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Tiger, Charlie Woods wrap up memorable weekend at PNC Championship

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Tiger, Charlie Woods wrap up memorable weekend at PNC Championship

    Written by Jeff Babineau @JeffBabz62

    Charlie Woods buries eagle putt at PNC Championship

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Tiger Woods and his 13-year-old son, Charlie, donned their traditional red on Sunday at the PNC Championship, fired up to try to win a tournament together. The Willie Park belts awarded the champions each year – thick red leather surrounding a huge buckle – would have accessorized nicely.

    It just didn’t happen.

    Instead, Tiger and Charlie would walk away with another bushel of great father-son memories, lots of laughs, some quality learning moments, and, for Charlie, anyway, the knowledge that in this game, you lose a whole lot more than you win.

    “When you're playing well, it's easy,” said Justin Thomas, who, with his father, Mike, played alongside Team Woods for two days. “It’s probably a great learning opportunity for Charlie of just being in competition with him and also for himself of, ‘Hey, I didn't have my best stuff, and maybe what was I thinking differently today than I was normally?’”

    Team Woods, having started Sunday two shots out of the lead, shot 7-under 65 and tied for eighth at 20-under 124 in the 36-hole scramble event. Winners Vijay and Qass Singh finished six shots better after a Sunday 59, finishing at 26-under 118.

    Tiger did not seem to have the pep he had a day earlier, and Charlie, though he appeared to be in less pain than he was a day earlier with a balky left ankle he injured earlier in the week, had trouble summoning the same magic he had a year ago, when he and his dad finished runner-up. Hey, give him time. He is 13, after all.

    Tiger called his weekend inside the ropes with his son, good friends Mike, Jani (Mike’s caddie) and Justin Thomas, as well as the caddie tag-team of Joe LaCava (Tiger) and Joe Jr. (Charlie) and Justin’s caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay, an “amazing” experience.

    “Charlie and I, we played great yesterday,” Tiger said. They had combined to shoot 59 in easier conditions. “Today we were both like walking penguins out there. It was all good, though.”

    There were moments. Charlie rolled in a 15-footer for eagle at the par-5 fifth – he has become an eagle machine at the Ritz-Carlton layout – and made another birdie at the 158-yard 12th, where the team used his tee shot, then decided to switch the batting order on the greens. Tiger missed, but he had a great teammate; Charlie drained the 18-footer before pumping the air with his right fist. Sunday, it was just too little to keep pace with a handful of others firing low numbers.

    (A scene at the fifth hole Sunday illustrated the Woods/Thomas team dynamic. Woods absolutely blistered a drive down the left side of the hole, leaving only an 8-iron into the 558-yard hole. Team Thomas was playing its drive from well back in the fairway, and Justin found a neatly written note on a torn scorecard in Tiger’s loopy penmanship next to his ball when he got there: “You’ve got mail,” it read, referring to the fact he'd just been "air-mailed.")

    Just as the Woods and Thomas teams fed off each other with strong play on Saturday, the opposite appeared true on Sunday. Justin Thomas shrugged and said both teams just fell flat. It happens. The putts that were falling in a day earlier stayed out. Team Thomas was aiming for its second title in three years but shot 63 and tied for second. Team Woods had trouble finding birdies, too.

    “We had no momentum going on,” Joe LaCava said. “I thought after we eagled 5 ... OK, here we go. Maybe we can get something going. But neither team played spectacular. Hey, it’s all good.”

    LaCava, who knows Woods and his game as well as anyone, had traveled to Jupiter a week before the Hero World Challenge to join Woods as he worked on his game to get ready. But Woods was dealing with so much pain with the plantar fasciitis in his right foot that he finally had to shut things down. He withdrew from the Hero. He did make it to the PNC, where the ability to play out of a cart made a huge difference. Hitting the golf shots isn't the challenge; walking is.

    Tiger and Charlie were asked what they might have learned about each other’s games over the week. Tiger passed the question over to his son.

    “I feel like I already knew what he was capable of,” Charlie said, “and then yesterday, that's the best he's ever played in a while, and that kind of shocked me a little bit. That's really it.”

    Tiger, not missing a beat, turned to his son and quipped, “I used to be good.”

    He would add, “Again, it was neat to be able to roll back the clock for him to see what I used to be capable of.”

    Two days of golf out of a cart is a small sample size, but it was good to see Woods, who hadn’t competed since The Open Championship in July, back hitting golf shots.

    What lies ahead in 2023 for Woods? We’ll have to see. First, he will shut things down for a bit, hoping to get healthier. But as little as he was able to play in 2022 – nine official rounds – he achieved a goal just by getting to The 150th Open, staged on the Old Course at St. Andrews, his favorite golf course. Tiger, who turns 47 on Dec. 30, lamented Sunday he may not get to play another Open at St. Andrews.

    “Well, it was a tough year, but also one of the more rewarding years I've had in a while,” Tiger said as he and Charlie prepared to head home Sunday evening.

    For Team Woods, those champions’ red belts will have to wait for another year. Until then, they'll settle for the lifetime memories.

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