His name is Tiger. He’s playing the Open Championship. So who is he?

Tiger has returned to the site of Tiger Woods’ glory. But this is Tiger Christensen, whose story includes boxing, techno and rollerskates.

The post His name is Tiger. He’s playing the Open Championship. So who is he? appeared first on Golf.

Tiger has returned to the site of Tiger Woods’ glory. But this is Tiger Christensen, whose story includes boxing, techno and rollerskates.

The post His name is Tiger. He’s playing the Open Championship. So who is he? appeared first on Golf.

HOYLAKE, England — The headcover gives it away.

Orange, black, striped, fuzzy. It’s a reminder of where he came from, where he’s going, who he’s always been.

He’s Tiger, after all. No, not that Tiger. But Tiger nonetheless. This is Tiger Christensen, a mega-talented German 19-year-old with an intriguing background and a bright future, the only one of his name in this week’s Open Championship. He’d probably rather there were two — Tiger C.-Tiger W. practice round, anybody? — but this week has blown his mind already.

“It’s just unreal,” he says, walking down Royal Liverpool’s first fairway. “It’s nothing like I’ve ever experienced. I played my first DP World Tour event earlier, and that was special. But this just doesn’t compare.”

Tiger Christensen doesn’t remember Tiger Woods winning the Open at Royal Liverpool. That was 2006, after all. Christensen was born in 2003. Still, he’s seen the highlights. And it’s a dream come true, walking these fairways, not just because of what the other Tiger did but because of how satisfying it is to have made it himself.

“You don’t have to think about anything here,” he says, wide-eyed. “It’s amazing, the organization and the setup and how they treat the players. You get breakfast, you get lunch. And then the players, seeing Scottie, seeing Rory, seeing JT — usually you just see them on TV.”

So who is this guy, anyway? And how did he get here?

The shortest version of the story is that last week at West Lancashire, some 45 minutes up the road, Christensen birdied three of the final six holes to shoot 67-68 and earn one of the five spots available through Open qualifying. That was two shots behind medalist Matt Wallace, plus a shot behind Royal Liverpool’s own Matthew Jordan. It was tied with Alex Fitzpatrick, Matthew’s brother. But it was, importantly, three shots clear of the group at T6 that included Sergio Garcia. Now he’ll tee it up in his first major.

The longer version of the story, though, is far more interesting.

Christensen’s parents are with him, which means a chance to get the real story behind his first name. They thought they were having a girl, his mother Nicci says. But when they didn’t, it was time to get creative. Her husband Alex had become friends with a boxer, Dariusz Michalczewski, whose aggressive style earned him the title “the Tiger.” They were fans of golf, too, drawn in by the biggest stars of the game. They enjoyed Phil Mickelson. But…

“I mean, everybody’s a fan of Tiger,” Alex says.

It was decided. Their son would be Tiger, too, with 50/50 inspirational credit given to the boxer and the golfer.

Woods’ childhood was famously focused. You’ll recall the talk-show appearance at age 2, the nine-hole round of 48 he shot at age 3, the discipline and the obsession and the golf balls upon golf balls. Christensen’s? Not so much.

“No, no, no. We’re not like that,” Nicci says. “When he turned 12 he just decided by himself that the path he wanted to pursue golf, and that was that. We are mostly just supporters.

Alex casually drops that he’s a music producer and that Nicci has an artistic background, too. He’s downplaying on both counts.

Alex is a composer, a DJ, a performer. He made it big in the ’90s with a series of dance music hits, founding a group called U96 whose hit Das Boot was the first techno song to reach No. 1 on the charts in much of Europe. He continues to perform in front of massive crowds, often accompanied by the Berlin Orchestra.

And artist is too limiting for Nicci, too. Perhaps some of you have heard of her work as Rollergirl, a name lifted from Boogie Nights. Nicci wasn’t the original Rollergirl, but her act of singing and skating on stage under the same pseudonym earned her a brief touring career in Europe in the 90s. She had a series of hits as well — “Dear Jessie” cracked top 20 lists in Germany and trended even high elsewhere in 1999. She retired early, compared to her husband. But together they built a household that encouraged Tiger to try just about anything.

“He was always sporty. He’s also creative. Drawing, graffiti, piano,” she remembers.

“Anything where I could get a ball on my feet or in my hands,” he says, adding soccer, skiing, snowboarding and windsurfing to the list of childhood activities.

“Great table tennis player, too,” adds his coach, Jason Floyd.

The Christensens raised Tiger in Hamburg. Once he hit his teenage years, though, winters became less desirable. He enrolled in Floyd’s academy in the south of Spain.

“I started getting pretty good when I was 12,” Christensen says. He finished sixth in his age group at the junior world championships that year, a sign of things to come. That was about the time he realized he’d have to start giving up other sports. He’s been going low ever since.

College hadn’t been a particular point of emphasis in his family, but eventually he started to see the appeal. He hadn’t dazzled out of the gates, but after a few years with Floyd he’d become the apple of the recruiting machine’s eye. He played for Oklahoma State for a year before transferring to the University of Arizona, where he just finished his first semester.

Floyd is admittedly biased but sees a teenager with limitless potential.

“He’s obviously a great athlete,” Floyd said. “Mentally he’s very sound, so he learns very well. He adapts well, whether it’s assimilating a new move in his swing or learning the nuances of a new golf course. He hits it far but he’s got a great short game and he’s a good putter.”

Christensen is confident in his self-assessment.

“I hit it pretty far. I’m a good ball-striker. Putting is pretty solid. Short game is pretty solid, too,” he says.

It’s a good scene on Wednesday afternoon, Christensen and his happy troupe walking Hoylake’s sun-soaked fairways. He’d pummel a tee shot — his ball speed consistently fires in the 180s, well above PGA Tour average — and then they’d follow it down. Tiger and his caddie and his coach walked ahead. His girlfriend Tita and his buddy Felix and his parents lingered just behind, taking in the moment.

All around his golfing heroes charged through the fairways. Some of them, anyway.

“Tiger, obviously,” he says. That part checks out. “And a large amount of my childhood I really looked up to Rory.” Christensen has seen McIlroy a couple times this week; Nicci got a photo with him and Felix chatted him up in the players room. That bit’s still surreal, but it’s nice.

At Hoylake, Christensen’s appearance is a sign of the times and a reminder of time. Tiger Woods is at home, rehabbing from surgery, full seasons of competitive golf an increasingly distant memory. A kid with his name is playing instead. And that kid has talent up to his ears.

I’m curious about Christensen’s expectations. What does he have in mind?

“The most successful result would probably be the silver medal,” he says, referring to the prize given to low amateur. “But if I can stick to my processes and stay in my own zone the whole week, that’d be a pretty good achievement for me.”

Floyd’s expectations are simpler. He calls this “all a bonus”.

Finally there’s his father. What does Alex think would make this a successful week?

“If he’s happy.”

The post His name is Tiger. He’s playing the Open Championship. So who is he? appeared first on Golf.