ORLANDO, Florida—Tiger Woods and 13-year-old son Charlie weren’t about to let a bad foot and a bum ankle keep them from playing together in the PNC Championship. The way they played Saturday, they might even be able to win it.
The partnership Woods referred to as “Team Ice Bath” because of their injuries finished with a 13-under 59 in the scramble format, two shots behind Justin Thomas and his father, club professional Mike Thomas.
Team Thomas won the championship belt two years ago, when Woods first introduced Charlie to a national television audience at the PNC Championship.
“They rubbed it in our face over Christmas dinner. They are in a great position to possibly do it again on Christmas dinner,” Woods said. “But we are going to have a little something to say about that.”
Even being in the mix, much less the last group, looked unlikely the way father and son were hobbling around The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando.
Woods, limping from plantar fasciitis in his right foot, chipped in for eagle from behind the fifth green, hit whatever shot was needed and closed out the front nine with putts of 20 feet and 35 feet.
Charlie’s left ankle hurt to the point that he dropped to his knees after he topped his tee shot on the par-5 fifth hole. He rode in a cart with his dad — that’s allowed because this is sanctioned by the PGA Tour Champions — and even changed shoes on the practice range to see if it would help.
The young teen contributed a wedge to 3 feet for their first birdie, a 20-footer during their big run when they played an eight-hole stretch in 9-under par. Charlie finished the round with a 6-foot birdie putt, stooping to pick up his father’s coin before the ball even went into the cup.
“On some shots it hurt a lot. Walking was tough,” Charlie said in his first time in front of the media at this tournament. “But it was all right. It wasn’t that bad.”
They still have to track down Team Thomas, who delivered two eagles and closed with a birdie from the bunker for a 15-under 57.
Even though Vijay Singh and son Qass were the first to post 59, the final group will be Woods and Thomas. Charlie referred to it as a “big family,” because the Thomas family spends plenty of time with them at home. Joe LaCava caddies for Woods and LaCava’s son caddies for Charlie.
“You guys are now seeing what we do all the time at home,” Woods said about playing with his son. “We just have fun. We needle each other. We encourage each other. It goes back and forth. It’s just an amazing relationship, and it just deepens the bond between father and son. It’s been incredible over the years to be able to share this stage and this atmosphere with him.”
There is plenty of chirping.
Charlie made a 20-footer on No. 7 and Thomas said to him, “Welcome to the Father-Son,” a reference to the original tournament name and a chance to rib him for finally contributing to the score.
“We’re just four friends going out and playing golf,” Thomas said. “Charlie definitely hit his fair share of putts pretty hard today, so I made sure to remind him of that. He hit some really, really good putts and shots, as well, so it was good.”
Woods had to withdraw two weeks ago from the Hero World Challenge, and he didn’t look particularly sharp in a made-for-TV team match last week.
Except for the limp, he looked more than capable with a golf club in hand.
“It’s what I’ve been saying. I can hit the ball, I just have a tougher time getting from Point A to Point B,” Woods said. “I’ve had a frustrating couple years. But again, to be able to be a part of this game and to be able to do this, I’ve missed being able to compete and play.”
His lone goal going into 2022 was to play at St. Andrews in the 150th British Open. He wound up playing three majors and, “I’m able to play with my son.”
Singh and his 32-year-old son are playing for the 16th time, their best finish was a runner-up to Team Thomas in 2020. They birdied seven of their last eight holes for a 59.
Woods said he will start working on a recovery plan for his right foot on Monday. For now, he gets another day with his son as they try to win for the first time.
“For him to be out here playing, I know how difficult it is for him,” said Mark O’Meara, who was four back playing with his son. “Usually every time you want Tiger to do something, just tell him he can’t do it. And that’s usually when he does do it.
“I don’t know what the future holds, but it’s cool that he comes and plays with Charlie.”
DIVOTS: Woods began the round by stopping on the tee and offering congratulations to his ex-wife, Elin, on the recent birth of her child. Charlie also chimed in and Woods smiled and said, “We’ve got to go to work.” … Annika Sorenstam’s 11-year-old son, Will McGee, made a 40-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole. They were at 62, along with Nelly Korda and her father.
Image credits: AP