Expert Picks: PNC Championship
December 16, 2020
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
- December 16, 2020
On the Range
Tiger and Charlie Woods’ Thursday range session at PNC Championship
Tiger Woods knows how to make a memorable debut, and no doubt another one is on tap this week at the PNC Championship. It’s safe to say we’re about to see the most anticipated pairing in this event’s history.
Charlie Woods, 11, will be the youngest participant to ever tee it up at the PNC Championship. He’ll have quite the partner. His father is the first 82-time TOUR winner to play this annual family affair.
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They aren’t the only big names playing this week in Orlando, Florida, however. Everyone in the field has won either a major or THE PLAYERS Championship. There isn’t another tournament on the planet that can say that. Bernhard Langer, Gary Player, Lee Trevino and Justin Thomas are among the other headliners.
We’ve convened PGATOUR.COM’s staff of writers and compiled this primer to get you prepared for this week’s PNC Championship, which begins Saturday.
What excites you most about watching Team Woods?
SEAN MARTIN: We’ve seen Charlie’s swing, thanks to clandestine cameramen hiding in the bushes at junior tournaments. He’s a good player but I don’t care what he shoots. I’m looking forward to those little father-son moments: the subtle wink or nod after a nifty chip, the fist bump after one of them bails out the team by making a 6-foot putt and Charlie boasting when he knocks one stiff after ignoring his father’s advice on club selection.
BEN EVERILL: As a father of young kids I’m super excited to see them interact as a family. For Tiger, golf was life from before the age of two. He spent time in the spotlight well before Charlie has. Tiger once said the most important thing about his kids and golf was that they needed to drive it – they needed to want it. If they did he’d be there to help. I love reports that Charlie loves to give the needle like his Dad also. It would be awesome to get a little audio of him going at Justin Thomas… maybe a “go get that,” could be funny.
CAMERON MORFIT: I’ll be curious to see just how competitive Charlie is, and how seriously he takes this. From the way Justin Thomas describes him, he may be prone to taking it all TOO seriously, and may need a dose of calm from Dad. I’ll also be curious to see what tees he plays from; it wouldn’t make sense to have an 11-year-old play from the same blocks as, say, Mike Thomas.
ROB BOLTON: How Woods reacts as a father. Anything outside of a normal response to anything would be a surprise, but it’s a bonus that we’ll be seeing a piece of this side of him publicly.
JASON SOBEL: I’ll second my colleagues’ thoughts above. This is a great chance for a father and son to enjoy each other’s company in a competitive environment. I’m still surprised that Tiger, who’s been in the spotlight since he was 2 years old, is letting Charlie play in that spotlight at such a young age this week, so here’s hoping they just have fun and smile a lot. In fact, I’ve often believed that Tiger plays his best golf when he’s loose and he might never be more loose than in this event with his son, so don’t be surprised if dad has something close to his A-game this week.
MKE GLASSCOTT: Anytime The Large Cat tees it up, he has my attention but bringing along The Cub will add another layer. I can't wait to see how he reacts to the great shots and the bad ones. Will we see a fist pump? Will he be COACH? Will he be DAD? Will he tell him to keep taunting Justin Thomas? Must see TV for sure!
Charlie is just 11, so winning may be a tall task. Who’s your favorite to win?Justin Thomas and his dad Mike will tee it up together this week. (Keyur Khamar/Getty Images)
MARTIN: I’m taking the Thomases. Justin Thomas is a known quantity, and while his dad is self-deprecating about his own game, he was an all-conference player at Morehead State and has a killer short game that gave Justin a run for his money for many years.
EVERILL: I have to lean towards Team Thomas. That duo knows how to have fun but Justin is always competitive and with the Woods team involved he will want to create some bragging rights against both Tiger and a trash-talking Charlie! Father Thomas might not have played competitive golf in a while but the bones are still there.
MORFIT: I don’t know much about this, but I know not to mess with Team Langer. Bernhard has won it four times, twice with Stefan and twice with Jason, and would tie Raymond Floyd with a fifth victory. Last year Jason hit a 270-yard 3-wood to 16 feet and made the eagle putt to win the playoff over Team Goosen and Team Lehman. The 3-wood, by the way, was into the wind, and left his father in near disbelief.
BOLTON: The Lehmans. This is a heart-over-head nod toward the father-son duo who donated time after the Outlaw Tour event that I covered in March for a story that I wrote about professional golf in a pandemic. I want the nice guys to finish first.
