursue it.

Every year, we see wunderkinds and relatives of previous wunderkinds go onto the tour – and disappear, often to emerge again after a time of seasoning. In the time between, it’s tempting to be disappointed, and believe that maybe the kid wasn’t as great as we originally thought. Now, various pundits are predicting that Cheyenne Woods will eventually be a star on the women’s tour. Perhaps they’re right, but another event in Australia next week is all she should be thinking about. Win that one, and the golf-watching world could be a little turned upside-down.

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Cheyenne was quoted after the victory as saying, “It’s nice to say to people that I can play and I’m not just a name.” Maybe those of us who contributed to such an idea of didn’t take the right look or the long-term view. And, after all, what we say about her isn’t going to add or subtract one stroke to or from her score. Providing golf commentary is a separate business from playing it.

I’m happy for Cheyenne Woods, though. She has established herself as a golfer, not only a niece, and I suspect that she’ll put many exclamation points on that new identity over time.

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