Everywhere Tiger Woods goes, he draws a huge crowd. While recently promoting his video game, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10, he saw firsthand how crazy the throng could be. “This is abnormal,” he confided to PEOPLE after navigating through a sea of fans who were trying to give him high-fives and snapping his picture. “Everything else about my life is very normal. I do the same things everyone else does.”
(Note to Tiger: “Everyone else” doesn’t play video golf with Jimmy Fallon in Times Square, backing up traffic and drawing more than a thousand screaming fans.)
In a rare quiet moment, Woods sat down with PEOPLE for a candid interview to discuss family and fatherhood, including the lessons he learned from his late dad, Earl Woods, who died of cancer in 2006.
Woods, who missed much of the last golf season due to a knee injury, tells PEOPLE that he used the break to spend time more solid, quality with his then 1-year-old daughter, Sam.
“We’re different than other sports in the fact that we don’t spend half our season at home. We’re always on the road,” he explains. “I got a chance to be around her all the time, so that was a huge bonus.”
While rehabbing his knee, Woods played games with Sam, whom he describes as “very active.” They also sang songs and even tried to play video games. (“It didn’t work,” says Woods. “She was too young.”) And the video games weren’t simply for fun: Woods credits the hours he spent playing his own computer game on the Wii Fit with getting him back in shape.
Despite the time off from golf, Woods recalls the forced hiatus as a happy time: His wife Elin was pregnant with son Charlie Axel, now 4 months old. Sam was going through the cute toddler phase, and Woods got a chance to reconnect with friends and family. “I would have missed a lot,” says Woods, who won the AT&T National earlier this month.
Lessons from Dad
The only downside? The absence of Woods’s father, Earl. “I think of him every day,” says Woods simply. “He taught me everything.” Including golf.
When Woods was a toddler, Earl would put him in a white high chair in the garage while the elder Woods practiced his swing. “I grew up in Southern California,” says Woods. “There was El Nino that year, and all the storms lined up. He couldn’t play golf outside, but he wanted to continue working on his game. I just happened to be around. I got enthralled with it; absolutely loved it. I didn’t want to come out of the high chair.” Soon, Earl put a club in Tiger’s hands, and a golf superstar emerged.
As for his own children, Woods plan to encourage them to pursue their passions. “Whatever they want to do is fine with me,” he says. Are they athletic? Woods isn’t sure yet. “They’re so young,” he explains. “Sam is very active; she loves to run. She runs a lot. [But] Charlie is only 4 months old. Who knows?”
For more on Woods, including what he learned from his father and what he hopes to teach his own kids, pick up this week’s PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.