SOBEL: As the gambling guy on this panel, I always like to point out that the favorite is fact-based and a pick to win is opinion. There’s no debating that Team Thomas is the favorite this week, checking in at a low, low price of +250. I won’t argue with the oddsmakers, but I’ll take a shot on Team Daly at +1600. We all know Big John can still mash the ball and make some birdies. Unlike many of the non-superstar brethren, who are at varying levels of their golf careers, Little John is turning into a dangerous young player who will compete at Arkansas next year. This is an opportunity for him to show off to a big audience on national TV.
GLASCOTT: Sticks out like a 1 on the scorecard! I'll go with the twosome of PROFESSIONALS and take my chances! Mike and Justin Thomas are the clear favorites and it's easy to see why. Riding the best player in the event is hardly groundbreaking but it's the most obvious answer!
Besides Team Woods, which pairing are you most looking forward to watching?John Daly and his son Little John are veterans of the PNC Championship. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
MARTIN: I know Little John Daly has been playing this event for several years but I didn’t realize that his resume was as good as it is. Little John was the 25th-ranked signee in the Class of 2021, according to Golf Channel. He’s headed to his father’s alma mater, Arkansas. I always relish the opportunity to see Lee Trevino swing a golf club, as well. Truly one of the game’s best ballstrikers.
EVERILL: Sean makes a great point about the Dalys. We could get an even greater look at how his progression towards a future in professional golf is trending. But of course I can’t pass up the opportunity to get another look at a legend of Australian golf in Greg Norman. His son might be more into kite-boarding and adventure sports, but he’s still got some skills. And as for the Shark – you always get a glimpse here or there of the old magic despite the fact he rarely plays.
MORFIT: I’m curious to see Little John, as I’ve heard all the stories. And I’m such a golf nerd I’ve already imagined a fascinating PGA TOUR rivalry between Little John and Charlie Woods starting in about nine years. Team Goosen is worth keeping an eye on. Retief and son Leo have finished second three of the last four years. They’re overdue and should be tough with Leo one year older (17). Team Kuchar will be one to watch. Cameron (great name!) is only 13, and Matt and Sybi just started letting him caddie, which he did in a winning effort at the QBE Shootout in Naples last week. Is it too early to say I’ll take this team to win the 2023 PNC?
BOLTON: At the risk of sounding like a homer (even though I don’t care about that possibility), it’s the Lehmans. I always was a fan of the father, so to get the briefest of peeks at his son, Thomas, on the course and standing beside his dad for my interview (as my son stood behind me taking photos in March) was a special moment in my life.
SOBEL: I suppose that I could answer this one with Team Daly, as well, but since we don’t get to watch Annika Sorenstam compete anymore, I’m excited to see if she’s still got it. Playing with her father should be a thrill for both of them. I’d love to see her rekindle some of that old magic for a couple of days.
GLASSCOTT: The BOMBS AWAY in the Daly pairing is worth the price of admission alone. Come for the monster tee shots and pick up a few on-course fashion tips along the way hahahaha!
And finally, give me a sleeper team.
MARTIN: As a Cal Poly grad, I have a rooting interest in Team Lehman. His son, Thomas, played golf at Cal Poly and another son, Sean, has signed to play for the Mustangs. Tom’s wife, Melissa, is a proud Cal Poly alum, as well. In the words of the alma mater, “Cut a rusty!”
EVERILL: The Norman’s are sleepers to compete for the title but I’ll also nominate the Kuchars here. Matt is coming off another win at the QBE Shootout and seems to always find a way up near the top money when the whips are cracking in the “off-season” tournaments.
MORFIT: Team Thomas could be tough, if Mike isn’t too nervous. Team Lehman is a good sleeper. It’s always dangerous when you put a major or PLAYERS winner with a son/partner who has the potential to earn a living playing golf; Davis and Dru Love shot 16-under 56 to win the Willie Park belts in 2018.
BOLTON: If I adhered to my stringent (albeit unofficial) criteria to determine who qualifies for Sleepers, everyone at Grande Lakes would be ruled out based on career achievement alone. That said, I can’t resist the unique opportunity to slot Gary Player and his grandson, James, accordingly. Gary is a spry 85 and his team is the only that consists of a skip in generations.
SOBEL: I’m not sure we can call the defending champions a sleeper, but with the influx of in-prime talent in this field, I think Team Langer is entering the week a bit overlooked. A two-day tourney is right up Bernhard’s alley, who will most likely spend more time on the Ritz-Carlton range than anyone not named Singh.
GLASSCOTT: Team Langer shouldn't be a sleeper because Dad wins just about every event he signs up to play, minus the Masters. They qualify as sleepers this week because of the Thomases and Woods hogging all the headlines. Oh, and they won this event in a playoff last year!