Tiger and Charlie Woods did – and didn’t – leave Orlando with what they had come for at the PNC Championship on Sunday at Ritz-Carlton Golf Club.
Did they win? No, they did not … and we all know how the family patriarch feels about that. Team Langer – the ageless Bernhard and his younger son, Jason – took home the champions’ oversized Old Tom Morris belts. Bernhard Langer now has five of those, with two sons (three with Jason, who played college golf at Penn). Considering Langer is only 66, the 46-time PGA TOUR Champions winner may win a couple more yet.
On a challenging day when early, light rains cleared out and wind gusts exceeded 30 mph, Tiger Woods and his son Charlie, who turns 15 in February, played quite nicely, ham-and-egging their way to an 11-under 61, three shots better than their opening-round effort. Team Woods tied for fifth, finishing 36 holes at 19-under 125, six shots behind the winners.
Mostly, Team Woods was at the PNC to enjoy a great family week, with golf and dinners and lots of quality time. Tiger and Charlie were competing in the event for a fourth time, and for the first time, Tiger’s daughter, Sam, was on Tiger’s bag. She seemed to have a good time and started to get the hang of this golf thing at which her famous dad and younger brother are pretty adept.
“Is that any good?” she asked Tiger after he piped a drive at the par-4 sixth.
There were some great moments that will be fun to revisit over the holidays. Tiger poured in an eagle putt up the hill at the par-5 fifth, Charlie hit driver onto the green at the 349-yard seventh, and Charlie then produced the team’s shot of the weekend at the par-4 ninth. After a good drive in the scramble format, Charlie missed the green, leaving Dad to give them a birdie look.
However, trying to work a low cut to a back-right hole location, Tiger pulled the shot left of the putting surface. From about 60 feet, Charlie hit a low running chip up the hill that gently turned right, kissed the flagstick and dropped for birdie. The shot touched off a great celebration, with greenside gallery cheering and Charlie boldly thrusting his right hand in the air, right index finger raised. Tiger just stood there, wedge in hand, watching and laughing. And laughing some more.
He drank up every second of the moment.
To add to the scene, Team Stricker – PGA TOUR Champions standout Steve and his younger daughter, Izzi – nearly chipped in on top of Team Woods, both Strickers giving it a strong run, their golf balls flirting with the hole.
“I was on the high side (of the hole), so I got a chance to see it from about 10, 12 feet out, and it looked great from where I was,” Tiger said of Charlie’s effort. “… He got excited, and I looked over to Stricks (Steve Stricker), and he was shaking his head. It was great.
“And then to see Izzi almost hole it right on top of him, … it was a great family atmosphere at that one little hole.”
Bigger picture, Tiger Woods was out playing golf again, and that is always a plus. Paired with the Hero World Challenge, his own event in the Bahamas, that makes two starts in three weeks. He is training, fit, swinging the driver freely, hitting quality shots, and – best yet – walking the golf course relatively pain-free. It had been a while.
On Saturday, players were required to ride in carts to speed up play and get the round in with heavy rains approaching. But on Friday (in the pro-am) and on Sunday, Woods played without a cart, walking the golf course on his newly fused right ankle.
Woods will be 48 on Dec. 30. His ankle and fused back may be improved, but there are plenty of parts of him that still hurt. After the Hero, he was back in the gym in the next morning. It didn’t seem that there would be any complications with recovery following this week, either.
Given that, Woods has reason to have optimism as he looks toward 2024. In a perfect world, he would like to play a limited schedule, perhaps making one start each month.
He owns 82 PGA TOUR victories, 15 of them major championships, and he played only 10 rounds (that includes the PNC) in 2023. Dare golf fans dream? Can Woods win again?
“Well, I think that given the fact that if I’m able to practice and do the things that I know I can do, and prepare, I know that I can still do it,” Tiger said. “I can still hit the golf ball. It’s just a matter of prepping, and get enough reps in, and get enough work in and being right physically, and endurance capability of it. I haven’t had the leg good enough where I’ve been able to compete and play a lot of rounds. I’ve had a lot of procedures over the years, and that’s just part of it.
“I know if I can practice, I know I can still do it,” he added. “I can still hit the golf ball. I can still chip. I can still putt. Granted, it’s also putting it all together for 72 holes. That’s the challenging part of it.”
Since rolling his vehicle over an embankment in Los Angeles in 2021, severely injuring his right leg, the most challenging part for Woods has been just walking the golf course. He labored some late in his rounds, but he appeared pretty good at the PNC. Removed from day-to-day pain, he can go play golf again.
This weekend at the Ritz, Team Woods didn’t win, but that didn’t seem to matter. Tiger thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Asked his favorite memory from this edition of the PNC, Woods responded, “The whole week, to be able to share it with my family.”
Sounds like a win.
Read more at PGATour.com.