BOB WEST ON GOLF — Tiger, Charlie captivate golf world in PNC

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Tiger Woods, as he frequently does in golf competition, stole the show last weekend at the PNC Championship. Well, that’s not totally accurate. His precocious 12-year-old son Charlie, with some remarkable shotmaking, helped ensure that Tiger’s official return from a catastrophic leg injury was properly dramatic and sensational.

For those not familiar with the PNC, it’s a feel-good competition pairing fathers who have won a major championship with a family member – almost always a son – in a scramble format. It’s been frequented by the Nicklaus family, the Palmers and most of the game’s greats, as they age.

While technically a fun event – a hit and giggle – it’s also highly competitive among the handful of teams with the skills to win. Bottom line, though, it’s a terrific way for fathers and sons to bond in a unique way only golf can provide.

Woods played the PNC for the first time in 2020 but was not expected to be seen on a golf course for at least a couple more months because of injuries sustained in a near fatal auto crash last February. Charlie, however, apparently had other ideas, kept pressing dad to push harder in rehab and, well, we all know how hard it is to say no to our kids.

Tiger’s surprise presence transformed the PNC from a low profile, off-season tournament with limited appeal to a must-see TV event attracting swarms of media. By the time things wound down on Sunday, with he and Charlie nearly providing a shocking outcome, most anyone who loves golf had an unexpected early Christmas present.

Fears that 46-year-old Tiger was done as more than a ceremonial golfer had been put to rest. Though still unclear how soon he’ll be physically able to walk 72 holes in a regulation PGA Tour event, what was clear is that Woods still has the game to be a factor when he plays. Write him off at the risk of looking foolish.

Even with the limited practice time, physical restrictions and some minor swing alternations, he struck several Tigeresque shots, displayed a sharp iron game and made putts. And, with he and Charlie authoring a thrilling charge on Sunday, his uber competitive nature was on full display. He badly wanted to win, mostly for his son.

The Woods team, decked out in red and black, started birdie, birdie, eagle, had a three-hole lull, then reeled off a tournament record 11 consecutive birdies for a 57. Ultimately, they would finish outright second, two shots behind John Daly and his son, who is a freshman at Arkansas.

To win the $200,000 championship payoff the Daly team needed to post a tournament record 27-under-par.

Perhaps as positive as the feedback from Tiger’s return to golf, was the picture that emerged of him as a doting, loving dad and a continually evolving personality who has become more and more likable. He comes across as more approachable, less guarded in interviews and someone who now smiles a lot.

Among the more memorable moments of the weekend, one which underscores the impact he has on others, was the reaction to him of the world’s No. 1 ranked LPGA player, Nelly Korda. The 23-year-old Korda, playing with her dad in the group in front of Tiger on Saturday, hung around to nervously ask him about taking a photo with her.

After he readily agreed and photos were taken, she was giddy as a schoolgirl.

“It was a dream come true,” Korda said. “I was just star struck.”

On a weekend Tiger started by hugging Charlie on the first tee, and telling him he loved him, he limped noticeably at times, occasionally grimaced in pain after a tee shot and needed to ride in a golf cart. But, with the final green in sight, he sucked it up, got out of the cart and walked the final 200 yards alongside Charlie.

“I am just so thankful to have had this opportunity to be able to play with my son and to have these memories, for us, for both of us for a lifetime. It’s worth the pain,” he explained.

All in all, a great weekend for Tiger and for golf.

CHIP SHOTS: In a week with golf competitions limited by weather, the Friday 2 ball at Zaharias saw a tie on the front. Posting minus 1 was the team of Brian Sweeney, Mark Osborne, Keith Marshall and George Adams and the foursome of Kenny Robbins, Rusty Hicks, Dan Harrington and Flood.

Winning the back with minus 4 was the team of Bob West, Rick Pritchett, Don MacNeil and a ghost player. Closest to the pin winners were Hicks (No. 2), Steve Wisenbaker (No. 7), Pritchett (No. 12) and Joe Gongora (No. 15).

The Wednesday Babe Zaharias DogFight was played in an all-points-count format. Placing first with 29 points was the team of Mike Brown, Gary Fontenot, Keith Marshall and Jerry Watson. Second with 28 points was the foursome of Ed Holley, Raymond Darbonne, MacNeil and Dwayne Benoit.

Closest to the pin winners were Tommy Bellows (No. 2), Brown (No. 7, No. 12) and Ted Freeman (No. 15).

Golf news should be e-mailed to rdwest@usa.net