Tiger Woods pleased as Charlie shines in runner-up finish at PNC
December 19, 2021
By Jeff Babineau , PGATOUR.COM
- December 19, 2021
Tiger and Charlie Woods Round 2 Highlights at PNC Championship
ORLANDO, Fla. – There would be very few times in the life of Tiger Woods that he ever would deem second place a success. In fact, he has been known to tell us that second sucks.
These are different days. There were but two simple goals that Woods set in his return to golf alongside his son, Charlie, after a year-long absence from the game at the PNC Championship. First and foremost, have fun; and secondly, keep all bogeys off the card. He and Charlie, both dressed in familiar Sunday red, accomplished both.
Not far from the shadows of Disney World at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Team Woods nearly pulled off the improbable, too, making 11 consecutive birdies at one point (“a nice heater,” Woods would call it) to thrill a Sunday crowd and claw their way into contention, a place where, for so many years, Tiger Woods received his mail.
Charlie, 12, was a big star again, hitting terrific iron shots to set up birdies at the 16th and 17th holes. At 17, where pros and their amateur partners all hit from the same tees at 169 yards, Charlie stuffed a 5-iron that finished 4 feet left of the hole, then rolled in the putt. No pro all day had hit a shot closer. Team Woods would team to shoot 15-under 57, which matched Sunday’s winning effort by John Daly and John Daly II, and was one shot off the tournament record for low score.
Even a closing par at the par-5 18th hole – where both Tiger and Charlie pitched aggressively from just off the green in their attempt to make an eagle – did little to diminish their high spirits.
The Dalys won the event at 27-under 117, a scoring record. Team Woods (62-57), in finishing two shots back, had plenty to celebrate. Woods survived a frightening SUV crash in suburban Los Angeles Feb. 23 that shattered his right leg and ankle and kept him in the hospital for three weeks. For three months, Woods couldn’t get out of bed.
“I’m just happy, thankful, that I’m able to do this,” said Woods, who is tied for most career PGA TOUR victories (82) and trails only Jack Nicklaus in major titles (15 to Jack’s 18).
Bigger picture, this was Woods giving the world a small sample of what may lay ahead for him after his harrowing crash. Nobody really knew what to expect, including him. On several occasions during the week, he expressed gratitude that he still has his right leg attached, once stating the probability of amputation at “50-50.”
For several reasons, the PNC made sense for a place for Woods to make a return. The event utilizes a scramble format, and with Charlie playing a course set up about 1,000 yards shorter than his where his father played it, it allowed Woods to take some shots off. He was able to ride in a golf cart and limit his walking on a right leg that still is very much in recovery. There were times it was evident that swinging clearly caused him pain. But beyond that, the PNC allowed him partner with Charlie again to create indelible lifetime memories for both.
Once able to move, Woods did not take a single day off in his rehab. Not one.
“To push as hard as we have the last seven months, with taking no days off and just working our butts off each and every day, and to have this opportunity to be able to play with my son and to have these memories, for us, for both of us, (for) our lifetime, it's worth all the pain,” said Woods, who turns 46 on Dec. 30.
Matt Kuchar, who first met Woods in 1998 and played alongside him at that year’s Masters, was floored by what he saw out of Woods on Sunday.
“I did not expect to see him have as much game as he’s got,” said Kuchar, who placed seventh alongside his oldest son, Cameron. They were grouped with Team Woods on Sunday.
“I mean, he’s got speed off the tee ... I was impressed by how far he was hitting the driver. His irons were as solid as I remember, really well struck, high quality – I think he goes down as the greatest iron player of all time, and he’s still showing signs of that. Well-struck balls that all seemed to be pin high, as well. It was impressive.”
Woods scoffed upon hearing Kuchar’s high praise, and reiterated that he is miles away from being ready physically to rejoin his peers on the PGA TOUR. For as much as he bemoans his lack of swing speed and distance, Woods managed to hit some big drives and powerful, high irons, shots that carry a different sound to them. Now, if he chooses to, he will work toward being able to compete over 72 holes without the use of a cart, walking upwards of 40 miles a week on a leg that right now is not ready.
“Seeing what he can do swinging a golf club,” Kuchar said, “makes me think that he’ll figure the other part out. I think he’s got the hard part down.”
Tom Lehman marvels at the way Woods finds ways to get through his life’s adversities. Even before his February crash, Woods had endured five knee operations and five back procedures, somehow managing to add his 15th major in April of 2019, when he shocked everyone and captured his fifth green jacket at The Masters.
“He’s the only guy that I know that has been able to deal with the immense amount of expectation and not only meet it, but exceed it,” Lehman said. “Always. Always. There has never been a time when he hasn’t. This is just one more setback. The expectation level may be a little bit lower for something as traumatic as that injury. But it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to have him just exceed it by a mile. That’s always been, to me, the greatness to Tiger.”
Woods took little solace that he and Charlie beat their South Florida “rivals,” Justin and Mike Thomas, by a shot this week. A year ago, when the Thomases returned home with the bright red Willie Park belts, they had a little fun and showed up to Tiger’s house wearing them. The champion inside Tiger would not let him differentiate between second and third place.
“They’ve got the belts,” Woods said.
He smiled a lot on Sunday afternoon, something we didn’t see out of him all those years when he occasionally would finish short. Charlie again was a big star of the show, performing for the crowds, and Woods seemed to answer at least some questions with his play, even if so many more remain.
“I'm not going to play a full schedule ever again,” Woods said. “I'm going to have to pick and choose what events (to play), and even then, my body might not cooperate with that. So I don't know how many events I'm going to be playing in.
“And it's going to be up to training sessions, practice sessions, recovery tactics, all those different things to be able to do it. As I said -- protective of it now, and just so thankful to be able to do this again – because it didn't look good there.”
This was a week that filled his heart. No trophy needed.